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Monthly Archives: October 2009

           

It is certain to say that I was somewhat under whelmed with Nuit Blanche this year. To be fair I only had time to view the offerings in Zone A and B. What started out as an event in Paris many years ago has traversed the ocean and arrived in Toronto four years ago. I remember volunteering at Hart House the first year and noting how magical the event transpired. It really was art focused that first attempt with themed installations and relevant artists focused on bringing a convergence of art and dialogue to a curious public. This year the night felt like it was really pushing the boundaries of what art is, and what the un-initiated viewer might really perceive as art. 

Forget about battling the wrestlers in Battle Royal by Shaun El C. Leonardo at the Bay St. Bus Terminal (although it was hilarious to see the blindfolded young men from the audience tentatively stepping around the ring) you really had to battle the crowds of people and line-ups at many venues. Part frat party, part family picnic it in fact felt like a glorified tourist attraction with the hordes rushing from site to site just to see how much they could view in one evening. With heads bowed downwards on their smart phones and maps in hand, it was a test to navigate the sidewalk crowds. With Bay St. closed from Dundas to Front it certainly helped with crowd control but the quality along that strip left a lot to be desired. If a carnival ride stationed outside of First Canadian Place is “art” well then that is a stretch.

 Love him or hate him, the culture buster of the art world, Jeff Koons was a standout with his monumental inflated silver Rabbit Balloon hovering over the entrance of Sears in the Eaton Centre. It was very attention grabbing to see children and adults alike lying on the ground looking up at that fifty-foot animal. The Wiccan duo Fastwurms brought us Skry-Pod (although skrying is a form of divination that involves gazing into a reflective service) in the Sheraton Centre that involved free Tarot readings amongst the waterfall tableau of the hotel. Attired in stereotypical witch’s costumes the pair divined the future of two citizens at a time by candlelight. Staying within the theme, Witches Cradles by the Centre For Tactical Magic saw individuals suspended in a cloth cocoon, sensory deprived above the floor of the Allen Lambert Atrium at BCE Place. It was an eerie feeling with the quietness of the scene combined with the pulsing lighting throughout the space. In fact the aura throughout Zone A and B took on a quite supernatural sense with the offerings on display such as just described along with Katie-Bethune Leaman’s Ghost Chorus and the ethereal music emanating from the speakers at City Hall to accompany D.A. Therrien’s 4 Letter Word Machine

Other less notable pieces were Santiago Sierra’s NO which consisted of a large tilted ten-foot tall model of yes, the word “no” on a flat bed truck. I wasn’t the only person with the same under-whelmed feeling with this exhibit. As I was walking away from the site, I heard a woman say, “What are we looking at…you’ve got to be kidding.” Respire by Anna Friz also failed to impress with the multitude of noiseless radio receivers suspended from the ceiling of the lobby of 100 Yonge St. 

In this world of instant everything and the needless luxury of a throwaway society I guess I also have a problem with the idea of instant artists producing instant art. This year’s Nuit Blanche was more amusing then stimulating or provoking. The ideas were especially conceptual and really only existed in the strictest sense of the term in the artists’ heads. Perhaps we should move away from the model of art as spectacle for events such as Nuit Blanche and concentrate on an art as a means to educate and to stimulate a dialogue between citizens. Engaging schools, youth and community centers may be one avenue to explore, which might bring the notion of art being more accessible to the public.

            Well the busy fall art season is upon us in Toronto and one of the many events is the Queen West Art Crawl that took over Queen St. from Bathurst to the Parkdale Village the weekend of September 18th. Started many years ago this occasion was made possible through the Parkdale/Liberty Economic Development Corp. and the WQW BIA.

            The bulk of traffic however was in Trinity-Bellwoods Park where well over 50 participants were showcased in tents winding throughout the park. However, I found these “artisans” to be leaning towards craft, with a heavy emphasis on jewelry design. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for crafts, but not really at an established annual “art” event. Quantity does not always make for quality, and stuffing the park to overflowing was a bit like sensory overload. However, there were a few notable exceptions worth mentioning. Talking about jewelry however, Bead For Life (www.beadforlife.org) is an organization that enables poverty-stricken women in Africa to sustain worldwide connectivity through the sale of their bead products. These beads are fashioned from recycled paper and then varnished and strung to make fashionable pieces. Two other notable stops along the way featured work that stood out in both technique and execution. The Intaglio prints of Alex Coley (www.alexcoley.ca) dealt with “states of mind” and were at once jarring and beautiful in their spiritual associations. Thomas Hendry served up conte on Japanese Paper figural studies that displayed a mastery of modeling and shading of the human form in original poses.

            Eschewing the park for another area of the “Crawl”, I headed to the Gladstone for a more intimate experience with the art and artists displayed on the second floor of the hotel. “Do It At The Gladstone” is an annual group show that highlights the work of artists in separate rooms on the second floor.  Not conceptual in nature but more perceptual, the artists’ showed an eclectic array of painting, drawing and photography. A lot of it was what I would term as “easy art” derivative in nature and seen before, but there were a few exceptions.

Meat

Meat

 Image courtesy of Katharine Mulherin

             Bev Hogue (www.beluxe.com) is always a standout with her quirky, blue-toned acrylic paintings of young, fashionable and vivacious females. Her use of perspective and sometimes 3D, instill her work with fun and whimsy. Cybele Young gave us a treat throughout the hallways with her deep shadow boxes of miniature sculptures. The executed vignettes were fashioned from Japanese paper, and these tiny treasures utilized juxtapositions in their portrayal. Imagine a chair hanging from a fishing rod or a shoe on a necklace…just a sampling of her imagination. Kelly Grace (www.kellective.com) utilizes mixed media such as photo-transfer with acrylic to show us “happy” images based on a carnival theme and her numerous wanderings. Overall, not a bad showing at the Gladstone but perhaps next year the curator may want to concentrate on a theme or perhaps consider installation as part of the show to add some variety. 

Sweet Tart

Sweet Tart

            In addition, the numerous galleries along the Queen W. strip between the park and the Gladstone were part of the weekend event. Balint Zsako, represented by Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects, stunned the viewer with his “Old Master Painting”. These were collages of, you guessed it, 18th century images rendered in exacting detail. Just to mix it up a little, Zsako would throw in a haunch of meat hanging from the headdress of a male. Think Francis Bacon meets Gainsborough…intriguing and certainly alarming.

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Bev Hogue