11 art exhibitions to be excited about in 2019

January 4, 2019 § Leave a comment

Look out for the Toronto Biennial of Art and exhibitions featuring work by Brian Jungen, Chantal Akerman, Carrie Mae Weems and Daniel Arsham
Untitled, a 2017 photograph by Carrie Mae Weems.
Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York


If last year is anything to go by, 2019 promises more social media exodus and a world slightly less obsessed with connected devices. Art galleries offer a good alternative. Instead of the light emitting from the mobile or computer screen, light therapy as art is on offer. And come September, Toronto gets the art biennial it has long been waiting for, featuring local and international artists at venues adjacent to Lake Ontario.

VAJIKO CHACHKHIANI: THEY KEPT SHADOWS QUIET

Scrap Metal Gallery, October 11, 2018-March 30, 2019

The first solo show in North America by the young Georgian artist is the most ambitious exhibition staged to date by this private gallery. It features a number of works, including a specially built “inverted” immigration checkpoints. Using two way mirrors in reverse direction, visitors can surveil the occupants of the booths, which are manned by actors every Saturday from 1-4 pm for the duration of the show.

SANAZ MAZINANI: LIGHT TIMES

Stephen Bulger Gallery, January 12-February 23

Known for her large-scale mosaic works embedded with political content, Mazinani returns to her hometown for this back-to-basics study of photography. Camera-less photos (i.e., light exposed to photosensitive paper) form the basis of this show – but Mazinani’s larger agenda is revealing the manipulations, framing and cropping that create photographic “truth.”

TRUE TO THE EYES: THE HOWARD AND CAROLE TANENBAUM PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION

Ryerson Image Centre, January 23-April 7

A presentation of over 200 works from the Toronto philanthropists’ private collection. The sheer range and eclecticism of the photos on view – including Brassaï, vernacular works, Diane Arbus and Edward Burtynsky – offers insight into how genres within the medium have evolved. A useful point of reference for photography’s expanded digital life today.

Inverse Squares Yellow on Black, an abstract painting by Swedish-born artist Jaan Poldaas.
Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid / Courtesy Birch Contemporary and estate of Jaan Poldaas


JAAN POLDAAS: A COLOURFUL LIFE

Birch Contemporary, February 7-March 2

This is a memorial exhibition for the Swedish-born Toronto-based artist who died in October. Poldaas made vibrant, hard-edged abstract paintings, working within set rules he imposed on his practice such as using primary colours and the colour grey in differing shades. This framework allowed him to discover constant variation in composition throughout his career.

APOLONIJA ŠUŠTERŠIČ:
LIGHT THERAPY &
CHANTAL AKERMAN

MOCA, November 28-April 30/ MOCA, February 14-April 14 

Here are two good reasons to visit MOCA’s new location. Slovenian artist Šušteršič presents a light therapy room as part of the museum’s interest in exploring the role galleries play in supporting well-being. Visitors who become MOCA members can also book it for private sessions. Filmmaker Akerman, who died in 2015, was one of Europe’s foremost auteurs of the last 50 years. While many of her films have screened in Toronto, MOCA is hosting the first museum presentation of her installation work.

CARRIE MAE WEEMS: HEAVE

Art Museum at University of Toronto, CONTACT Photography Festival and three public sites, May 3-July 13

Part of this year’s Contact Photography Festival, this show marks the first solo exhibition in Canada by this important African-American artist. Weems is known for her photo-based installations that incorporate film, daguerreotypes, textiles and period-specific dress. Her tableaux reflect on how power functions in society, in part by making viewers aware of the constructed nature of photography.

Brian Jungen’s Warrior 1 sculpture from 2017 is made from Nike Air Jordans and leather.
Photo: Jason Wyche / Courtesy of the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York

BRIAN JUNGEN

Art Gallery of Ontario, June 20-August 25

A solo exhibition by the celebrated West Coast artist touches down at the AGO this summer. Jungen is known for remaking everyday items, like Nike shoes or plastic lawn chairs, into powerful sculptural works. The artist’s always inventive refashionings often reference his Indigenous heritage. His use of mass-produced materials also critiques the conventions of museum display and the value of the objects collected therein.

KATE NEWBY

Cooper Cole Gallery, September TBA

The New Zealand-born artist’s debut solo show will feature beguiling works that are part sculpture, part installation. Working with ceramics, bricks, glass and found materials like pebbles and other detritus, she often uses the floor and other overlooked parts of the gallery to subtly shift visitor experience – as well as the concept of what can be art.

TORONTO BIENNIAL OF ART

Various venues on Lake Ontario, opens September 21

Biennials are the lingua franca of the international art world and Toronto is long overdue to host its own. This 90-day event is helmed by Candice Hopkins and Tairone Bastien, two smart, experienced curators who have announced a theme focused on the history embedded in the city’s waterfront – the site of settlement, trade and Indigenous histories. Featured artists include Althea Thauberger, Shezad Dawood and Syrus Marcus Ware.

NUIT BLANCHE

Various venues, October 5

The city’s all-night public art event again includes venues in Scarborough and adds first-time locations Fort York and the Garrison Common. Nathan Phillips Square will host an installation by Daniel Arsham. Few details are available, but given he works with meta-architecture firm Snarkitecture, it’s a good bet the New York artist’s piece will be big and involve the colour white. The deadline for artists to submit proposals for the Open Call section is February 4. 11 art exhibitions to be excited about in 2019

NOW Magazine: 11 art exhibitions to be excited about in 2019
@rosemheather 

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Willy Le Maitre – title flight tiger compound returns

January 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

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Canada, New York
May 6 – June 5, 2016

New arrangements in the drama of looking might be the mission statement for Willy Le Maitre’s lenticular photographs. The work is an update, in other words, on a well-established tradition in art — to upend accustomed habits of viewing, purely through formal means. Writing about the work, the critic Blake Gopnick talks about this tradition as one of visual “indeterminacy…one of the crucial bywords of modern art at least since the time of Cézanne and Picasso.”

Artworks considered indeterminate make special demands on the viewer. It’s a program for art, one for which Robert Hughes coined the phrase, the Shock of the New. The title of a 1980 TV series he wrote and hosted for the BBC, Hughes described a dynamic for artmaking that was essentially avant garde. Pushing forward, out ahead of the general public, modern artists work to broaden the intelligibility of contemporary experience, and this happens primarily in a visual key. As narrated by Hughes, each moment of innovation has historically specific circumstances — the Shock of the New is a migrating phenomenon. For instance, the visual disjunctions of Cubism are now familiar to the point of seeming decorative. In Le Maitre’s work, he uses lenticular images to revive this dynamic of dislocated (or fresh) looking in art. If the results are truly shocking, the question is what historical conditions could the work be said to express?

Used typically to make crude picture animations, lenticular technology dates from the post WW II period. Two or more images are animated when overlaid by a screen of finely ribbed plastic. Vision gets refracted one way or the other according to the angle of the ribs (and the angle of vision), each rib a lens that magnifies the strip of image that lies underneath it. Early uses of this novelty technique included badges for Dwight Eisenhower’s 1952 Presidential campaign (“I like Ike” alternating with a head shot of the candidate), or so-called Flicker Rings with pictures of Batman, or Curly from the Three Stooges, on them.

A less familiar term for this process is “Autostereo”. The name points to the technique’s origins in early experiments in optical illusion. The “auto” stereo innovation was a kind of improvement on the late 19th century technique of stereoscopy. When viewed with the aid of the eyeglass-like stereoscopic viewer, slightly different images seen side-by-side take on the illusion of 3D depth. Both vision technologies are approximations of the physiological process, designed to demonstrate a specific aspect of how vision works — that is, at the intersection of interior and exterior sight. The tangible artifice produced by a stereoscopic or lenticular image is in the end a slight entertainment, but one that helps highlight the role the mind plays in visual perception.

Internal vision has long been a preoccupation of Le Maitre’s. The artist posits stereoscopic effects as a model for what is seen by the mind’s eye. In the imperfection of the 3D illusion, Le Maitre finds an expanded realm for exploration, primarily by making films that combine digital and 3D technology. This extensive body of work characteristically uses digital effects to extend and distort 3D treatments of real world imagery. A phantasmagoric experience results, one that recognizably partakes of both artifice and the chimera of dreams. Freedom from the constraints of the material world is of course a capacity of the mind, and art often provides the best methods for making this capacity tangible.

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Film is typically described as a dream-like medium. Its invitation to sit in the dark and be off-duty somehow lends a legitimacy to even the most outlandish of speculative journeys it can fabricate — as a pastime, and as a form of experience. Always tasked with the job of convincing viewers of their plausibility, the same benefit of a doubt is less frequently extended to artworks. Arguably, this means Le Maitre’s lenticular works are a more risky proposition for the artist.

In his hands, lenticular technology becomes a tool of indeterminacy, with corresponding effects on the viewer. By combining photographs into a single picture frame, Le Maitre condenses the space-time continuum that each image implies. The collages he makes are deliberately disjunctive, their smashed perspectives rendered dynamic because of the way lenticular lens orchestrates viewer engagement.

What results is a destabilized position for the viewer. As Phil Grauer, of the New York gallery, Canada, observes: “You can’t conquer these works.” The space they construct is ambiguous without hope of resolution. Making vertiginous space inside the picture plane could be said to disrupt viewer expectations of coherence. From another perspective, what Le Maitre is doing is creating a more complex visual field for viewer apprehension. Beyond the capacity of the lenticular to create such an effect, what field of reference is the artist implying here? The quick answer would be “Pokemon Go”, the augmented reality that is now an expected component of everyday life. In a broader sense, it’s not hard to find other artworks that also traffic in a figure-ground confusion. What this suggests is that contemporary life conjures up not only a collapsed picture plane, but also one that is infinitely expanded. Le Maitre’s insight is to combine the two, his use of the constraint of the picture frame alerting us to the truth of this new reality.

Rosemary Heather

This text commissioned by Border Crossings Magazine Volume 35, Number 4, Issue No. 140

More information about Willy Le Maitre is available here.

The Real and How to Find It – An Interview with Ken Lum by Rosemary Heather

November 10, 2011 § 15 Comments

RH: Why is the Real so popular as a genre, though?

KL: Why is the Real so popular?

RH: In art, on TV, in popular culture…

KL: I have a theory on that. Our culture that has moved towards a fetish of the everyday, a fetish of drawing attention to yourself as an individual. It’s a trend towards an ultra narcissism, and the emphasis on the individual comes at the exclusion of being able to formulate a critique on a societal level, because it’s only about the individual, and that’s a problem.

I highlight the above quote from my 2011 interview with Ken Lum, because it so accurately identifies a contributing factor of the insurgent politics of the West in 2017 (Trump; Brexit). As if to underline this point, Lum’s analysis of the “fetish of the individual” is also the essential argument Adam Curtis makes in Hypernormalization, his 2016 BBC documentary. The interview is now available for purchase as an ebook on Amazon for .99 cents (click on the link below). The publication also includes, To Say or Not to Say, an essay Lum wrote in 2008 that we discuss in the interview. Both interview and essay showcase the incredible trenchancy of Lum’s thought, and his ability to translate his thinking into artworks – as relevant today as ever.

The Lum publication is part of a larger project, which either repackages existing interviews I have done as ebooks, or releases new interviews – by myself and others – all under the imprint, Q&A. A short blog post I wrote about the thinking that informs the Q&A project can be read here: How to Make a Magazine in 2015. Its a statement of purpose that attempts to think through the changed conditions of publishing in the 21st century – ideas I hope to expand on in the coming months.

Rosemary Heather

 

Kristan Horton, Dr Strangelove Dr Strangelove

August 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Kristan Horton, Dr. Strangelove

Kristan Horton, Dr Strangelove Dr Strangelove, giclee prints, 27.9 x 76.2 cm Series of 200 photos (2003-2006)

The most curious aspect of Kristan Horton’s Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove is the number of times the artist claims to have seen Kubrick’s movie: by his count, over 800. The figure is excessive, to the point that you are tempted to doubt it. I have probably seen the Reese Witherspoon comedy, Legally Blonde, 10 times. That’s an estimate, and it was partly for practical reasons: laziness and a dearth of home entertainment options. In Horton’s case, the number of viewings may suggest fandom shading into fanaticism, or even something less comprehensible than that, but it is also simply in keeping with the conceptual rigor of his project.

A student of the film, Horton has been engaged in an ongoing process of reconstructing it. In each of the works 200 diptychs, a still from the movie is mirrored by its hand fabricated facsimile. For each one, the artist begins by making compositions that break down the volumes of light and shadow in the Kubrick original. Working with objects close to hand in his apartment, the wit of the enterprise comes with his choices of substitutions: a fork for an airplane fuselage, a tight close-up on a scoop of vanilla ice cream for clouds, a plastic bag for the sky. The net effect splits the difference between Horton’s artistic ingenuity and his humbling of the British filmmaker’s cinematic artistry into a mere series of constructions. Pursuing this line of enquiry helps to place Horton’s work within a larger trend that sees artists using the hand-made as a way to puncture the spell of illusionism. Considering that much of contemporary life is undergoing a process of fusion with the virtual world, it is a reassuring development, one that proves art’s relevance as a corrective to tendencies in the wider culture.

By Rosemary Heather

This text originally appeared in Flash Art, October 2007
Kristan Horton is represented by Jessica Bradely Art+Projects, Toronto.

Jack Pierson: From Here to Eternity

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Jack Pierson (Pyramid, pink) 2010 © Jack Pierson Courtesy Regen Projects Los Angeles

If you saw Jack Pierson’s “Some Other Spring” in Los Angeles, you might believe the show to be about that place. On the level of the facts, you’d be wrong. Images in the exhibition were taken in a variety of locations: Egypt, Las Vegas, southern Spain, Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris apartment…the specifics hardly matter. Pierson’s artworks are of a piece in terms of the sensibility that created them. Like the highway billboard advertisements that form one aspect of their provenance, he presents his luscious pigment prints as blown-up posters, unframed and complete with folds typical of far less valuable pieces of paper. Helping to nail down a more exact location for the work are the artist’s trademark text pieces, which consist of words assembled out of letters from commercial signs. Eternity is the relevant time frame here, or, in Pierson’s words, A THOUSAND YEARS, as spelled out in letters on the wall.

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