Sunday, February 22, 2009
Betty Guggenheim - An Homage
Well it is finally complete, a one year effort of producing one painting every day in homage to the prolific art purchasing and collecting of Betty Guggenheim. Toronto Artist and gallery owner Ranko Pavic, took on this project and with persistent determination completed it, and has been exhibiting it in his St. Clair Ave. gallery in monthly instalments. The final installation , like all the others , does not disappoint.
Living in the neighbourhood of the gallery I tend to drop in with varying degrees of frequency to see the progress of Ranko's project, and with each viewing I find myself drawn to his sense of avant garde . First there is the paper on which he has chosen as his backdrop . The first time I saw it I was quite taken that he has seen a usefulness in this paper that would otherwise never have dawned on me. I have been using it for years in my construction day gig to cover and protect finished floor surfaces. So Ranko doesn't go to a hipper than thou art material outlet, but rather Home Depot for his paper which is available in 100' x 3' rolls for slightly more than $20. A true recession statement if I have ever seen one. It offers the Artist both a fragile and course surface to work on. I also have ventured into its' use.
Now the work itself. Cut into perfect squares Ranko sets up a series of repetitive form, then again applies a repetition of recognizable banner type forms . Almost flag or emblematic in their appearance each stand out as individual statements, but more importantly is the collective imagery that reflects a social democracy in the work. This series of 365 works is indeed a reflection of our own desire to exist as individuals within a society with a singular purpose. There is that constant struggle between the "I" and the "Us", that tries often in vain, but with increments of success at a mutual reconciliation.
Whenever I enter the gallery to view the latest instalment of the Homage, I find myself at peaceful odds with my own individual existence within the collective that exists mere feet from Ranko and I out on the bustling sidewalk as our fellow humans rush about expressing their own desire to survive on their own terms.
The final instalment will be on view until the first week of March when new projects by other Artists will come marching into the gallery Out/Aut. For those of you craving a taste of what I think is the only true avant garde space in this city, I would strongly advise a visit.
1346/c St. Clair Ave.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Nancy Oakes - Walking
For those of you unfamiliar with the cell gallery, it is actually a small room that is within Gallery 1313, and unlike it's cavernous big brother it allows the artist and the viewer a special intimacy with the work. Nancy Oakes has certainly put the space to good use.
Walking is a multi media exhibit that uses sound, drawing and written word as a palette. Even though three different experiences are available I never felt crowded or overwhelmed by it all. The subtle on the slushy street walking sounds, writings on the wall and small drawings, taken from a note pad, all play on each others' sparse intent.
First the sound, as it was what started the walking experience and no matter what else I was experiencing in the exhibit it was always there. Nancy had gone out on the urban winter street walking in the sloshing of slush carrying her trusty little digital recording device with her, picking up all the walking sounds of urbanites going about their daily lives, and even picking up snippets of conversations. She had cleverly mounted her device and a couple of small speakers on a shelf over the doorway , so, as you enter the room you don't see the source, it just becomes the narrator to walking.
Another clever tool Nancy uses is written word. She had invite people to write about their experiences with walking. She even got a response from a person who is wheelchair bound. She pinned all of these responses onto a wall all on their own. This really punctuated for me the 3 tiered procession of the exhibit .
The third tier of course being the visual. Before I discuss the actual pieces I would like to comment on how they were hung. It was indeed a pleasure to see someone take the time and effort to hang these pieces in a way that lead me to believe there really was no other way to hang the show. Each piece carefully placed with even spacing, level, and without the visual trickery of hanging them in some cryptic shape.
Each of these loose, gestural drawings of people walking contained an element of immediacy, as though a snapshot taken with stop time precision. Further to their immediate nature is the fact they were each done on small notepad paper that the artist could easily fit into a pocket. Taken out only at the right moment to capture the walk as it is that very second. Nancy also had over washed each drawing with tea to give them a sepia mist, and then froze them in time with wax.
Although I have separated each element of this exhibit for the purpose of this article, it really must be understood that each element of the walk are indeed like ingredients in a good soup and make a pleasing melange.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Sung Ja Kim - Wilderness
This exquisite show of painted constructions was on exhibit at the Loop Gallery from January 10th until February 1st. I have had the opportunity to see an exhibit by Sung once before at The Loop gallery and I was as taken with that body of work as I am with this one.
Her use of natural and recycled materials evoke an almost meditative experience in viewing them. More often than not I find the danger of stepping out of the use of traditional materials is that the composition becomes "about" the material, and the viewer loses touch with the objective. Not so here, the finely tuned concert of raw materials mounted on or behind canvas compliment the overriding theme of spiritual growth through self exploration. Each piece in the show seems an open, almost surgical examination of the spiritual self(lessness) in the human psyche. One piece in particular stands out as exemplary to the rest of the exhibit. Alienation & Redemption is a large scale piece constructed of raw plywood as if torn from the junk of a construction site mounted behind again a very course canvas. Are we not all constructed in this rough form? It is through life's hills and valleys that we can get down to the work of alienating ourselves from that which truly obstructs our path to redemption. Ms. Kim gets to this message by opening herself up for us all to see.
The entire palette of this material is muted grey, white and earthen tones that keep the viewer grounded so as not to wander from the sudden, (satori), reality of our own redemption. It is hard to avoid that subtle sense of loss in this body of work. Whether it be through fading memory or that gut wrenching loss of our own selves in the mess of life she bares it all.
It is late January and winter is in the depths of its hold on us thus causing many of us to seek warmth and a shelter from it. I only hope that doesn't mean that too few came out to witness this exhibit and come to terms with their own redemption. This is indeed a show that merits maximum visibility. Kudos to Ms. Kim and Loop for offering us the chance to get out in the cold and bare witness to certainly what I think is going to be an exhibit to set the example for the year of the bull.