July 18, 2018

Report from Montreal

Life in graceful Montreal moves at a sauntering pace.  The sidewalks feel broad and unhurried.  There is always a table to be had, even at peak time.  The movie is never sold out.  In the hot, white glare of an afternoon in mid-July downtown Montreal feels nearly deserted and the saunter slows to a languid drift.

I am drawn to the churches: hushed, dark, cool, grandly capacious and filled with exquisite objects.  Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral is my favourite.

20180715_160250Narthex of “Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral” in Montreal

The role of the non-cloistered female orders and their leaders, particularly Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys, are exalted in this edifice.  There are a number of depictions of her, always looking beatific, in the Cathedral.

20180716_140119Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys teaching her indigenous pupils in 1694 on ground belonging to the Sulpicians. Work by Georges Delfosse.

20180715_155617Portrait of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys

I was thinking way too much about faith, charity, devotion and, becoming hypnotized by the candles burning in the dim light.  It was time to buy a Mother Theresa medal and move on to the Museum.

The Museum of Contemporary Art

Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmons piece titled The Prophets creates the absorbing core to a group exhibition of the same name.  Spread about on high tables, Ibghy and Lemmons’ delicate, petite sculptures relate in a playful, irreverent way to the conceptual and/or formalist artworks, by renowned artists, on the surrounding walls.

20180718_143319Detail of “The Prophets” by Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmons

20180718_143407Detail of “The Prophets” by Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmons

The succinct transmission of information in charts, graphs and process maps is slightly subverted here.  Drole captions hint at meaning but these are gestural data depictions, not literal.  They use the familiar forms of  the financial pages but have more in common with Russian Constructivist graphics.  Their connection to, for example, the Sol Lewitt prints in the same room is definite but updated.  Whereas the early conceptual artists, like Sol Lewitt, were obliged to create text instructions accompanying their visual production — the formal texts sounding rather like logic statements or algorithms — Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmons experience no such constraints.  They just go for it.

It seems to be a very popular show.  Visitors linger and are compelled to take numerous photographs, intently focused, peering into their smart phones and leaning over the tables of sculptures they wile away the summer afternoon.

20180718_143533Museum goer photographing art work by Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmons, while standing in front of a painting by Jack Bush

Also at the Museum of Contemporary Art is a massive exhibition of the work of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.  The show is called Unstable Presence. 

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is interested in human interaction with systems, benign and otherwise.  Sometimes the work manifests as big, flashy public-type display, something you might see at Nuit Blanche.  For example: A sensor detects a human heartbeat and ignites a dazzling display of glittering bulbs in the museum rotunda.  I guess the “unstable” is the human participant.

20180718_154903   Pulse Spiral by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Other works — for example Zoom Pavilion – suggest sinister forms of control: non-stop surveillance, facial recognition technology, drones, heat-seeking threats and menaces, remote body scans and all the other oppressive technologies the techie geeks have come up with.  In fact, this phone I carry around with me everywhere is a tracking device!  But if I don’t have it…. how am I going to know where the nearest Starbucks is?  I guess its a trade off.

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20180718_151054Installation shots from Zoom by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer

Walking into the Zoom Pavilion installation is highly unsettling.  Multiple camera immediately focus on the viewer’s face, enlarge the image, then analyze, compare and store it.  There is a strangely disturbing soundtrack of zip lines, clicks, whirs and hums.  The walls are covered with real-time images of the audience, as they tentatively observe. The museum goer becomes a passive participant in a ghostly, black and white world.  A sense of being tracked or hunted is pervasive and the worst kind of corporate/government malfeasance is evoked.

In fact many of the works by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer create a sense of stepping into a reality much bigger than ours.  We can participate but only minimally.   A sinister power that lies elsewhere is amplified and our actions and interactions become trivial.

 

Video of works by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in “Unstable Presence”

And there was more.  The Museum showed art works by some of my favourite artists … so it was a great day in sultry Montreal.

a128p1_in001-1200x1629                              “Earthling (Red Sweater)” by Janet Werner

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                                         “Zombie Dance” by Sarah Anne Johnson

 

July 8, 2018

The Toronto Outdoor Art Fair

2018 constitutes the 57th edition of the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair.   Rain or shine, since 1961, Toronto artists have been hauling their work down to City Hall.  The idea is to connect with a member of the public and make a sale!

TOAF is juried.   750 applicants were whittled down to 360 participants.  Fees are low: $50 per application.  Artists get to keep 100% of sales receipts.

TOAF is intent on getting people in the buying mood.  For example: The organizers set up an apartment tableau so that prospective buyers could test a painting over a generic couch/lamp/coffee table setup and get a sense of how it might look at home.

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“Quite good.  I’ll take it.”

Established artists rarely talk about the connection between money and art.  In art school, the topic of how to make a living as an artist is frequently dismissed with a shrug.  That’s not the case at the TOAF.  This is a place to openly market artwork, figure out a price point that works and be prepared to make change.

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Art work by Ezio Molinari

The global art market grew 12% in 2017, to total $63.7 billion, according to Art Basel.  Market share is largely located in the US (over 40%) with China a distant second, followed by the UK.  Because Donald Trump is in power the US figures are expected to rise again this year.  Why?  Art sales apparently escalate as income inequality increases.   (…)   Changes to US tax law are also favourable to buyers of pricey art.  Note, however, that the recent rise in the art market is confined to the high end galleries and auction houses.  Galleries with more modest prices did less well.  (TOAF does not allow prints or multiples, which interestingly are the one bright spot on the lower end market, according to Bloomberg.)

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But the buying habits of the 1% are not really relevant here on this stretch of hot cement.   The TOAF is bootstrap capitalism: refreshing, raw and often surprising.

I was happy to see this big, pink foam thing, made by Michelle Cieloszczyk.  She said it doesn’t really need  to be suspended.  It can be shown leaning against a wall or just laying down on the floor or somewhere.  I like the way this piece flips between a kind of fuzzy feeling, like flannelette, and then suddenly evokes hanging meat or something equally ghastly.

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Michelle Cieloszczyk with her sculpture Flat Can

I saw ceramics at the TOAF that were inspired, fresh and beautiful.  Water jugs by Jordan Scott appear so effortless and loose.  Joon Hee Kim creates complex narratives, bizarrely detailed and imaginative, using fired clay.

 

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Ceramics by Jordan Scott

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Ceramics by Joon Hee Kim

There were hand printed scarves, home decor and lots of jewelry but the bulk of the TOAF is painting and photography.  It was a lot of fun wander through the blazing heat and peak into a unique sensibility created within each 10 x 10 foot white tent.

 

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Beverley Hawksley created a glamorous, business girl mood.

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Parveen Dhatt dressed appropriately.

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Clare Allin came up with a sixties counter-culture vibe.

I came home with a pocket full of festive business cards, reminding me to shell out and buy some original art.

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