August 18, 2018

For me, there is a true sense of luxury in slipping into a museum for a short visit.  The edifice – in this case the AGO – becomes like my local library.  It’s no big deal.  I’m merely popping in.  Two wonderful shows were just waiting for me…

Jack and the Jack Paintings: Jack Goldstein and Ron Terada

Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia is available for purchase on Amazon for CDN 52.94.  Complete pages of the book, which was written by Jack Goldstein and a collaborator, are reproduced as large paintings; white text on black, in Ron Terada‘s show, Jack and the Jack Paintings, at the AGO.


Jack by Ron Terada

The paintings are fascinating. They contain so much: cringe worthy emotionalism, insight and aspiration, the personal/political dichotomy, and, most importantly, they are powerful objects, flickering between realms of subjective and objective meaning.

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Photograph of Jack Goldstein

CalArts was the so-called “sister” school of NSCAD.  Maybe Jack Goldstein was a visiting artist?  I remember the name but…  Was he dating a friend of mine in the eighties?

The viewer can’t escape the texts, which constitute the paintings.  (I tried looking at them as white marks on black ground but I have not reached that level of enlightenment, yet.)  And these texts are so dense with 80’s art world gossip – all the references to Robert, Cindy and Helene!   All the resentment, whining and profound sadness.  It’s all too much.  Finally, the whole idea of the art world becomes something absurd, tainted and shameful.


Jack by Ron Terada

Included in the show is one of Jack Goldstein’s paintings.  It is large, about 8 feet long, and solemn.   It adds a lot to the exhibition: it  is a calming force, dark and silent, judgement free, and, pain free.


Painting by Jack Goldstein

Joseph Beuys

On the AGO’s main floor, at the end of trek through the Ken Thompson knickknacks, is a small room filled with many drawing, and, two sculptures.  These are early works (late 50s and early 60s) by Joseph Beuys; prior to the global fame precipitated by iconoclastic performance artworks such as I Like America And America Likes Me or How To Explain Pictures To A Dead Hare.


How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare – photograph of performance by Joseph Beuys

The exhibition notes state that the works on paper “revolve around the theme of death.”  Renderings of the body: truncated, naked and anguished are displayed, images of sunken graves, darkness.  They appear to be made hastily/compulsively, on cardboard, newsprint, office forms, file folders.  Some of the drawings are partially obliterated with opaque black or terra cotta coloured paint, or decorated with the ubiquitous silver or fat substances that Joseph Beuys frequently employed.

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To Saturn by Joseph Beuys

The lights are dim in the exhibition and the delicate, fragile works are framed with excruciating care.   But despite the best attempts by museum preservationists there is a sense that they will not last.  But maybe that’s as it should be, as per the quote from Joseph Beuys below:

That is why the nature of my sculpture is not fixed and finished. Processes continue in most of them: chemical reactions, fermentations, color changes, decay, drying up. Everything is in a state of change.


Two Women by Joseph Beuys

The sculptures – one: broken and shambolic, the other: mysterious intertwined totems – are displayed in large vitrines.


Hasengrab  (Hare’s Grave) by Joseph Beuys



Sculpture by Joseph Beuys

During his life Joseph Beuys created the role of Shaman for himself; a figure of healing for modern society.  He engaged in social, political and environmental matters and explored the trauma of his WWII plane crash, and subsequent rescue by nomadic Tartars.  I was grateful to look at this work and to spend some  time thinking about how Joseph Beuys might respond to our current social upheaval and environmental crisis.



June 22, 2018

Le Grand Continental

The annual Luminato Festival always brings something unexpected to town: this year  I was thrilled to catch Le Grand Continental, an outdoor dance extravaganza, featuring roughly 250 local performers.


Le Grand Continental dancers

As the long day was ending dark clouds began to gather over the immense space at Nathan Philip’s Square.  Was rain going to fall in buckets and ruin the months of work these amateur performers had dedicated to the piece?  The rain held off and the dance performance went on.  It was truly a joyful celebratory piece!  Everyone was feeling good about people! How they can work together!  People can achieve anything!  And about comfortable footwear!  And colorful sports attire!

Video of Le Grand Continental

The choreographer, Sylvain Emard, has had a lifelong fascination with line dancing and has created similar, massive, outdoor artworks, with amateurs, all over the world.  Participants — all non-professionals of varying age, physical ability and body type — must commit to three months of rehearsals. They report feeling challenged and ultimately changed by the sometimes daunting experience of mastering 30 minutes of choreography.


“The work has a  certain vision of humanity,” says Sylvain Emard.  He mentions a political element and I can see that some might want to earnestly explore that aspect of the piece because, yes, it is there — but for me what was so entirely refreshing and delightful about this work is the spectacle of pure, unrestrained joy.   Sometimes that’s all it takes.

April 18, 2015

All over the city today I am seeing tank tops, patios at capacity, flip-flops, Daisy Dukes.  The rush to embrace summer is irresistible.  We are in love.

Images Festival

Casey Wei presents Chinatown Center Mall Happenings!

How often have I walk down Spadina, past the Chinatown Center, and barely registered it is there?  Thanks to Casey Wei I have now visited this mall, twice.


Chinatown Center, 222 Spadina

The mall is packed with glittering things but short on shoppers.  There is a drowsy atmosphere.  Could be the weather is to blame.


Jewelry store in Chinatown Center

Like the larger, newer Pacific Mall in Markham, Chinatown Center ostensibly caters to ethnic Chinese  who want the feel and products of a Hong Kong shopping center.

Casey Wei set up shop on the ground floor where occasional passers by gaze down from the upper galleries.


Chinatown Center

There are a handful of artists around and a few members of the local community.  As an art piece it is shapeless, open ended and slowed down, stretching out to nine days.  It feels good: relaxed, friendly, natural. There is playful banter. The Karaoke is at times quite accomplished.  (I was almost ready to sing “You’re So Vain” but backed out.)  The mahjong tiles clatter in the corner.  The shop owners don’t seem to have much expectation of customers.

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Snapshots of Casey Wei presents: Chinatown Center Mall Happenings!

One of the organizers mentioned the piece is about “engagement”.  It worked for me.  I have a new familiar stop in Chinatown.  For Casey Wei I think engagement means something different and here is where ancestry comes into play. (If Casey Wei did this in the PATH for instance, around King and Bay, it would be a wholly different kind of engagement.)


Chinatown Center Mall Happenings! by Casey Wei

Here is not so much a place to shop as a place to catch a mood.  At least I don’t think anyone goes to Chinatown Center to buy a smartphone, or a pair of jeans.  My sense of the virtually deserted Chinatown Center is that it is a sentimental destination, one that evokes a life left behind on the other side of the world.  Casey Wei, a young woman with an Asian face and name, but whose bio suggests she grew up in this country, may be trying to plumb that sentimentality towards greater self understanding.

I’m thinking about a friend whose parents are Chinese and who was born and raised in Scarborough.  He got into Eastern philosophy, not through his parents, but via Western culture at a particular moment.  Later he and his wife adopted a Chinese baby.   They raised their daughter in the USA and then they all went on an extended trip to China to try to understand, well, themselves.