Two new reviews in Magenta Magazine: Le Mois de la Photo and Douglas Coupland

The Fall 2011 edition of Magenta Magazine was just launched into the internet, and it contains two pieces I wrote this fall: a broad, overall review of Le Mois de la Photo 2011 Lucidity: Inward Views, and an interview with Douglas Coupland about his latest public art piece, Group Portrait 1957. Click the images below to read the full reviews on Magenta’s website. Check out some of the other articles as well.. there is lots of interesting reading!

Mois de la Photo 2011 review Magenta

I had a terrific trip to Le Mois de la Photo, but I found it really difficult to write about (partly because, aside from notes I managed to scribble down before bed each night, I waited far too long after returning from Montreal to actually write the review. Lesson learned!) There were some definite highlights, Jesper Just’s work (seen in the image above) being one. Festivals, even one as subdued and restrained as Le Mois, are intense experiences and sometimes their advantage (lots of art, all in one place!) is simultaneously their downfall (art burnout!) Luckily I was with two awesome photo-loving friends and we managed to see a lot in two and a half days.

Douglas Coupland review Magenta fall 2011

I was excited to interview Coupland, even by email, since I’ve read several of his books and generally followed his trajectory with interest and curiosity. Though I’m not always a huge fan of what he creates, he’s an undeniable Canadian icon.  Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to see this newest installation in person yet (it’s in Oshawa; really not that far away!) but judging by the installation photos, it’s pretty nifty.

Other than these two little reviews, where have I been? Back at school! That is; working as I was before at Canadian Art, and taking two night classes. I’m taking a course to amp up my grammar skills, and a course about the editing process. It’s going well, but really does make the week drag on. At the same time, I can hardly believe we’re at November already, and that I let September and October pass without a single blog entry.

My excuse, of course, is that between work and school there isn’t much free time left for writing projects. I continue to edit, as mentioned beforeGallery 44′s blog, which I hope you’re reading if you’re interested in photography. It’s a really valuable project for me, and I’m loving working with Lise, the blog contributors, and the rest of the staff at Gallery 44. I also owe a big thanks to Bill Clarke, editor of Magenta Magazine, for his positivity and encouragement. No more two-month breaks from this blog!

Some thoughts on General Idea

I wrote a post for BlogTO on the Haute Culture: General Idea retrospective exhibition, now on at the AGO. It’s a huge show that doesn’t exactly lend itself to writing a bite-sized review, so I had some difficulty getting the point across: It’s really good. For a whole bunch of different reasons. Even though at first glance it might seem like an insular exhibition—so concerned with a bygone time period and a community that I’m not part of—there is truly something for everyone in this exhibition. It spans media, tone, and technique, while maintaining a humourous and playful, yet incisive, subversion. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote:

Though it’s surprising to some that audiences had to wait so long for a retrospective–General Idea disbanded nearly 20 years ago, in 1994 when Partz and Zontal died, a few months apart, from AIDS-related illnesses–the exhibition benefits from the distance in time and in culture. Bonnet, as a non-Canadian curator, is able to bring an outside perspective to the works. As for the separation in time, it lends the exhibition an air of discovery.

Bonnet’s introductory text states the General Idea’s oeuvre “anticipated many of today’s art trends,” and I couldn’t agree more. From those goofy, ironic posed portraits, to multiples that blur the line between art and commerce, to the staging of elaborate performances and rituals like the Miss General Idea Pageant, the works feel extremely fresh. It’s hard to tell if that’s because they were ahead of their time, or because their influence is so strongly present in the work of today’s hip, young, university-educated artists, or because such a comprehensive gathering of the works is unprecedented. Probably all three–and the effects are stunning. You can read the rest on BlogTO.

For those who have also seen MoCCA’s summer exhibition, This Is Paradise, Haute Culture makes an interesting companion. There’s some historical overlap, and some shared Toronto connection, although I hoped for more from This Is Paradise, and it paled in comparison to Haute Culture.. though perhaps that is an unfair comparison. Calling it a ” a microcosmic historical exercise,” my colleague Bryne McLaughlin wrote a terrific review, that summed up exactly what I thought of this exhibition, for Canadian Art.

Still, This Is Paradise (regardless of its shortcomings), and Haute Culture, certainly both have been stirring the city’s artistic imagination. Part of Haute Culture‘s allure is its ability to conjure Toronto’s art scene at its beginnings. It’s certainly worth seeing, preferably multiple times. Haute Culture: General Idea continues until Jan 1, 2012.

The richness of oil paintings

On Friday I went to the openings of the new exhibitions at LE Gallery, “The Roving Iconist” by Bogdan Luca and “Sheltered” by Megan McCabe. Both young painters working mainly in oils, whom I’ve written about before and whose work seems to keep popping up around town, never cease to impress me. Given style and subject matter, they are an odd pairing, but it is mastery over the materials (a common theme at LE, and quickly becoming the surest way to my art-heart) that unites their oeuvres. Luca’s large-scale paintings had a certain news-photo-montage look, with helmeted figures building, labouring, and plotting away. The strict blue and magenta colour palette that Luca uses adds a separation of time, putting me in mind of tinted or monochromatic historical images. The lightness of his washes and bright drips sweeping down the canvases seems sinister, though. A sense of strategy pervades the exhibition and the figures seem caught in the cycles of creation and destruction.

McCabe’s oil paintings are a little more idyllic, mainly images of leisure or wandering in natural settings. Similar to her exhibition last summer (also at LE), the paintings held a nostalgic perspective, but this time the figures’ frolicking was tempered even more by a deep, dark colour palette and a certain distance afforded by the loose, active brushwork. One painting in particular, Waterfall, seemed like McCabe setting off in a new direction. The lines were more aggressive, the impasto thicker, and the situation more ambiguous.

To dismiss them as simply straight representations of upper-middle-class Canadian leisure activities would be missing the point. Most of the works featured a structure of some type or other—hence the title “Sheltered.” These ranged from the futuristic-looking domes of modern tents clustered together, to a crude lean-to made of sticks, the type often constructed and forgotten by kids at play. The human urge to build even the simplest hut, as a marker of civilization, conquest, or comfort, is an idea that underpins the exhibition, and reminds me how easy it can be to feel at home in the wilderness with just a tent, a backpack, and a few necessities. Good timing, since I am finally heading to the woods this weekend.

The Power Plant reopens

The talk of the Toronto art world for some time now, The Power Plant has finally reopened after its two-month closure for renovations, which they dubbed the “Refresh” Project. Coupled with some staffing changes—the arrival of new curator Melanie O’Brian, and the much-speculated-over departure of director Gregory Burke—all this news and gossip almost overshadowed the exhibitions!

I interviewed Burke and assistant curator Jon Davies about the changes taking place, and of course, the exhibitions. Read the resulting piece here in Magenta Magazine.. and be sure to check out the Power Plant’s new website. It’s no Ciel Variable, but it sure is an improvement.

As for the exhibitions, my feelings are mixed, having now actually seen them (as opposed to when I wrote the piece in February). Phantom Truck and Always After (The Glass House) form a really nice minimalist counterpoint to the in-your-face Das Auge, which is overwhelming (although it left me underwhelmed.) Topping it off is To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong?, an excellently curated, modest meditation on the mediated landscape. Definitely worth seeing.

Magenta Magazine, Spring 2011