By Terence Dick, Freelance Writer and Art Critic
I used to think that summer was the slow season for the art crowd, the lull when we could gather our strength for the onslaught of autumnal openings, but most galleries have come to realize that not everyone heads to cottage country come June, July, or August. In fact, artists, groupies, and downtown locals (not to mention tourists) are hankering for things to do and see during these dog days. Lucky for us, there is a bounty of stimulating exhibitions out there and some of them are even air conditioned!
The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art has got a good thing going with their summer group shows and the current one is foolproof in its audience-baiting strategy. Love/Hate: New Crowned Glory in the GTA is purposefully contentious but diplomatically resists identifying which of the thirty participating artists are loved and which are hated; that decision is left up to the viewer. My summer crushes include painters Raffael A. Iglesias and Margaux Williamson, industrial boombox maker Steven Laurie, and asphalt artist Shelly Rahme. It’s not hard to find something you like amidst this crowd of artists; there’s even some agit-prop porn for the family!
I initially suspected a similar sort of sucking up to the audience with Angelika Middendorf and Andreas Schimanski’s installation at Prefix ICA. During a residency at the Drake last year, they asked members of the local art community to speak about their goals for 25 seconds. The resulting compilation of responses threatened to be the kind of art world navel-gazing that leaves me limp, but instead ends up a condensed documentary that could be used to introduce the world (both at home and abroad) to Toronto’s artistic people and their dreams.
Budding dreamers (particularly in terms of the prices they’re asking) at the University of Guelph’s MFA program can be seen in a rambling group exhibition at Birch Libralato. There’s something for everyone here (and a couple instances of nothing for everyone), but the things that caught my eye (in a nice way) were Annie Dunning’s The Pigeon Homing Project Poster (because it would look nice on my wall), Red’s Cliff (because it really is a cliff), and Kevin Rogers’ Shelf (Fraser Institute) (because I had been thinking about making the same sort of Rachel Harrison-esque assemblage).
Tony Romano’s exhibition of new works at Diaz Contemporary might as well be a group show for all the variety of work he includes. He’s continuing on his journey to be the young Rodney Graham (not a bad thing), but carves his own path when he reveals his romantic streak. There’s a love letter to Toronto, another to a girl named Claire (or maybe a window, I’m not sure), and some elegant attempts at sublimity. His examination of the effect of Judas Priest on the growth of plants is forced but the accompanying image of the heavy metal record is a treat.
More budding dreamers can be found at Interaccess’ emerging artist exhibition. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge of works with the only thing linking them is that they need to be turned on. Laura Paolini’s piece even needs to be contacted by cellphone before it begins to do its dirty thing: her robot tongue mimics my own and gets reflected back on my crotch. Leave it to a new media artist to bring sexy back.
Paul Petro is showing three artists from (but not really from) California. Los Super Elegantes contribute a couple summer loving videos that would be right at home on TeleLatino. Eduardo Consuegra assembles a selection of found images and monochromes that teeter between audacity and the banal. Eli Langer hangs some airy abstract paintings and leans a couple photo assemblages on the walls. The one peaking over the front window is particularly arresting but I can’t imagine it working in any other spot.
A new space on the increasingly happening Ossington strip comes courtesy of gallerist Michael Klein. MKG127 has set up shop with a couple group shows featuring gallery artists and friends. Micah Lexier’s collaboration with Christian Bok leaves you amazed with the latter’s contribution. Photographs by Lawrence Argent and Jayce Salloum draw attention to the details of the everyday. And Anitra Hamilton materializes her creative efforts in serpentine masses, one small, one large.
Hamilton goes one bigger with her car/piñata Beater at Mercer Union. After having been whacked around during an event in front of MOCCA (video footage of which is thankfully included), the shell-of-a-car can only dream of fulfilling its destiny in a smash ‘em up derby. Corwyn Lund’s sculpture of a bouquet of microphones is much quieter in comparison but lingers longer in my mind. And Dean Baldwin’s miniature bar is a hoot: I’m disappointed that I won’t be around to see the miniature entertainment programmed for this Friday’s closing party.
One last sight to behold for this week, Rita Leistner’s photo at Convenience reminds me of the world outside my happy-go-lucky neighbourhood galleries. Her portrait of a young Lebanese man salvaging what he can from his family’s bombed out apartment puts a face to tragedy and tells me that serious work is always there to be done. I head home to do it.