Rebecca Belmore
“Facing the Monumental”

The planet moves and becomes liquid, pouring down through the metal grids of the stacked shopping carts, to pool in a pile of red clay at the base. Landslides hold us in thrall as they brush past, turning our objective reality into liquid nightmares. We cannot stop Earth’s movements, just [...]

- 5 mins read
“BELIEVE” in MOCA Toronto

Standing stentorian against the skyline, the Auto Building, at ten storeys, is the tallest structure on Sterling Road. The new Museum of Contemporary Art occupies five floors and opens its doors, with fortitude and luck, on September 22, to reclaim our air from an exhaust-fumed past. The building is quite beautiful [...]

- 6 mins read
Yayoi Kusama
Infinity Mirrors

Billions of stars burst through the night sky, leaving trails of tantalizing reveries for us to imagine, who we are and where we might come from. Yayoi Kusama, an extraordinary and venerated Japanese artist, is celebrated in this traveling exhibition, Infinity Mirrors, in which the Infinity Rooms, with their mirrored [...]

- 4 mins read
The Symbiotic Revolution

Humans and many other organisms will become extinct by 2023 unless we dial down our pollution of the atmosphere to zero in the five years we have left. This dire warning comes from James Anderson, the scientist who alerted people to the ozone layer’s depletion. Value in art and culture [...]

- 4 mins read
Conjuring the Chimera

Identity is based on difference, extrapolated into separations of race, gender, class and species. In art it leads to stylistic differentials and exclusions. By definition we lose something. Given that we face major environmental challenges, we need to rethink our assumptions. Religious and social conditioning initiated many taboos. Humans see themselves as [...]

- 4 mins read
Ydessa Hendeles
The Milliner’s Daughter

Art and life are intertwined in paradoxical ways. A picture has to find aesthetic stasis for completion, in other words it becomes still when balanced. It is the equivalent of death. The fascinating aspect is that art continues to reflect life. Ydessa Hendeles dances with a multitude of mute manikins in this enormous solo [...]

- 3 mins read
Georgia O’Keeffe
Questing for the Ineffable

The name “Georgia O’Keeffe” is legendary, conjuring up images of skulls in deserts and flowers evocative of intimate femininity. An enigmatic figure that straddled early American Modernism, she became iconic for feminism and continues to inspire artists. The AGO and the Tate Modern have partnered to mount this magnificent retrospective. [...]

- 3 mins read
Michael Schreier
What is Remembered

An hour before beginning to write this essay, I was on the phone to Michael Schreier, at his home in Ottawa, asking him some eleventh hour questions. And he had a query for me: “Why do you want to write about my work?” he asked me amiably. “You want me [...]

- 4 mins read
Kent Monkman “Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience”

This is a time of reckoning; when the medicine bears exact retribution and the air is smudged with smoke of sweetgrass, sage, tobacco and cedar to purify the spirit. Kent Monkman’s extraordinary traveling exhibition, Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, opened at the Art Museum to commemorate Canada’s 150 [...]

- 4 mins read
Gary Michael Dault
Burning Bright

Gary Michael Dault is like a Colossus striding across the cultural landscape in Toronto, active most notably as an art critic but also as a writer, photographer and painter. Many visual artists owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for making their work visible via reviews in the Globe and [...]

- 3 mins read
The Art of Digital Art Education

Ashley Johnson – What is your background and current role? David Hlynsky – I initially worked at Coachhouse Press, learnt Photoshop, spending time in a darkroom as a photographer. I also have a degree in painting. I taught Photoshop at OCAD and Sheridan before University of Toronto where I teach digital courses. What is [...]

- 3 mins read
Theaster Gates
How to Build a House Museum

The incendiary invocation of “Burn Baby Burn”, a blazing orange neon sign high up the wall greets the visitor to the fifth floor of the AGO. Disco music pounds in the background and a huge curtain shimmers to block the outside light. We enter Theaster Gates’ politically charged colonization. Gates [...]

- 3 mins read
Adam Lee
Of a Great and Mighty Shadow

In Genesis, according to Hebrew texts, God contracted his infinite luminescence to create the conceptual space for our primordial tenure. The anomaly of simultaneous Divine withdrawal and presence acted to conceal the spiritual realm from us. Our goal became to reunite with God. The Tabernacle was a tent-like structure, originating with [...]

- 3 mins read
Drawing je t'aime

Drawing occupies an anomalous position in contemporary art. For purists, who think of the brain as isolated originator, hands are considered an obstacle to the expression of art. Viewed solely in context as preliminary sketches for paintings or anatomical figure studies, drawing IS regressive. Conceptualism displaces drawing’s value with a [...]

- 3 mins read
Interrogating Art Education

The art world is a barren land inhabited by chimeras. Art historical mythologies like ‘individual genius’ pantomime before political ideologies, lurking in universities to debunk. We fall madly in love with the ‘story’, primarily Western, and with ART, the most mysterious chimera of them all. Universities and other educational establishments [...]

- 3 mins read
Napoleon Brousseau
In The Black

Charcoal is a sensual medium that, at an elemental level, is wood transformed into carbon by pyrolysis; slow heating in a process of oxygen reduction. It is very much ‘of the earth’ and yet also evocative of life and death. Paradoxically, oxygen is poisonous but our cell mitochondria transform it into [...]

- 3 mins read
Frank Rodick. Everything Will Be Forgotten

As a child, I remember a moment of terror one night as my father pressed his face against my window from the outside to look in. Frank Rodick’s images of his mother have the same effect on me. One is conscious of the deep emotions parents have and continue to [...]

- 3 mins read
Jean-Michel Basquiat. Now’s The Time

Jean-Michel Basquiat emerged as an artist in the eighties, rose majestically to stardom, then died tragically from an overdose of heroin within the decade, leaving the art world stunned and confused. As his star eclipsed, the debate raged around the cultural value of his contribution. It continues to raise questions [...]

- 3 mins read
Julia Dault. Color Me Badd

Sleight of hand combines the quickness of hand with the psychology of perception to create illusion. Julia Dault’s solo exhibition at The Power Plant has a sense of clever deception about it. An enormous white vinyl grid titled Time After Time stretches to cover the entire main wall to the ceiling. Every [...]

- 3 mins read
“Art as Therapy” or Indoctrination through Art

Art has been embedded in our understanding of culture for centuries and institutions like museums have evolved a way of delivering the content. Money, power and elitism have always been present where art is concerned, and even more so now with auction house and gallery market manipulations. The curators of Art as Therapy exhibition, British pop [...]

- 3 mins read
Francis Bacon and Henry Moore. Terror and Beauty

All the shadows of the last century trawl across the face of this exhibit. Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, ingeniously conjoined in the Ashmolean Museum’s aptly titled exhibition “Flesh and Bone” are transposed into “Terror and Beauty” by Dan Adler. The central thesis is that war experiences defined their art, causing [...]

- 3 mins read
Mike Nelson. Amnesiac Hide

Mike Nelson’s four installations, overall title Amnesiac Hide, are perplexing but survive in an air of stale, decrepit mystery. One feels compelled to explore the remnants of some forgotten event, or just remember a vague detail. Nelson has stepped outside the conventional contemporary art discourse and reinvented a manner of [...]

- 3 mins read
Ai Weiwei. According to What?

The West is morbidly fascinated with the East. Our ignorance projects a society that is steeped in repression. Chinese adventures in Africa alarm me with their thoughtless exploitation of resources. Imagine proposing to build a highway through the Serengeti Migration Route!! Made fearful of communism and repressive regimes, we fail to recognize the repression [...]

- 3 mins read
Louise Bourgeois “1911-2010” David Armstrong “Six-Three Known Points”

The current Mocca presentation juxtaposes two powerful sculptors whose work prompts comparison and thought. Louise Bourgeois, iconic to the struggle for gender equality, is presented in retrospect by works from the National Gallery and her estate. The works dip into her oeuvre stretching from her Personages (1950’s) to her final Cell, The Last Climb (2008). David Armstrong Six [...]

- 3 mins read
David Hlynsky. “I Shop”

Photography is a deceptive art as it subverts our assumptions about time-based reality. By framing segments, the photographer allows us to see and imagine aspects of life far beyond observable reality. David Hlynsky’s photography is preeminently engaged with cerebral interpretation and in I Shop he presents photographs of Communist shop windows taken in [...]

- 3 mins read
Alfredo Jaar. The Politics of Images

Africa has fascinated from Grecian times when a one-legged race of men (Skiapodes) were said to live in Ethiopia. They supposedly used their giant foot to shade from the sun. The reality is a huge, stable landmass rich in mineral resources, over-populated and lacking water. The Colonial invasion further exacerbated tribal divisions, so [...]

- 3 mins read
Norval Morrisseau. 2012 Retrospective

Norval Morrisseau died in 2007 after a meteoric art career that began in the sixties. His art struck a chord with collectors who had not been exposed to his Woodland style Ojibway painting. Intrepid characters like artist/anthropologist Selwyn Dewdney and art dealer, Jack Pollack, had ventured north, meeting Morrisseau. Dewdney was recording ancient petroglyphs [...]

- 3 mins read
Tasman Richardson - Necropolis

Tasman Richardson’s graveyard at Mocca summons up the ghosts lurking in the ubiquitous technology that surrounds certain ‘developed’ cultures. Perhaps the spectre of Marshall McLuhan is at the séance, reiterating his famous slogan “The medium is the message” (or massage). For Richardson, it seems that televised reality has subsumed our [...]

- 5 mins read
JP King - Free Paper

As we slouch through the 21st century it is becoming increasingly evident that bourgeoning populations and the Capitalist way of life are unsustainable. The environment is taking the brunt of this onslaught and in urban centres trash has become a major issue. For artists making a social contribution, the gallery system [...]

- 3 mins read
Thomas Hirschhorn - Das Auge (The Eye)

Orgiastic quantities of faux blood and guts envelop intrepid spectators as they enter Thomas Hirschhorn’s lair at the Power Plant. The meager path that meanders through the encroaching display does not allow the traveler any respite until the mezzanine, which is the eagle’s aerie though it too is crowded with [...]

- 4 mins read
Abstract Expressionist New York

Abstract Expressionism was a seminal force in Modernism, shifting the focus of the art-world from Europe to New York. Art students are taught a particular history of this period, filled with rhetoric about American self-reliance and individualism. Critics like Harold Rosenberg stressed the existential dilemma of identity and living in the [...]

- 4 mins read