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Toronto
Terence Dick
Ben Portis, Kelly Jazvac, Katie Lyle, and more
July 26, 2017

Curators are the patron saints of generosity in the art world. Sure, artists give a lot of themselves with the work they do, but there’s inevitably a self-serving aspect to their gifts. And yes, there are plenty of egos among the curatorial set, but the essence of their calling is to make others shine and their love of what those others do is the fuel for their fire. That enthusiastic deference is what I will remember about curator Ben Portis, who passed away this weekend. I first began to hear of him around the turn of the millennium when he was organizing the No Music festival in collaboration with the Nihilist Spasm Band. Our last conversation was about buying records. In the interim, we’d cross paths every year or so as he moved through various curatorial posts (the AGO, the MacLaren Art Centre) and I always enjoyed hearing about what he was working on because he was smart, he didn’t care about fashion (though fashion sometimes caught up with him as with his Christian Marclay exhibition at Oakville Galleries a decade before the mega-popular The Clock), and he was generous of time and spirit.



Kelly Jazvac, Forward Contamination, 2017, video

Given his musical inclinations, Ben probably would have liked Kelly Jazvac’s video Forward Contamination in her solo exhibition at Gallery TPW. In it, a conversation between the artist and planetary geologist Catherine Neish is recreated by two voice actors accompanied by an improvising drummer. The percussion punctuates the discussion about interplanetary contamination and, as the explanation of problems becomes more dramatic, the drums build to a cacophonic climax. It reminds me of something I’d watch in the 1970s on children’s television (the Electric Company? Sesame Street?), but my delight with the sound and visuals (microplastics being separated from a Lake Ontario water sample) was balanced against the depressing nature about what was being described. Artistic, informative and educational, it’s worth catching before the show closes on Saturday (when there’s also a public talk with Jazvac and the artist Christina Battle).



Katie Lyle, The Mentor, 2017, pencil crayon on paper, memory foam, sewing pins

A couple doors down at Daniel Faria Gallery, Katie Lyle is exhibiting work that might be referred to as paintings by someone who didn’t want to have a long conversation about materials and the limits of the canvas. However, to talk about them simply as paintings would miss the many ways in which Lyle interferes with the frame or the surface of her works. She covers them with screens or mounts them on foam. A paper cutout hangs from one, while a cord pierces another. All this must be navigated before you begin to discern the figures and their movements within the ostensible images. Whether this effort results in a unity of form and content remains to be seen, but she definitely gives you something to chew on.

Next door at Clint Roenisch Gallery, a similarly diffuse group of artists has been gathered under the evocative title The Morning Shines with the Lights of Love. Opening with Tony Romano’s colour-coded light show/song and interspersed with Jérôme Havre’s colourful paintings on found paper (perhaps pages from an art history text?), the show’s optimism isn’t limited to its name. It also closes this weekend, so squeeze it in and enjoy an early Sarah Cale painting, a nifty Raymond Pettibon print, and a bizarre mixed media monstrosity by Connor Crawford, among other gifts to the senses.


Gallery TPW: http://gallerytpw.ca/
Kelly Jazvac: Proof of Performances continues until July 29.

Daniel Faria Gallery: http://danielfariagallery.com/
Katie Lyle: The weather is in the room continues until July 29.

Clint Roenisch Gallery: http://clintroenisch.com/
The Morning Shines with the Lights of Love continues until July 29.


Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

 

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