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Luther Konadu
In Our Nature at LANTERN
February 14, 2018

At first, it was a bit funny to find out the latest LANTERN show assembled four Canadian white dudes for an exhibition called In Our Nature. As it turns out, the show presents thirteen small to medium-size paintings, more than half of which include romanticized depictions of semi to fully nude female figures. The rest feature other tropes of traditional painting including meticulously rendered contemporary still life scenes and a male figure staring into a clean picturesque landscape. The paragraph written on the exhibition includes this explanation: “The title refers to, in a masculine sense, how the naturalism is depicted and the personal ownership of it: our nature, our world.” I’m still not sure exactly what that means, but I like to believe we live in a feminist and post-colonial-leaning zeitgeist and the demographic that holds the most privilege and is chief culprit of this nation’s violent history will not continue to be pampered for their skills in portraying their nature.

Brad Phillips, Old Moise Kipling with New Rose, 2017, oil on canvas

At a time when outrage and call-out culture is omnipresent, and audiences are growing ever so sensitive to those in positions of privilege/power, it almost seems redundant to point out In Our Nature’s blindness to this. And sure, on one level, LANTERN is a commercial art gallery with one of its missions being to present its market with sellable pieces – thus they prioritize that over being cognizant of a larger contemporary critical discourse. And sure, they are a private organization and shouldn’t feel obligated to bow to grant auditors for their political correctness. If the show indicates anything, it’s that there’s still a budding market and allure for the mastery of painting by white men. By the time I visited, the gallery had already sold a piece for upwards of $15K. This only highlights the narrow tastes and prejudices of its audiences more so than it does of LANTERN per se.

Not to be P.C. policing or trivialize P. C. culture as some might argue political incorrectness favours a democratic society and eschews didacticism, and not to prolong the stale idea of art as a moral guide and place as victims of exclusion those whose voices continue to be shunned in preference for the white dudes of the art world, but perhaps for LANTERN, located in Winnipeg’s historic Chinatown, it might be profitable to think about working against an art world that fosters intentional marginalization.

In Our Nature isn’t the only example of an exhibition championing white male artistic prowess. It serves as a microcosm of what is wrought with the exclusivity that dominates the art world. If this is less of a review and more of rant, it’s because if you are anything like me, visiting the show and knowing the premise of it, you might be too distracted to even consider the work fully.

In Our Nature continues until March 3.
The gallery is accessible.

Luther Konadu makes things such as photographs, paintings, and prints which he occasionally calls art. He self-describes as a transcriber. He contributes content to a publication called Public Parking. Most days his favourite colour is green and one of his goals in life is to never be an art brat. He is Akimblog’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @public_parking.



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