If life is a day that ends just after twilight, this week’s report is dedicated to those artists who I’d like to think of as being in the mid to late afternoon of their careers. I’m still learning to think of myself as a post-noon kind of fellow, but when I realize I’ve known – or known of – some of these folks for almost a second decade, the clock on the wall can’t be denied. And truth be told, I prefer the wisdom of experience over the novelty of youth.
Marla Hlady, A Case for Sound: Nina, 2009 (ongoing), custom fabricated wood boxes, hardware, MP3 player, amplified speakers, sound, AAA batteries, motion switch.
I will always associate Marla Hlady with stripped-down mechanical animals because I had to sit an exhibition of the creatures and their incessant popping and whirring. That was a while back and she has since shifted her work away from those exclusively found materials towards crafted objects that reflect and contain a sustained focus on sound. Her recent exhibition at Jessica Bradley Art + Projects still delved into appropriation – either short samples from a live recording of Nina Simone or the accidental sound production of an unfolding paper bag – but the formal element of presentation and, in particular, audience or performer participation was a big element of the resulting proceedings. I wasn’t sure about all the fragments contained in the Nina boxes and whether they were meant to work alone or en suite, but the clips that worked worked as meditative (and portable!) ambient loops. The soundtrack to the series of videos with the close-miked bag also worked as a background score, but it paled in comparison to the lovely diagrammatic drawings that stole the show. For a sound artist, Hlady makes some pretty pictures.
Janet Werner, Untitled (Sorceress), 2010, oil on canvas
I’m sorry to say that I don’t think I’d ever seen Janet Werner’s paintings in the flesh until her current exhibition at Birch Libralato. Or, at least, en mass. And whereas in the past (and in a mediated fashion), I’d found her ambiguously indexical portraits intriguing, this new collection of gently mutating human hybrids are overwhelmed by their own size. Compare them to the compact oddballs in Stephen Appleby-Barr’s canvases at Nicholas Metivier and you tell me which are more compelling.
In the back room, both Steve Reinke and Joseph Beuys explore heavy ideas in seemingly offhand ways. The latter is depicted in a washed out video giving a lecture at NSCAD from the late seventies. Reinke has tightened up the speech and provided animated subtitles with intermittent bursts of distorted visuals and bits of music from Beuys-contemporaries the “krautrock” band Can. I got a bit lost in the elder artist’s ramblings, but I’m inclined to give Reinke the benefit of the doubt that there’s something worth echoing in there.
Anitra Hamilton, Red Coat, 2010-11, Canadian Forces Great Coat, poppies
Given the newest front in our ongoing wars in that other hemisphere, Anitra Hamilton is as good an artist as any to make manifest some of the contradictions of global military conflict in visual form (Scott Waters, whose exhibition just closed at Le Gallery, is another). Her new works at Georgia Scherman Projects aren’t as immediately dramatic as her resurfaced bomb shells, but the central piece here, a vintage army overcoat covered with a layer of Remembrance Day poppies and accompanied by a surprisingly noisey soundtrack of two minutes of silence recorded at a memorial ceremony, is a one-two punch that turns our comfortable relationship with wars past and the surviving veterans (“I won’t forget! I bought a pin last November!”) into something more justifiably demanding and unsettling.
Ian Carr-Harris, Raven (version 2), 2011, wood, paper, paint, metal
I will always associate Ian Carr-Harris with the season I sat one of his exhibitions and had to repeatedly explain to Joe and Jane Public the arcane meaning buried in his unfinished and often unremarkable objects. The central piece in his two piece exhibition at Susan Hobbs Gallery has enough going on with it to soften up any lingering frustrations and I’ll admit that the multi-referential possibilities of his Borgesian dollhouse Gebäude’ [shape] are generous enough to be got (as in, “I get it!”) with both a first glance and on deeper reading. I wasn’t as convinced by the Lewis Carroll-inspired pop-up boxes upstairs, but the sliding panels of the main attraction took me right to the corner of contemplation and consternation. That’s just the neighbourhood I prefer to end up.
Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. He is currently working on an essay about war and contemporary art, a ficto-critical piece about the Leona Drive Project, and a review of Oakville Galleries Un-home-ly exhibition. 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.
Jessica Bradley Art + Projects: http://www.jessicabradleyartprojects.com/
See website for current exhibitions.
Birch Libralato: http://birchlibralato.com/
Janet Werner: Beauty Takes a Holiday continues until April 23.
Steve Reinke: The Root Problem of the World continues until April 23.
Georgia Scherman Projects: http://www.georgiascherman.com/
Anitra Hamilton: The Future Has Been Decided continues until April 23.
Susan Hobbs Gallery: http://www.susanhobbs.com/
Ian Carr-Harris continues until April 16.
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