Berdnaut Smilde, Nimbus D'Aspremont, 2012.
Mercer Union's Director of Exhibitions Sarah Robayo Sheridan has been doing a bang up job these past few years assembling a surprising range of challenging work in thematic exhibitions that maintain our city's curatorial muscle tone. Her current group exercise, Red Sky at Night, takes its name from the old sailor's meteorological adage for favourable weather but really concerns itself with atmosphere or the quality of air in a space more so than rain, wind or snow. Bruce Nauman's bookwork LAAIR (as in the air around Los Angeles) acts as a starting point for the subsequent depictions and explorations of light and space, some of which work better than others (as is the case with all group shows). The short video by the late artist Absalon is news to me and stands at the opposite end of Nauman's horizonless gesture by taking place amongst containers within a container lit by an indistinct glow. This rigorously demarcated zone is further countered by the entirely amorphous, constantly shifting, and ever-moving soap bubble that travels through the air in Cao Guimarães and Rivane Neuenschwander's delightful super-8 film Inventory of small deaths (blow). To complete the quartet that acts as the Core-Ten core of this space and time, Berdnaut Smilde's photo-documentation of a momentary atmospheric event created in an enclosure is both magical (because it reminds one of the puff of smoke that follows every trick) and disappointing (because one wishes he could figure out how to create an actual cloud hanging in the air and just within reach). Until he figures that one out, we'll just have to rely on artists and our imaginations.
Kyle Lasky, Lesbian Bedrooms II, 2011
Growing up a white middle-class youth with artistic pretensions in downtown Toronto, I always had a fascination with the queer community, seeing in it a band of outsiders brought together by a unity of identity and purpose. It helped that the most prominent of this bunch were writers and artists with style and confidence and attitudes that I could only dream of. I felt that same sort of admiration and fascination as I perused the hundred portraits in the 10x10: 100 Portraits show at The Gladstone Hotel (curate, truth be told, by Akimbo tech blogger James Fowler). The attraction here is largely the people in the pictures and the worlds they inhabit, but John Monteith provides an innovative tweak to the format by depicting his subjects in charcoal grey-to-black hues. These results require an active shifting and dancing around the frame to focus on the subject and lose the reflection of your self in the work.
The myth of the singular queer community that I so idolized is up-ended in That's So Gay, another in artist/writer/curator Sholem Krishtalka's ongoing ripostes to Pride Day festivities. This year he unthreads the gender binary, mixing up male artists and female subjects (and vice versa), while also throwing the new school confusion of trans individuals into the brew. From straight-ahead (so to speak) work like Kyle Lasky's self-explanatory Lesbian Bedrooms photo-series to more conceptual pieces like Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay's fragment of a letter musing on the meaning of contraltos, the exhibition sheds any festive (or corporate) notion of togetherness to introduce a more nuanced consideration of difference.
Mercer Union: http://www.mercerunion.org/
Red Sky at Night continues until July 29.
The Gladstone Hotel: http://www.gladstonehotel.com/
That's So Gay continues until July 29.
10 x 10: 100 Portraits continues until July 15
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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