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Toronto
Terence Dick
Space Fictions at A Space | Edward Maloney at Pierre-Francois Ouelette Art Contemporain
March 11, 2014

For a week in which the US and Russia made threats and held the whole world in suspense as they battled over a previously insignificant piece of the world that was suddenly centre stage in the theatre of global politics, it was only appropriate that I found myself confronted by works that turn the clock back to Cold War narratives and show, among other interpretations, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.



Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen, 1967: A People Kind of Place, 2012, video

The pairing of one work each by Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen and Juan Ortiz-Apuy at A Space makes for as simple and effective a group exhibition you're going to find all year. The former's short film 1967: A People Kind of Place uses found footage from sixties' television broadcasts to first tell the story of St. Paul, Alberta's Centennial-celebrating UFO landing pad (a real thing, it seems) before blasting off into a riff on the idea of alien visitors as immigrants and Canada's system of quotas for newcomers. It ends meditating on the first people to land on this land thus turning us all into travellers. Beside Nguyen's black box theatre, the next gallery abruptly shifts from darkness to light as motion sensors are triggered to switch on three powerful freestanding lamps that illuminate what at first appears to be a collection of framed blank white posters. There seems to be something printed on them, but they only become visible when you stand still long enough for the lamps to switch off. Then, as long as you don't move too quickly, you can read the glow-in-the-dark pages from a "freedom fighters manual" produced by the CIA and airdropped over Nicaragua in 1983. The dynamic between viewer and work created by Ortiz-Apuy with the mechanism of the motion detector literally stops you in your tracks and forces you to focus your attention on each page in turn while also restricting your movements through the imposition of a system of control. Never have I felt so manipulated. It makes for a powerful viewing experience.



Edward Maloney, ADVANCE, 2014, graphite on paper

Speaking of travelling, I also made an eastward jaunt to the other side of Young Street to visit Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain, the Montreal dealer's Toronto outpost. The neighbourhood that surrounds the gallery had long been nondescript, with an odd assortment of warehouses and businesses but no coherent character. Ten years ago the only reason I'd come here was to make noise in the rehearsal factory hell hole where my band practiced. Given the amount of condos that have since popped up, I have a feeling the army of heavy metal dudes who used to torment us has departed and been replaced by young and stylish soft-loft owners with walls that are begging to be covered by something other than their recently disposed of university dorm-era Bob Marley posters. Which makes it the perfect place for a forward thinking gallery! Robert Birch, who started out here way back when with his framing shop and exhibition space (I remember seeing future Documenta star Luis Jacob on his walls) must be kicking himself for not sticking around.

Then again, maybe all these hipsters want are large screen TVs to look at. The fate of Ouellette, who shares a space with Feheley Fine Art and their, I assume, more stable stable of contemporary Inuit artists, will be an index of whether Queen East can maintain galleries amongst its coffee shops, boutiques, and trendy restaurants. The current exhibition by Edward Maloney gathers an ambitious, but modest in number, range of works that take the urban, specifically industrial, landscape as their subject. While it's admirable for him to take on an assortment of media, my suggestion for this artist would be to forget the videos, the installations, and even the texts that overload his practice and instead focus on his strength – drawing the details of the built environment – and allow those images to tell the story. Maloney's razor wire and chain link fence have enough poetry on their own, and his washed-out graphite view of shipping docks from a glass and concrete patio will more than speak to the denizens of this downtown core.


A Space: http://www.aspacegallery.org/
Space Fictions continues until March 15.

Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain: http://www.pfoac.com/index_EN.html
Edward Maloney continues until March 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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