Thursday, November 28, 2019

Àbadakone at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Àbadakone is the second in a series of international Indigenous art exhibitions that was inaugurated in 2013 with Sakahàn. With reference to the fact that the National Gallery of Canada resides in traditional Algonquin territory, both exhibitions have titles in Algonquin. As Sakahàn is a word that means “lighting a fire” in English, it is totally apt that Àbadakone should mean “the fire continues to burn,” or in the trilingual title of the exhibition: Continuous Fire

Joar Nango, Sámi Architectural Library, 2019, detail of installation (photo: Michael Davidge)

This exhibition further establishes the NGC as a centre for dialogues that contribute to the writing of international Indigenous art histories. It also makes it a place to see some extraordinary contemporary Indigenous art from around the world, with work by more than seventy artists from at least sixteen diverse countries including Benin, China, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, and South Africa. Significantly, these artists in total identify with approximately forty Indigenous nations, ethnicities, and tribal affiliations within and across the countries listed, traversing boundaries and shifting a visitor’s understanding of the global map.

In the complete text of my review, posted here on the November 28 Akimblog, I dwell on one work that is particularly emblematic of this shift in perspective: the Sámi Architectural Library by Joar Nango, a Sámi artist and architect from Sápmi (a cultural region that stretches over Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia). For Nango, the paramount goal is the transmission of Indigenous knowledge. His library offers a dynamic model for decolonization.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Sex Life at Galerie SAW Gallery, Ottawa

Galerie SAW Gallery is open again with a strengthened presence and a bracing new show. Curated by Jason St. Laurent, Sex Life: Homoeroticism in Drawing delivers on its promise not to shock or titillate (although the potential for that is abundant), but rather to foster an expanded view of human desire and sexual practices. 

Cindy Baker, Crash Pad, 2017, watercolour on paper

Artists in the show – and featured in a special issue of HB magazine that serves as an exhibition catalogue – include Cindy Baker, Panos Balomenos, Dave Cooper, G.B. Jones, Sholem Krishtalka, Zachari Logan, Kent Monkman, Diane Obomsawin, and Mia Sandhu. They are also joined by a host of even more artists in a series of vitrines that contain additional works – mainly publications such as graphic novels, bandes dessinées, manga, underground comix, and zines. The inclusion of these materials situates the work in the show within a global community. Sex Life imagines a community representing sexual freedom explicitly in contrast to the rise of right-wing conservatism worldwide. The complete text of my review of the exhibition was published here on the August 20 Akimblog.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Speculative Process: Reading Jayce Salloum’s Mute Pictures

My article on Jayce Salloum's remembering you (mute pictures) is featured in the National Gallery of Canada's Magazine. The early work, completed by Salloum between 1987 and 1988, is included in Photography in Canada 1960–2000, an exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada's Canadian Photography Institute and on view at the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery in Sarnia, Ontario. 

Jayce Salloum, Untitled, from remembering you (mute pictures), 1987–88. Gelatin silver print, heightened with paint, 20.3 x 25.2 cm. CMCP Collection, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa © Jayce Salloum

Accompanied by a spoken word soundtrack, the work is comprised of a series of silver gelatin photographs that have been painted to both obscure and isolate elements of their images, inviting the viewer to uncover their meaning. Pages from a book produced in Nazi Germany are the source material for the work, but the manner in which Salloum has treated them renders them less recognizable and disrupts their original message, especially when viewed in combination with the rather oblique commentary provided by the accompanying voiceover. The series engages with the power of photography and the manipulation of propaganda, but by rendering the images more abstract Salloum at once implicates his audience and places them on guard. For the complete text of my article, published on August 14, click here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Trames narratives / Storylines at L’Imagier in Gatineau

The first exhibition in the new 2.6 million redevelopment of the artist-run centre L'Imagier in Gatineau, Trames narratives / Storylines, opened in May 2019. With a title that suggests an anthology of contemporary art from Canada and Quebec, the exhibition gathers together an impressive cohort of curators and artists. Six Quebec-based curators (Kasia Basta, Marianne Breton, Paul Brunet, Marie-Hélène Leblanc, Stefan St-Laurent, and Julie Tremble), many from the National Capital Region, contributed to the development of the exhibition. They each selected one or two of the seven artists in the show (including Chun Hua Catherine Dong, David Elliott, Kablusiak, Kim Kielhofner, Carl Trahan, Jennifer Lefort, and Mélanie Myers). The number of people involved and the number of artworks that are clustered in the modest-sized gallery evoke a housewarming party.

Jennifer Lefort, Salutations sincères, 2019, installation view (photo: Mégane Coulombe)

Like any party in full swing, there are lots of conversations going on at once. The soundtrack from Kim Kielhofner’s video about her time at the Est-Nord-Est Artist Residency in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli is the only work that is audible in the exhibition, but the many brightly coloured works in the show are just as loud. Jennifer Lefort’s Salutations sincères [Warm Regards], created especially for the show, resemble giant memo spindles or receipt spikes with impaled sketches, scraps, canvasses, and bits of multi-coloured plaster and polystyrene, comprising a monument to vanquished time in the art trenches. These and other excellent works, such as Mélanie Myer’s trenchant wall and floor pieces and Kablusiak’s playfully unsettling photographs, are sure to spike further discussions. The complete text of my review of the exhibition was published here on the July 10 Akimblog.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Bouquiniste Mobile Project Launch at EBA

Members of the Bouquinistes Collective launched our project, The Bouquiniste Mobile, at Enriched Bread Artists (951 Gladstone) on Saturday July 6 from 2 to 4 pm. Like the Bouquinistes of Paris from which the group takes its name, used booksellers on the banks of the Seine, the Bouquinistes of Ottawa mean to operate outside of official channels and contribute to the circulation of ideas.

Installation view, Bouquiniste Mobile Silent Auction, EBA July 6

The project brings together three text-based artists living in the Ottawa area (including myself, Mana Rouholamini and Guillermo Trejothrough a platform developed by a local artist, Adam Brown, whose work can be characterized as social practice, enabling each to present their work in a dynamic way to an audience that might not necessarily be an art audience.

Installation view, Bouquiniste Mobile book sale, EBA July 6

Inspired by Brown’s Friendship Library, a 2014 installation on the grounds of the Arts Court which provided a temporary shelter and transformed public space into a site of cultural activity, the Bouquinistes Collective have made it their mandate to provide an accessible experience of art. The Bouquiniste Mobile can be maneuvered to capitalize on opportunities for public engagement and disseminate artworks where people gather, at parks, festivals and other events.

To raise funds for the project, there will be a silent auction of artworks by collective members as well as a fabulous used book sale! Tea and snacks will be provided. Come to the EBA to learn about the project, get some great deals and chat with the artists. More information about the Bouquiniste Mobile is available on the project's website.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Summer Camp at SPAO

In consultation with a wide range of Canadian curators and artists, the Creative Director at the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (SPAO), Jonathan Hobin and I co-curated the 2019 CANADIANA exhibition, Summer Camp. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada, the exhibition features lens-based artworks produced over the last five decades by LGBTQ2+ artists from across the country. 

Highlighting camp as both a sensibility and a site in the Canadian landscape, the exhibition features works by Steven Beckly, David Buchan, Colin Campbell, Dayna Danger, Shawna Dempsey & Lorri Millan, B.G-Osborne, Michelle Mohabeer, Kent Monkman and Paul Wong. A text by art writer and curator Daniella Sanader accompanies the exhibition.

Paul Harfleet's Pansy Project installation for the Photo-Synthesis Garden

In conjunction with the exhibition, SPAO partnered with Qu’ART and the Ottawa International Writers Festival to host the London-based artist, writer and designer Paul Harfleet and The Pansy Project, an important international anti-homophobia initiative. Harfleet has planted almost 300 individual pansies at sites of homophobic abuse around the world. The Ottawa component of the project premiered in SPAO’s Photo-Synthesis Garden on May 10.

SPAO is an Official Event Partner with the Canadian Tulip Festival - Festival canadien des tulipes in recognition of the fact that the festival was created by the photographer Malak Karsh. Summer Camp continues until Canada Day, Monday July 1. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

“Beware lest a statue slay you”: Nietzsche and Art in New Weimar

My article on the exhibition Masterpiece in Focus: Friedrich Nietzsche and the Artists of the New Weimar, on view at the National Gallery of Canada from April 18 to August 25, 2019, is featured in the National Gallery of Canada's Magazine. Guest curator Sebastian Schütze built an exhibition around Max Klinger’s Bust of Friedrich Nietzsche (c. 1904), part of the Gallery’s permanent collection, in order to illuminate its historical context and help viewers understand its wider significance. 

Max Klinger, Friedrich Nietzsche, c. 1904. Patinated bronze, 63.2 × 47.3 ×  26.5 cm. Gift of the Robert Tanenbaum Family Trust, Toronto, 1999. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo: NGC

Schütze says, “The exhibition brings a crucial moment of modernism to life, and shows, at the same time, how Nietzsche became a kind of reference figure for artists, writers and critics around 1900.” Concentrating on the period from the late 1890s onwards, it shows how a carefully constructed public image of Nietzsche was created in Weimar at a time when his writings were growing in influence, while the philosopher himself was in a state of mental and physical decline. As a whole, the exhibition captures an energetic moment when forward-thinking artists and architects embraced Nietzsche as a spiritual guide for their endeavours, and but only hints at the darker times to come. The complete text of my article was published here on April 17.