Friday, October 30, 2020

SAW Prize for New Works in Critical Writing

I am delighted to announce and honored that I have been selected as one of the recipients of the SAW Prize for New Works. Along with 30 other artists and makers from Ottawa-Gatineau and the surrounding First Nations, I have been given a great opportunity to create a new work with financial and organizational support provided by Galerie SAW Gallery.

I have been awarded a SAW Prize for New Works in Critical Writing, and the focus of the new text that I am going to produce will be on contemporary artists in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. I am also very excited to see what my cohorts come up with for their new productions.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Moyra Davey at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

The Faithful, a survey exhibition of the decades-long career of Moyra Davey, brings together a body of work and weaves a dense web of references that warrants close readings. Working with text, video, and photography, the Canadian-born, New York-based artist examines her personal history and its connections to art, film, and literature to construct narratives that give meaning to her experience at the same time that they refrain from reaching any simple conclusions.

Moyra Davey, i confess (video still), 2019. HD video with sound (courtesy greengrassi, London, and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York) © Moyra Davey (photo: courtesy the artist)

At the center of the exhibition is a recent video titled i confess, which bridges an appreciation of the American author James Baldwin with a reexamination of Pierre Vallières, the Quebec writer who compared the separatist movement with civil rights struggles in the US. On the 50th anniversary of the October Crisis, amid anti-Black racism protests, its presentation in Ottawa couldn’t be more timely. Like Davey’s other work, it also reveals personal details of her own life, delving into her father’s possible role in the invocation of the War Measures Act, and her ex-boyfriend’s relationship with Vallières. 

There is a recurring motif in a number of the videos in the exhibition, where Davey goes over to an open window in her apartment and blows the dust off the top of one of her books. It is a ritualistic gesture that suggests we must repeatedly reexamine the past, our own memories, and received ideas. The complete text of my review of the exhibition was published here on the October 14 Akimblog. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Neeko Paluzzi at Studio Sixty Six, Ottawa

Neeko Paluzzi's Harmony of the Spheres (from August 21 to Sept. 13) is one of the few exhibitions I got out to see at a gallery since everything went into lockdown in March at the start of the pandemic. For this exhibition, the artist has systematically produced seven photography-based works that represent the seven heavenly bodies (including the moon) that comprised the known planets when the astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote Harmonices Mundi in 1619. In his treatise, Kepler transcribed the tones attributed to the planets, which, according to the ancient concept of the Harmony of the Spheres, together made a sound that showed the harmonious perfection of Divine creation. Utilizing a method he developed in previous installations, including This place is a shelter (2018) and The goldberg variations (2019), Paluzzi worked in the darkroom to produce prints with unique tonalities of gray that correspond to the musical tones associated with each of the seven planets.

Neeko Paluzzi, Music of the moon, 2020, silver gelatin print and silver leaf embossed matte in custom frame

It was hard not to read the work in the context of the ongoing quarantine, where it took on overtones outside of the rigorous framework in which it was conceived. Indeed, especially due to the disruptions we are experiencing these days, one can find succor in impeccably realized creations embodying an outdated worldview that sees perfection in a pre-ordained order. On the other hand, it is important to note the element of subterfuge in these prints that underscores how most often phenomena are given their meaning by the way they are framed. The complete text of my review of the exhibition was published here on the September 3 Akimblog.

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.