Site-specific installation by Ken Lum
For those who have a mind to, the 2022 Art Toronto exhibition at the Metro Convention Centre, is an opportunity for self-reflection, both individually and in the widest sense. Exhibition visitors arriving up the escalators to the show space are confronted with a large site-specific installation by Ken Lum, titled “Portrait – Repeated Text,” 1993-2022. Presented by Los Angeles Royale Projects gallery and Art Toronto exhibitor, it features a man facing a mirror engaged in a martial arts exercise, accompanied by the repeated text, “Breathing (inhale). Breathing (exhale).” The photo on the left side of the work has a man in a wheelchair speaking to a woman with her back turned, beginning with “Please forgive me. Sometimes I get frustrated. That’s all.” I suppose that each of us see ourselves as variously somewhere between the peak of physical power and its low point – immobile powerlessness.
Art Bank’s booth
To the left of the escalator, the Portrait Gallery of Canada, presents an interactive installation by Max Dean and the Itinerant Photo Studio (McAlister Zeller-Newman and Andrew Savery-Whiteway). Using the hat as a prop, “WHO ARE WE” is a project by Max Dean that explores issues surrounding self-expression and co-authorship. Attendees at the fair interact as both artist and subject in Dean’s installation by selecting one of more than 88 hats and pose for a portrait captured within the exhibition. A deeper journey into the Canadian art psyche might be a dive into the Canada Council Art Bank, another exhibitor, presented here at their booth through art consultant, Isabelle Chartier. The collection of more than 17,000 works by over 3,000 artists and are available as rentals; the Art Bank staff are willing to ship from their Ottawa warehouse and install your selected works for your “complete satisfaction.”
I had the sense that the ghost of Clement Greenberg was haunting exhibitor booths through the manifold displays of paintings by Jack Bush, perhaps the most internationally-minded member of Painters Eleven. Greenberg had dubbed him a “supreme colorist.” I spoke with exhibitor Simon Bentley and his Jack Bush and the recent opening of his 401 Richmond Street West gallery. If Bush represented the international wing of Painters Eleven (as did William Ronald), then their regional opposite was packaged in the feisty persona of Harold Town, his paintings presented here at the fair by Christopher Cutts Gallery.
Darrell Brown & Daria
Contemplations on the notion of exhibition itself for Canadians might have no better representation for longevity than the Canadian National Exhibition, beginning in 1879 and drawing about 1.5 million visitors a year. The CNE is represented here at the fair by its own gallery venue, Withrow Common, fronted by CNE’s Chief Executive Officer, Darrell Brown. The Withrow Common boasts a 2,675 square-foot exhibition and event venue in the Queen Elizabeth Building complex. At Art Toronto, the Withrow Common Gallery features “Invasion Redux” by Ukranian artist, Mykola Zhuravel and his partner Daria, who lived through the ouster of former Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovich in 2014, and the turmoil and hostilities that followed, culminating in Russia’s attack on the Ukraine. “Invasion Redux” harnesses the memories of these tragic events through its multi-media display.
Robert Houle installation
Central Art Garage in Ottawa mounted an arresting installation by Robert Houle, having been part of their “Blue Thunder” show this past spring. The $130,000 installation has three components, the prominent being a ten-foot walnut table and boxes containing canvas packaged mixed media pieces on hand-made paper and a circular wall installation with a set of 13 works forming a cross within the circle ground that resembled an enormous BAYER aspirin logo. As aspirin has proven to be a miracle drug, Houle’s morning star cross of 13 paper abstractions named for Jesus and the twelve apostles as “Parfleches for the Last Supper,” seems to allude to the communion wafer as possessing miraculous potential. Houle has had a lifelong desire to combine his Anishinaabe Salteaux spiritualism with his Roman Catholic upbringing. The artist has described the Bible as being “the single most important cultural influence on my shamanistic heritage.” Might the presentation of this “pill” act as a balm for the pain suffered by Canada’s indigenous populations during Canada’s residence school era?
A somewhat scaled-down 2022 Art Toronto exhibitor list from pre-COVID years has provided significantly more space between booth aisles, with added seating for lounging, making attendance less hurried, relaxed, and in that, more pleasurable.
Text and photo: Steve Rockwell
90+art galleries in one space gives you a collective experience from a wide range of technical and stylistic approaches to contemporary art. Art Toronto, Toronto’s International Art Fair addresses many pop cultural references, while touching on thematic expressions of personal experience in an array of colourful sculptures, painting, photographs and drawings.
In your tour of the space allotted, maps can be found to distinguish the gallery’s spots and placements. Larger sculptural works featured by galleries are displayed in the middle of room with labels and statements found on the floors in front of feet. Many uniquely engaging displays within the small gallery spaces are also present, from human figure made of gears to stone teddy bears on stands.
You are met not only by interactive exhibits at the entrance but also engaged artist and curators, speaking on behalf of their practices, their displays and their connection to the art of this year’s fair. From Canada to the US, Germany to Great Britain, the experience of the Art Toronto is one you don’t want to miss.
Text and photo: Lex Barrie