Nuit Blanche 2016

Every year I look forward to Nuit Blanche, and every year I find something to like. Unfortunately, this was not one of those years. Here is a quick review.

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ABOVE: Director X, Death of the Sun, installation

BELOW: Myriam Yates, Planetarium/Terminal

I love that Toronto hosts Nuit Blanche and I hope they do so forever. That said, not every edition is a great one. 2016 falls into that category.

I began my night at Nathan Phillips Square where my favorite piece of the night, Floria Sigismondi’s Pneuma stole the show. It was crowded, and it took some jostling to get a decent view, but it was by far the most compelling thing on the square. In comparison, Director X’s Death of the Sun was totally underwhelming, although, to be fair, I may have caught it at a bad time  – apparently, it actually did look like the sun at times.

From there, I made my way to Union Station where Asalto Toronto’s And the Transformation Reveals consisted of climbing people projected onto the front of the station. On it’s own, this is pretty subpar, but when you learn that the projection is of regular Torontonians, it gets a little bit cooler – who says art can’t be fun?

From Union Station, I made my way to the lake front, where many of the nights exhibits were placed. While there, I walked through Smelling the Sky by French artist Julie C. Fortier. It consisted of various fragrances (created by the artist) diffused along a dimly lit passage. It was a great idea, but I could really only smell one thing – bad cologne. Maybe it’s me, I am getting a cold.

All in all, I’m still glad I went because even when it’s bad, it’s not a total waste of time. I just wish there were more large scale installations (I love those) and less video’s (there seemed to be a ton of them). While I liked that this years edition appeared less corporate, I didn’t like the overall tone. It just seemed, well, dull.

Full disclosure: The weather sucked and I wasn’t feeling that well.

Some of My Favorite Art Exhibitions

I love art exhibitions, and through the years, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some really great ones. Of them all, here are three of my favorites – in no particular order.

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ABOVE: Scott Hocking, The Reptile Room: Mercury Retrograde, installation

2012

SiTE:LAB @ 54 Jefferson (formerly the Grand Rapids Public Museum)

Grand Rapids, Michigan

In 2012, SiTE:LAB took over the former home of the Grand Rapids Public Museum and filled the space with the work of 18 artists. The building, which was vacated in 1994, still contained a number of its dioramas and exhibits, and they, along with the artist’s installations, provided the viewer with a truly unique experience. It was surreal and creepy, and, it was the top venue at Artprize 2012.

 

ABOVE: Ai Weiwei, Straight, installation

2013

Ai Weiwei: According to What? (Art Gallery of Ontario)

Toronto, Ontario

Having followed Weiwei’s exploits in the news, I was super excited to see this politically charged exhibition. Everything on display was deep, but I especially liked Straight (pictured above), which consisted of 150 tons of rebar recovered from schools that had collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake. They were all straightened, and on the wall behind them, were the names of the students who lost their lives in the quake. Heavy.

 

ABOVE: Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1, installation

2016

Wonder (Renwick Gallery)

Washington D.C.

In 2015, after a two-year renovation, the Renwick Gallery opened its doors to Wonder, an immersive exhibition featuring the work of 9 artists. Each was given a room to create a site specific installation, and the entire building became one immersive artwork. As the title suggests, it was a wonderful space to spend an hour two, and, judging by the long lineups to get in, it was a big hit with the locals too.

Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum

Lawren Harris isn’t the only artist worth checking out at the Art Gallery of Ontario this summer. The Theaster Gates show on the 5th floor is worth a visit as well.

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Two weekends ago, I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to see The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris. While there, I also saw Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum.

First, a little about the man:

Theaster Gates is an activist/urban planner/artist whose work seeks to revitalize poor neighborhoods. Living and working in Chicago, he has become famous – in part – for restoring vacant buildings and turning them into cultural institutions.

Now, a little about the show:

How to Build a House Museum is closely related to the work Gates does in Chicago. In it, he seeks to immortalize Frankie Knuckles – a legendary DJ often credited with the creation of House music – by building a museum in his honor. In addition to a mini chapel erected in his name, there is a dance hall with an iceberg shaped disco ball, and funky beats. It is a fun and energetic tribute, but, like most of Gates work, it’s full of cultural/political implications.

Packed with thought provoking imagery and statistics relating to the black experience in America, this is a powerful little show that serves as a nice compliment to the somewhat staid Lawren Harris exhibition downstairs. If you’re heading to the AGO, you should check it out. It’ll leave you with lots to think about.

Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum is at the Art Gallery of Ontario until October 30, 2016.

Summer Art Shows in Toronto

In addition to all the city’s outdoor arts and craft fairs, there are two very big artists coming to town this summer – one a national treasure, the other an international star.

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ABOVE: Lawren Harris, Lake and Mountains, 1928, oil on canvas, 51.5 x 63.25 inches

BELOW: Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling, 2012, installation, 25 x 15 feet

For those looking to see art by notable artists:

The Idea of North: The Painting of Lawren Harris

Art Gallery of Ontario July 1 – September 18

Co-organized with the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and co-curated by Steve Martin, The Idea of North brings to the AGO over 30 paintings by one of Canada’s most beloved artists.

CHIHULY

The Royal Ontario Museum June 25 – January 2, 2017

In a few weeks, acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly will be bringing some of his fragile installations to the ROM. Critics be damned, this show promises to be a crowd pleaser.

For those looking to buy art at reasonable prices – from artists who need the support:

Riverdale Art Walk

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition

Art Walk North

Queen West Art Crawl

Current/Upcoming Art Shows in Toronto

There’s never a shortage of things to do in Toronto, especially if culture is your thing. That said, if you’re in the city this winter/spring, the following shows look promising.

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ABOVE: Diane Arbus, A young man and his pregnant wife in Washington Square Park, N.Y.C., 1965, gelatin silver print, 20 x 16 inches (sheet), private collection, Toronto, copyright © The Estate of Diane Arbus

BELOW: Aude Moreau, Waiting for Landing, 2015, digital print, 28 x 42 inches, collection of the artist

Outsiders: American Photography and Film 1950s-1980s

Art Gallery of Ontario (March 12 – May 29)

A selection of art misfits – including Diane Arbus, Kenneth Anger and Nan Goldin – comes to the AGO this month. Given the current state of U.S. politics, this show promises to be more relevant than ever.

Angell Gallery’s 20th Anniversary Exhibition

Angell Gallery (April 9-23)

Not a lot of info available on this (no artists listed), but I’ll give this gallery the benefit of the doubt and expect a good showing.

Aude Moreau: The Political Nighfall

The Power Plant (January 30 – May 15)

If you dig panoramas and cityscapes (I do), then this exhibition is for you. Several cities, among them Toronto and Montreal, are included.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Royal Ontario Museum (November 21, 2015 – March 20, 2016)

The world’s longest-running nature photography competition comes to Toronto with 100 stunning photos. You don’t have to be an art junky to love this.

Autumn at the McMichael Art Collection

I recently took advantage of a free pass and visited the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. I’m glad I did. Its current exhibitions are excellent.

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ABOVE: Simon Daniel James, Frog with Frog Headdress, 2000, alder, cedar bark, abalone, horse hair, acrylic, paint, 22.6 x 16 x 7.3 inches, Gift from the Cameron/Bredt Collection, McMichael Canadian Art Collection

If you’ve got a car, or know someone who does, you should jump in it and head down to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Klienburg, Ontario. While the museum’s permanent collection is itself a must see, its current exhibitions are exceptional:

Transforming Spirit / September 19, 2015 to February 15, 2016

The collection of Jamie Cameron and Christopher Bredt contains 28 artists from Canada’s Northwest Coast. As is the case with most Aboriginal art, the works in this exhibition are intricate, bold, and above all else, spiritual. This show alone is worth the trip.

This House was Made For Christmas / October 3, 2015 to January 31, 2016

A collection of Christmas greeting cards designed by some of Canada’s greatest artists, this exhibition includes works by members of the Group of Seven and the Painters Eleven. It may be a bit early for holiday cheer, but fortunately, this show extends through the Christmas season.

For Every Season: A re-installation of the permanent collection in 4 galleries / October, 2015 to January, 2016

As the title of the show suggests, this isn’t so much a new exhibition as it is a re-shuffling of the deck. Heavy on the works of the Group of Seven, each gallery in this show represents a different season. While many of the collections best works are on display, the McMichael’s most famous piece, AJ Casson’s The White Pine is nowhere to be found. They haven’t shown it in years. I wonder why.

Nuit Blanche 2015

Last Saturday, Nuit Blanche took over the streets of Toronto. While you can find plenty of complainers online, I really enjoyed the 2015 edition. Here is a short review.

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ABOVE: JR, Inside Out, 2011-15, interactive photography installation (a socially engaged project, participants lined up [for hours] to have their picture taken and pasted to Nathan Phillips Square)

Every October, Nuit Blanche – an all night art party – comes to town, and every year, I stay up past my bedtime trying to see as much as possible.

This year, Mother Nature threatened to rain, but while an umbrella was needed to start the night, she held off, and the temperature stayed comfortable. Thanks Mom! And thanks for keeping the crowds down too.

While no one piece stole the show, the 10th edition of Nuit Blanche was definitely one of its best. Many of the works were conceptually strong (even when the execution wasn’t) and their messages were timely and relevant – especially those that addressed the environment.

In addition to the JR piece shown above, here are some of my favorites:

ABOVE: Heather and Ivan Morison, The Cleaving, 2015, sculpture (a wooden barricade across Queens Quay)

ABOVE: Los Carpinteros, Frío Estudio del Desastre, 2015, installation (a three-dimensional reconstruction of an exploding wall)

ABOVE: Anandam Dancetheatre, Glaciology, 2013/2015, performance (over the course of 12 hours, a human glacier drifted across the city)

ABOVE: Robert Wysoki, Lava Field No. 2, 2015, installation/performance (the product of 5 years of experimentation, this ‘mobile volcano’ used a coke fired cupola to produce a geomorphically accurate lava field)

ABOVE: Sean Martindale and JP King, There Is No Away, 2015, sculpture (an examination of our consumer habits, and Toronto’s waste management strategy, done with [smelly] recyclable cubes)

Must See Art Shows in Toronto this Spring, Summer, and Fall

Good news art lovers: there is a lot going on in Toronto over the next few months. In addition to the cities many outdoor fairs, the following shows/events look promising.

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ABOVE: Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, 1967, screenprint on paper, 36 x 36 inches

If art is your thing, you may want to mark the following dates in your calendar:

Luminato Festival

Various locations around Toronto, June 19 – 28

The 9th annual festival of arts and creativity takes over Toronto for ten days this summer. The 2015 edition features hundreds of events – with the majority of them being free.

Andy Warhol Revisited: A Mirror for Today

77 Bloor Street West, July 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015

Canada’s largest collection of Warhol prints and paintings are coming, not to gallery, but to an empty retail space in one of Toronto’s swankiest neighborhoods.

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto

Various locations around Toronto, October 3, 2015

At times hit and miss, the concept behind this event is still pretty sound – the city comes alive too.

Art Toronto

Metro Toronto Convention Centre, October 23-26, 2015

Other cities host bigger (and glitzier) fairs, but this one’s still pretty good. A must see for art lovers and buyers.

J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free

Art Gallery of Ontario, October 31, 2015 – January 31, 2016

The AGO’s fall blockbuster examines the last 15 years of Turner’s career and features more than 50 works on loan from Tate Britain.