Lorna Mills and Sally McKay
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My Top Ten for 2008 – Or, Things That Made Me Feel Art Was OK And Interesting Again
by Leah Sandals
1. Sojourner Truth @ Katharine Mulherin: I know at lot of my love for this show may have had to do with being in a particularly jaded frame of mind at the time, but what can I say? Big, poster-painted, folded-paper bow and paper-link chain = my favourite, most hopeful sight of the year.
2. Bill Burns @ MKG127: I should have gone to see this before closing day because by golly, I would have loved to gone back a few times and laughed at all of Burns’s funny art jokes again. Writing to police chief Fantino in the guise of a nutty old man wanting to give away a salt and pepper shaker collection? Then writing in the guise of the nutty old man’s wife explaining fictional nutty old man’s inclination? And writing to a pet food co. about yogurt in their dog food? Watercolours of a Post-it note that refer to hint-hint-nudge-nudge curators “in a meeting”? So so funny and great, nonsensically and wonderfully so.
3. Jesse B Harris @ Le Gallery: I knew I liked Jesse B Harris when I saw a punk leather-and-chain dreamcatcher he made in Montreal. But then I saw this show and I really fell for him. Riffs on the ever-so-cool one-inch pin aesthetic, punk black leather, political protest and the Mona Lisa all at once? Very well played. Most of all love the professionally painted protest signs affixed to baseball bats. Art/punk/punk art as polished, aestheticized, confused aggression is rarely more smartly portrayed.
4. Wu Wing Yee @ Drabinsky Gallery: Again, maybe it was the lack of shows around at the time, but the near-end of summer really saw me fall in love with Wu Wing Yee’s perfect little installation at Drabinsky. For it, the recently immigrated Chinese ceramics artist made precious-but-raw cocoons/cages for Chinatown dollar store detritus, and installed them on all levels of the gallery walls. Turn a corner and the focus went from cultural protectiveness straight to spirit, with a heap of plain ceramic “stones” piled on the gallery floor, drawings thereof behind. It all came down to facility with intent and with the space. Can’t wait to see what this recent TO resident does next.
5. Marla Hlady @ YYZ: I sat and listened to the nonsensical Hlady player piano, and time seemed to just fly by. Listening while perched on a nostalgia-evoking piano bench heightened the experience. I didn’t understand it, but I really really liked it, the acoustic waves felt by the body, the walls, and the piano’s casing, not just plugged into the ears with a pair of fashionably-white buds.
6. Seth Scriver @ Katharine Mulherin/Elizabeth McIntosh @ Diaz Contemporary: McIntosh and Scriver’s works couldn’t be more different, but I was really torn between them so I’ve decided to jam them both in here. Scriver is well known for his psychedelic drawings and all, but that’s not my favourite part of his work. I just totally adore his videos, where analog crudeness meets digital effects, and where (especially!) the mystical, ridiculous stories of Scriver’s rural Ontario relatives get play in the white cube. That is the most arrs-some stuff. McIntosh, as we all know, is a totally rad abstract painter. I was actually a bit sad that the Diaz show didn’t have any of the silver and pink works Vancouver’s Blanket had been showing. But she remains a totally kickass abstractioness. Her introduction of studiomate Elspeth Pratt’s and protégé Monique Mouton’s works to the Toronto scene was also super-appreciated.
7. Eddo Stern @ Interaccess: Media art continues to suffer under its various burdens vis a vis rapidly evolving technological cultures and standards, but Brooklynish artist Stern nailed at least a small sector of the vast tech culture realm with his video work at Interaccess, “The Best Flame War Ever.” With a script culled from an actual message thread on a gaming site, Stern reveals loads about generation gaps, masculinity, identity and the everyday as they exist in the world of the web. Thanks so much to Interaccess for bringing this show here, and gesturing towards the fact that work like this can and is being done.
8. “7 Days in the Art World” by Sarah Thornton: I know that technically as an art writer I’m supposed to understand a lot that goes on in the art world. Yet I really, really don’t. So it was a total treat to read sociologist Thornton’s condensed take on seven facets of the art biz, from auctions and art schools to studios and biennales. Her job is summarizing and understanding subcultures from an insider/outsider perspective, and she does it wonderfully, demonstrating the interconnected-yet-sectored way the art world operates. Especially loved that she included the crit from CalArts. So different (not bad, not worse, just different) from all the other considerations that swirl around art objects and their artists. Hello, disconnect!
9. Frieze Magazine: I am never disappointed by an issue of Frieze Magazine—provided I can get my hands on one, what with its erratic import scheme here in Canadia. To me, these guys, at least right now, provide a perfect balance of straight talk and circling prose, eccentric reference and common touch. Keep on keepin’ that flame—or icicle?—alive, F-folks.
10. Liz Lemon/Tina Fey/30 Rock: I have glasses and brown hair and am nerdyish. This is probably one main reason I like Liz Lemon/Tina Fey, who also has glasses and brown hair and is nerdyish. But it’s also possible I like Fey’s creation 30 Rock for the same reason I liked ‘7 Days in the Art World’ – it’s a blend of insider perspective and outsider entertainment. OK, it also provides a lot of cheap, cheap (and yes, nerdy) laughs too.