Month: March, 2014

Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque at the MOCCA

a2There is a well known design maxim that ‘less is more’. Apparently the artists in MOCCA‘s excellent Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque were away that day and didn’t get the memo because for them ‘more is more‘. Taken from The National Gallery of Canada‘s contemporary collection holdings; the work in this show doesn’t skimp on the extra sprinkles. Glass, mirror, fabric, crystals, gemstones, fur, chains, bindis, glitter, flowers and so on are just some of the materials that come together in unexpected ways. In recent decades, artists have been adopting this everything and the kitchen sink-yard sale approach to assemblage. The results can either be thrilling or disastrous. In the worse case scenarios; it’s like watching a poor hair-metal band perform with multiple explosions and fireworks in the background, all the pyrotechnics are  meant to distract us from the fact that they can’t actually play their instruments. Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque brings together a group of  eclectic art makers under the guise of the Neo-Baroque  and lucky for us these artists know how to play their materials.

Tricia Middleton Embracing Ruin and Oblivion is the Only Way to Live Now 2012

Tricia Middleton Embracing Ruin and Oblivion is the Only Way to Live Now 2012

Decay and the effects of time are two of the underlying themes of the show. How can we reinterpret the past in modern terms and how can modern materials help with this task? Tricia Middleton explores these facets to great effect with her take on nature as ultimate appropriator. Her working method allows her to recycle past works into new ones. I would compare it to an avalanche sweeping a mountain carrying everything with it in its wake. The end result felt like part of a shanty town built by the Snow Miser.

Lee Bul After Bruno Taut (Negative Capability) 2008

Lee Bul After Bruno Taut (Negative Capability) 2008

Lee Bul has fashioned  a glass city suspended in the sky-cum-chandelier. It glitters and sparkles under the hot lights, slowly strangling itself with its own opulence.

Lee Buls After Bruno Taut (Negative Capability) detail

Lee Bul After Bruno Taut (Negative Capability) detail

Yinka Shonibare recreates Thomas Gainsborough‘s  Mr. and Mrs. Andrews  this time without their heads and dressed in West African Batik. The effect is both embracing and disarming. Like all the artists in the show; Shonibare’s work   firmly places the viewer in an alternative universe where the unfamiliar becomes nostalgic.

Yinka Shonibare Mr. and Mrs. Andrews without their Heads 1998

Yinka Shonibare Mr. and Mrs. Andrews without their Heads 1998

The centerpiece of the show would definitely be David Altmejd’s The Holes. A Gargantua is slowly being reclaimed by the environment that it lies in. Altmejd incorporates all manner of tactile elements into a unique viewing experience.

David Altmejd The Holes detail 2008

David Altmejd The Holes detail 2008

The major criticism of this exhibition by most art critics would be its framing within the Neo-Baroque movement. For them the “excessive and decorative” use of materials doesn’t constitute a definitively Baroque sensibility, but for me: Baroque by any other name……

Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque

Feb 08, 2014 – Apr 06, 2014


The Grand Budapest Hotel: Review

BoywithApple_GBHReading a great many reviews for this film, I have noticed a disturbing trend. Many reviewers like to begin with the disclaimer: you either love Wes Anderson or you despise Wes Anderson and therefore you already know if you will enjoy this movie or not. This is an engaging notion; that the world can be easily separated into two camps with Mr. Anderson as the great divide. Should these people have their own special currency? How big is the island and when can we move there? I guess any artist with a unique voice and a cultivated style presents a polarizing proposition for your average movie goer.

Grand Budapest Hotel 500-soldiersSo what’s this movie about? It’s about: meticulous set-piece compositions, lots of horizontal tracking shots, red, purple, pink, glorious nosebleeds, playing with aspect ratios, stolen art, sex, murder, scrumptious chocolates, ski chases, a prison break, finely crafted one-liners, an impeccable soundtrack, brilliant casting, severed fingers and the relationship between a teacher and an apprentice. In short, it’s about film-making.  Wes Anderson chooses every ingredient of his films from a very select market. From the people he works with to the influences he mines, there are no loose ends. The major criticism that can be levied against him, is that in the preciousness of all the individual aspects of the films he crafts; the sum doesn’t always equal the measure of it’s parts. In truth, The Grand Budapest Hotel does suffer from this, but it’s a fair price to pay for what it gives in return.


Now I must apologize, I got sucked down the rabbit hole that is a Wes Anderson movie review. I began reviewing the movie and devolved into reviewing Wes Anderson. I guess this is a testament to how strong his filter is. It is hard to separate the artist from the art. The Grand Budapest Hotel is truly a marvel to behold and a fun world to get lost in for an hour and forty minutes. The entire cast is exceptional even if some of them are only on screen for a fleeting moment (more Bill Murray). As an art lover, I loved his inclusion of the many Secession paintings, especially the ones resembling Egon Schiele  and Gustav Klimt. The immaculate Ralph Fiennes’ lead character shares Klimt’s first name and also his libido. When referencing Klimt it is hard to resist his overpowering aesthetic, but Anderson does this with both self assured restraint and a singular vision.

grand budapest hotel klimt

Klimt paintings (or variations of ) that appeared in the hotel

Love him or hate him, go see this movie. It will only reaffirm your place in the universe, and that’s no small feat.


related:  Moonrise Kingdom: review

My week in the Cinema

Gateway Art: This is Not a Toy

murakami front

Takashi Murakami and Pharell The Simple Things 2009

The Exhibition: This is Not a Toy is currently showing at the Design Exchange in downtown Toronto. The exhibit was co-curated by musician Pharrell Williams and includes a large assortment of well… not toys. So if they’re not toys, what does that make them Art? Ya sure, but we’ll get to that a little later.


Friends With You

The collectible vinyl figurine trend started in the 90’s and has been gaining traction ever since. Designers and artists started putting out limited edition custom characters that appropriated all manner of pop culture ranging from Manga, to cartoon characters to the cult of celebrity. New York based Kidrobot revolutionized  the collectible market with its introduction of the Dunny in 2004. Seen as a blank slate, artists were free to interpret the character in anyway they saw fit. Collectors soon came by the droves. Sold in closed boxes, you never knew exactly what you were going to get. Art as commerce that caters to the 99%.



This is Not a Toy does a good job displaying the range of custom collectibles from the gift store persuasion to the museum piece. With the exceptions of Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara, I would say most of the work displayed I would consider ‘soft art’ or ‘gateway art’. It is a nice gateway into harder or more difficult art, especially from a collecting point of view. Without breaking the bank, anyone can start an art collection.




Magic Pony display

Overall I enjoyed the show, but for the most part; conceptually it was really a one trick pony. More often than not, it followed the same formula of appropriating well known pop culture icons. The remix generation filtering the past and putting their own stamp on it. The chief culprit would have to be Kaws who features prominently in This is not a Toy. Kaws has been having a big year: from a balloon in the Macy’s parade to having his stamp on the MTV Music Awards to a high profile exhibition of his wooden sculptures at Mary Boone. I am a fan of his paintings, especially the ones that veer more into the purely abstract. His sculptures look great but leave nothing unsaid. They are engaging objects but fleeting ideas.

3 kaws


wooden kaws

Kaws Better Knowing 2013

This is Not a Toy is on until May 19th.

House of Cards: Reality Index


Season 2 of Netflix’s House of Cards has left me divided. It has left me with the same feeling you get after consuming fast food. It’s tasty while you’re eating it, but afterwards you don’t feel full, you just feel different. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are still very watchable, absolute power corrupts absolutely – check, but I found more often than naught my suspension of disbelief was having a hard time getting to first base. Seduction was an underlying theme of this season but it was heavy on the dangling carrot and light on the Barry White. I think I take my cuff-links with a little less tie the damsel to railroad tracks symbolism. Speaking of that…. there will be spoilers.

Ok, so I’m going to borrow steal the brilliant recap format from the high watermark of all TV recaps: Vulture’s Gossip Girl coverage. (They made watching a bad show fun.) This is how it works: points are awarded when events seem believable and deducted when the events are a little too implausible. At the end, we’ll tally the score and see if our tale of the Underwoods veers into the realms of the unreal, and yes I do know this is a TV show but even TV has its limits.


A testament to House of Cards’ believability is that it plays on the idea that somewhere in the back of our minds we secretly believe that politics is as greasy as it’s portrayed. The question “Do you think Washington is really like that?” or some version of it has probably been uttered in every living room from coast to coast and beyond. This is the opportune moment for the current reigning household authority on all things pop culture/politics /conspiracy theories to either confirm or deny this proposal. This is also the opportune moment to look at your roommate/significant other/soul mate/ life coach/binge watching buddy and think you’re so full of…….. the truth or what have you. +10

Frank’s and Claire’s lust for power above all else seems plausible. They will use and dispose of anyone in their path. No one is immune: old flames, new flames, friends, colleagues, favourite chefs  and so on. +10

The fact they hung the smear campaign infidelity portrait of Claire in their home to complete the lie. +20

The idea the President of the United States could use a Xanax. +20

Between books, reenactments, miniature figurines and all manner of souvenirs, the American Civil War is big business, that and some old wounds still haven’t healed. +10

The pressures of Washington could drive any bird lover to snap a few necks. +10

The threesome seems just about right for all the people involved: Claire gets a little of what she burned down with the photographer, Frank gets to relive his college days and the chauffeur is just doing his duty. The Underwoods seem more like a business arrangement than a married couple, so what’s a little mutual affair? +5

85 on the believability scale, not bad but let’s see about the flip-side of the coin.


When one ties a damsel to a railroad track you always run the risk of some do-gooder showing up at the last minute spoiling your well laid plans. So instead of fumbling with some complicated knot; a good quick shove really does the job. The idea that the Vice President of the United States disguised only in a film-noir fedora would do his own dirty work in a crowded subway station with only one working surveillance camera, well…. Add the fact that they assigned Chief Wiggum to the case…. -30 This did however supply one of those I can’t believe what I just saw TV moments.

Doug’s middle aged balding sex appeal is so alluring that every nubile twenty-something woman can’t help but fall into bed with him. -20

The super intelligent mastermind hacker who uses Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights references to allude to the  deep web would name his pet guinea pig Cashew. -5

The President and the First Lady are so ditsy that they can be run out of office for offences they didn’t commit. Frank had more trouble throwing a baseball than ousting the most powerful man in the free world. -50

Even though she was told that Frank was out to get her husband, the First Lady sees nothing wrong with divulging a little career crippling personal information to Claire. -10


-115 on the ‘that could happen scale’, with a total score of 85-115= -30

Overall we slipped into the implausible, but just like fast food -we know we shouldn’t, but what’s a little implausibility every once in a while.


back wallHappy about the round frames.