This year’s Canadian artist is none other than Vancouver’s Jeff Wall. His large format photographs can be found on the walls of museums all over the world, truly a great ambassador. Happy Canada day.
Toronto never ceases to amaze. You’d be forgiven if the last place on earth you’d think to find this entirely hand carved Hindu temple was on the side of a highway in the 6. But there it is; shining like a polished gem on a cloudless March afternoon.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a marvel to behold. Made up of over 24 000 individual stone pieces with the heaviest weighing in at 5.6 tonnes. The temple was hand carved by 1800 artisans in 26 separate locations in India over a two year period. Starting in 2005 the pieces were shipped to Canada and then became the craziest jigsaw puzzle you’d ever want to attempt. 400 volunteers over 18 months rose to the challenge and in little over 2 years from conception to completion BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir came into being .
The thing that immediately strikes you is the Herculean feat of it all. The level of intricacy and attention to detail is intimidating. The fact that not a single nail was used in its construction only adds to its mystique.
They don’t allow photography inside the temple but you can see some images here. The experience is a little overwhelming to say the least. It is open to the public, but remember it is a working temple so no shoes, no cels, no talking. Don’t worry on that last point; it’ll leave you speechless.
If you’re looking for a walk in the park, you can’t go wrong with a stroll through the Guild wood. Located along the shore of Lake Ontario on the Scarborough bluffs; you’ll find meandering paths, great vistas, a supposedly haunted house and a re-appropriated sculpture garden.
The sculpture garden consists of the remains of facades and architectural remnants from long gone demolished buildings from Toronto’s past. These transplanted items give off that antiquity meets nature vibe that has been the bread and butter for wedding photographers ever since. It is nothing if not picturesque.
The land was originally owned by Colonel Harold Bickford and his family and later the Clark family bought it and they were the ones who started the collection of facades. They also turned the grounds into an artist community in the 1930’s. Their family home over the years has been turned into a museum and Inn. At the moment the current building is in dire straits and there are plans by the city to restore it to its former glory.
The original Inn was closed to the public in 2001 and then demolished in 2009, but before that it had the dubious reputation for being quite haunted. Employees and guests would experience mysterious footsteps, doors opening on their own and some have claimed to have seen an apparition of a tall man in a top hat and tails. I personally love a good ghost story and walks in the park aren’t too shabby either.
It’s that time of the year again: the summer’s over, the kids have gone back to school and for a week in September; downtown Oshawa is transformed into a giant art gallery. Oshawa Space Invaders returns for its second year, featuring over 200 artists, 9 different artist groups in over 18 pop-up galleries. The festival runs from the opening night of Friday Sept 19 through to the 27th. Along with the art, there’ll be music, food, performers, vendors and even a craft beer show on the 20th.
I really like this show; it gives me an opportunity to experience my home town (born and raised) in a new and exciting way, catch up with some old friends and see some tremendous art. The Pop-up galleries really inject a palpable energy (thanks Steven Frank) into the downtown core and it’s great to see so many people out and about in the name of art. This year I’m fortunate to have work in two spaces. I’ll be returning to where it all began Room 118 – 21 Bond St.E. This Pop-up is named after the art room in my old high school O’Neill CVI that really is an inspiration for anyone fortunate to have studied there. Great art teachers are something to be cherished and I was really lucky to have two. Craig Wildman really fanned the flames of creativity along with Wally Brighton who opened a door to the infinite possibilities of creation. I also have some more work just up the block at 50 Bond.
Oshawa Space Invaders runs from the 19th-27th.
“In the last hour, in the world, probably more digital images have been made than in the entire history of analog photography.” Ralph Gibson: More Than The Rainbow
On average, 60 million photos are uploaded to Instagram on a daily basis. With the proliferation of phone culture,the number of people who actually have a camera on them most minutes of the day now numbers in the billions. Photography is the most popular it has ever been since its inception. People are taking an astounding number of images, but are any of them any good? Assuming that the monkeys on typewriters theory holds water, shouldn’t we have the complete works of an Ansel Adams portfolio by now? Where’s all the visionaries, where’s the art, and why are there so many damn pictures of what people had for brunch?
Sifting through the endless sea of forgettable snapshots, it is truly refreshing and inspiring to encounter the work of the Matt Weber‘s and Vivian Maier‘s of the world. Both photographers create arresting images that stop you in your tracks. In fact,the two share a lot in common: both were self taught, both use film, both practice the highest form of street photography, New York features in both their work and they are both the subjects of their own documentaries that recently have come out on DVD. Matt Weber’s work along with a few of his contempories is explored in More Than The Rainbow and the mystery of the reclusive Vivian Maier is brought to light in Finding Vivian Maier. Both films are wonderful introductions to these artists whose work is slowly being recognized by the insular art world.
More Than a Rainbow really excels at exploring the art and craft of photography. The candid discussions and interviews with the photographers featured reveals the insight and process that goes into capturing a successful image. There’s great observations about the differences between black and white vs colour compositions and what goes into Street photography? Street photographers especially have to walk a fine line between being a documentarian and being aware of their subjects’ boundaries and thresholds. Over the past 25 years, Matt Weber has gotten very savvy at walking that line. Matt started out as a cab driver, this opprotunity gave him an expansive unfiltered view of New York City where he lived. The unbelievable events he would witness on a daily basis driving the streets inspired him to pick up a camera to capture what he had seen. Soon the pictures took over and his driving days were behind him. More Than a Rainbow does a great job of showcasing Matt’s work, but if I had one criticism of the film: it stumbles a little trying to put it into the context of his life.
The life of Vivian Maier (1926-2009) was nothing short of a mystery. She took an estimated 100 000 pictures in her lifetime; none of which ever saw the light of day; until a box of her negatives was purchased at an estate sale for $400 dollars in 2007. What was found in that box led to a storage unit which in turn turned into an astounding discovery of an artistic treasure trove. No one in her life had any clue that this plain french nanny was anything but. Finding Vivian Maier unravels delightfully as we learn more and more about the photographer from the people who used to employ her, along with the grown children she used to mind. Her motives were cloudy and her history even cloudier. Her future is also uncertain: a previously unknown heir has just come forward and is contesting the rights to her artistic legacy.
The films: Finding Vivian Maier and More Than a Rainbow are excellent introductions to the world of street photography and the photographers that document them. With so many pictures being taken these days, we need visual pioneers to show us the right way to hold a camera and provide a welcome photographic blueprint in the new age of instant image makers.
I love New York. It is world class in every way, from art galleries to theater to food to comedy to amazing public spaces to fashion to history to ….. New York’s got it all. This was our third time there, but we could go another dozen times and still feel like we haven’t scratched the surface. They say you’re just visiting a place until you’ve been there a minimum of 2 years and even then the locals will look at you out of the corner of their eye. So if you’re not a local; that definitely makes you a tourist. In the grand scheme of things, tourists may definitely get bad raps, but at some point or another, we should all get to wear that badge. So when you do, wear it well and if you don’t know – ask.
If you like waiting in lines, than New York is the place for you. The lines can be very long, but usually the thing at the end of them is amazing. We definitely stood in our fair share this time around, with these 3 being the highlights: tickets for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, St. Vincent live in Prospect Park and last but not least the incredible John Lithgow as King Lear in Shakespeare in the Park. All three were free, hence the crazy lines. We were fortunate to be surrounded by extremely friendly people sharing our fate. Good conversation makes the wait time fly by and the locals we met gave us countless great recommendations. So if you know you’re going to be there for a while, I say get to know your neighbours.
Speaking of recommendations, here’s a few food ones: the potato knish at Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery on Houston is tasty, filling, cheap and brilliant. New York is world renown for its pizza, but which one is best? I wouldn’t even try to attempt to answer this riddle, but I can definitely say Juliana’s in Brooklyn has got to be in the running. Lastly, if you have a sweet tooth; the banana pudding at the Magnolia Bakery will blow your mind.
Asides from Lear we saw some great shows. Joe Machi at Caroline’s killed despite losing his voice. If you like live comedy then The Comedy Cellar is a must. When we there, Aziz Ansari dropped in unannounced and did close to an hour of new material. Book of Mormon is hilarious and well worth the ticket. The free ghost tour of Greenwich Village is great if you want to see where Mark Twain supposedly haunts or where Sid Vicious left this mortal coil.
Lastly, New York has got some of the most iconic works of art on the planet housed in some of the greatest galleries in the world. For us, this is the main reason we come to New York. If you only have a few days in the city; the Met is mind-boggling or MOMA (spoil of riches) are the two I would recommend. If you have more time; other galleries you should definitely get to are the Cloisters (the Unicorn Tapestries are a must see), Brooklyn Museum (Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party is just crazy), The New Museum, The Folk Art Museum (Henry Darger’s Realms of the Unreal is there) and MOMA PS1 are all brilliant. Of the 36 paintings Vermeer executed in his lifetime; 8 are on view in NYC between the Met and the Frick alone. This was the first time we made it to the Frick and it did not disappoint. (If you go on Sundays between 11-1, it is pay what you want.) Another great thing to do is walk along the High Line and visit some of the galleries in Chelsea. We also saw the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney (review coming soon).
Oh New York New York we’ll be back.
Related post: World in my Eyes: Chicago
I always say “the best place to be at a party, is to be working for the party.” Helping to facilitate someone’s else’s good time is way more rewarding then worrying about your own. For this year’s Nuit Blanche I worked for the party. Over the years, NB has become one giant open air art party more concerned with spectacle than true artistic contemplation but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there, you just have to seek it out.
This time around, I had the pleasure of working for artists Martha Griffith and Marian Whihak at their installation Take a Penny. My job was to help hand out mints; each one hand printed with an image of our lost copper friend: the penny. 30 000 mints in total were on display and ready for consumption or to be rolled into coin rolls. The piece was set up inside one of the concourses at Scotia Plaza in Toronto’s financial district.
I really liked the piece, and it was perfect for this kind of event. It worked on many levels, from eye candy to pun to labour intensive process to conceptual idea. It included a participatory element that encouraged people to roll their own coin rolls, along with the idea that each person got to take a piece of the art with them. Inevitably the mints would melt away just like the penny.
I got to hand out free candy to literally thousands of people. For me, the most fun was the split second it would take people to contemplate whether they wanted a mint or not. Roughly 80% of the people when asked, would pause for a second, mull it over in their mind and then emphatically say “Yes, yes I would like a mint.” About half the people who initially said no, would come back a few seconds later smiling sheepishly, cause let’s face it ‘Who doesn’t want a mint?’
At about 5 in the morning I got an opportunity to go do a little exploring. This was the perfect time, the bulk of the crowds had made their way home out of the light drizzle that was falling. There were still a number of people around but you had clear access to all the work. My first stop was to Kelly Richardson’s large video projection Mariner 9. It shows the Martian landscape littered with space junk. Next, I made my way to Ai Weiwei’s Forever, set up in front of City Hall. This was the center piece of this year’s Nuit Blanche and was a nice compliment to his exhibition at the AGO. Inside City Hall was a long line of toys holding protest signs called The Little People by Work Party. Next stop, Shrine by John Notten which was a cathedral made out of garbage bins.
The highlight for me on my brief tour was Tadashi Kawanta’s Garden Tower Toronto made from hundreds of chairs.
This year’s theme seemed to be multiples: multiple chairs, multiple toys, multiple bicycles and multiple mints. NB is over for another year and now I need to catch up on my sleep.