holditnow

Tag: contemporary art

Jeff Koons: Gazing Ball paintings at Gagosian

jk rubens

So…. the thing is….umm……in a word….. pointless.

One of my favourite things to do in this world is making mixtapes. I love to spend hours selecting the right songs, more importantly spending hours deciding the right sequence to put them in. A good mixtape should have a wide variety of genres with some hard to find gems along with unexpected favourites. If the painting choices currently on display at the Gagosian gallery in New York are any indication; Jeff Koons just made a pretty crappy mixed tape.

jk elgreco.jpg

Don’t get me wrong, I love, love El Greco’s View of Toledo and Rubens’ Tiger Hunt and the Turner etc.. but the versions I love have the right scale and don’t have a shiny blue ball in the middle of them.Jeff’s mixtape is all bad covers that drain the life from the originals. I kind of get why Mr. Koons decided to pursue this body of work as a logical extension of his gazing ball sculptures, but that doesn’t make it good. I like the Gazing Ball statues. The white and the blue play very nicely together.

k gazing ball

The blue here clashes with most of the paintings (with a few exceptions), but the bigger problem is the ‘why’? What are the viewers meant to get out of this? Are these solely meant for rich buyers who can’t have the real Rembrandt self-portrait or Van Gogh Wheat Field but still want to drop a ludicrous amount of money on a painstakingly recreated copy with a famous name attached to it?

jk picasso

While looking at them I felt sorry for the team of underpaid factory workers whose job it was to make them. I imagined it was like the equivalent of stripping to put yourself through college. Maybe I’m missing something, I can see myself in these paintings… literally, you’re right there reflected in the blue ball. Is that it, the Jeff Koons running gag about being able to see yourself in his artwork,although you’ll never be able to afford them? Simultaneously in and out.

jk manet

Or are the blue balls the naked girl at the picnic? Meant to shock and stand out. Who knows or more importantly who cares? I think Jeff should stick to sculpture, it’s what he’s good at and leave the mixtapes alone.

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Gallery Hopping

Dean Baldwin Q.W.Y.C.

Dean Baldwin Q.W.Y.C.

There is something extremely satisfying about encountering the familiar in an unexpected context. This is the feeling you get when you walk through the doors at MOCCA and are greeted with Dean Baldwin’s marooned boat struggling like a fish out of water. By supplanting the yaht’s functionality Baldwin robs it of it’s elegance but embues it with its presence. We are reminded of its size and potential, especially that of its sail, who cleaves the gallery space like a knife. This is the final show at MOCCA’s Queen west location before it moves to its new building in the Junction which will open its doors sometime in 2017.

Zachari Logan Bluing 2014

Zachari Logan Bluing 2014

The next stop on my sunny afternoon gallery hop was to Paul Petro where I caught one of the final days for Zachari Logan’s Ditches, Dandies and Lions. The show consists of a variety of drawings that range from the intimate to the expansive all executed with exquisite precision and delicate handling. Good drawing can sometimes be hard to come by but Logan delivers, especially with his blue pencil portraits of weeds on Mylar.

Brad Kahlhamer The Thin Dead Figure 1997

Brad Kahlhamer The Thin Dead Figure 1997

Brad Kahlhamer channels his inner Basquait as part of I ♥ PAINT II over at the Angell Gallery. Kim Dorland has put together a small survey of contemporary painting that reflects his love of the medium. People have been proclaiming painting’s dead for the past 50 years but with shows like this that brings artists from all over the globe together, it’s obvious the world isn’t listening.

Janna Watson Violence of a Cloud

Janna Watson Violence of a Cloud

My last stop of the day was at BAU-XI where I encountered this lovely Janna Watson. She is one of those gifted painters who exhibits the right combination of flourish and restraint.

Ai Weiwei: According to What? at the A.G.O.

Grapes (detail) 2010

Grapes (detail) 2010

The Toronto International Film Festival is wrapping up this weekend. Two weeks of long lines, premieres and celebrity filled red carpet cotillions will soon be over. Our cult-like worship of celebrity will be satisfied for yet another year. Many big names graced our northern clime this season, but I would have to say the brightest star in Toronto right now, would  be Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Unfortunately, the artist couldn’t personally make it to Toronto for the opening of his show:  According to What? at the Art Gallery of Ontario but his presence is definitely being felt.

Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn 1995/2009

Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn 1995/2009

See, the thing with Ai Weiwei is; he is kind of an independent spirit living in an oppressive environment. These two elements tend to butt heads when directly confronting one another; and Ai Weiwei literally has the scares to prove it. Targeted by the Chinese government for his political activism, Weiwei has had his freedoms dramatically reduced, including not being able to leave China. You might think that a person who has suffered physical assault and wrongful incarceration (80 days) at the hands of his government would have nothing but negative things to say about China, but Ai Weiwei (in his art) can separate country from state and history from politics. The genius of Ai Weiwei’s work is that he can both celebrate and condemn his homeland in equal measures.

China Log 2005

China Log 2005

China has a spellbinding history with countless contributions to the pantheon of art. Dynasties have come and gone, each leaving evidence behind of their innovations and legacy. Weiwei assimilates their historical artifacts into his assemblages. He recycles the materials and working methods of the past to both pay homage and re-contextualize our relationship with objects. In both China Log and Kippe the sculptures are made up of salvaged pieces from Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) temples. The map of China has been hollowed out of the core of China Log. The log itself has been assembled using  traditional Chinese joining techniques utilizing eight separate temple pillars. The core of Kippe consists of playground parallel bars commenting on the artist’s memories of childhood. 

Kippe 2006

Kippe 2006

Ai Weiwei uses traditional materials in new and unexpected ways, whether it is his supreme unfolding stool of Grapes or his Teahouse. The Tea Houses are exactly as they are named; houses made using a ton of tea each. The delightful thing about experiencing these structures in the gallery is the aroma. Every piece in According to What? has a dual role. They first arrest you with their aesthetic and then subtly play on your emotions.

Teahouse 2009

Teahouse 2009

The other side of Ai Weiwei’s art is to raise a critical finger at the injustices of the world. Weiwei also mines China’s recent past and his filter of nostalgia has been replaced with tragedy and injustice. On May 12th,  2008 a massive earthquake rocked Sichuan province in China killing approximately 90 000 people. A horrific event that went virtually unnoticed by the entire planet. The tragedy was made worse by substandard building practices, especially hard hit were the schools where countless children lost their lives. The government minimized the event in the press and wouldn’t release the names of the dead. For a free spirit like Ai Weiwei, this was unacceptable. He and his team started looking for the lost names and posting them to his blog, which was eventually shut down by the government. In the exhibition, one wall of the gallery is devoted to the names of these lost children. Along with the names sits a massive pile of rebar that forms waves on the floor (Straight 2008-2012). Each metal bar was salvaged from the earthquake wreckage and then manually straightened.

Ceiling Snake (2009) is made using 100's of children's backpacks.

Ceiling Snake (2009) is made using 100’s of children’s backpacks.

The beauty of Weiwei’s work is the balance he strikes between the old and the new and the sublime and the tragic. At his worse he can delve into the sculptural equivalent to a visual parlor trick like:  Forever or Moon Chest. They’re fun to look at but ultimately don’t resonate as much as the other work which can be beautiful, complicated and haunting. He helped shed light on a tragic event, bringing dignity to the departed and was ultimately persecuted for his convictions.  The role of the artist is to interpret the world we live in for good and bad.  Weiwei shows us at our best and our worst and we should thank him for it.

Moon Chest (detail) 2009

Moon Chest (detail) 2009

Ai Weiwei ‘s According to What? is definitely a must see.

Art Toronto 2012

Meghan Hildebrand

It had been quite a few years since I last had the opportunity to hang out with my friend Meghan Hildebrand. Unfortunately living on opposite coasts of a very large country prevents the casual drop-in. Meghan was in town from Powell River BC for Art Toronto Toronto’s International Art Fair.  Meghan’s artwork is an exercise in endless innovation and improvisation. Her command of colour, mark making and line create visual ebbs and flows that imbues her work with a sense of visual play and fun. The images she creates allude to a much larger narrative that we only get glimpses of. I find that Meghan’s new paintings make me think of  Cy Twombly embracing the landscape.  Two of her paintings were part of the booth display for Mayberry Fine Art, so we made arrangements to catch up and wander the aisles together.

People have radically opposing views of Art Fairs. They are engineered for consumerism and label art as a commodity. The buying and selling of art is the 2nd biggest unregulated market in the world. Prices are what the market can bear. The biggest story of the past decade for the art world has shifted from the object to the price tag.  While the rest of the world suffered at the hands of a global financial crisis, not the art world- prices kept going up. Art Fairs have become the  shopping malls for the well to do. Toronto is pretty low key on the global stage compared to places like Basel, New York and Miami but it still has something to offer people who know what to look for or know someone to tell them what to look for.

Many of the usual suspects were present: Warhol, Hirst, Murakami, as well as great examples of Canadian art’s elder statesmen including David Milne, Harold Town, The Group of Seven and what seemed like an endless supply of Riopelles. Also, prints and drawings by the titans of modern art could definitely be acquired for the right price. Meghan and I window shopped with glee. We looked at what we wanted but didn’t feel compelled to see the whole thing (it is very easy to suffer from art fatigue at these events). We talked art, old times and laughed.

Art Toronto was the perfect backdrop to catch up with an old friend. After the fair we headed over to the Power Plant and caught a few hours of The Clock. Definitely time well spent.