holditnow

Tag: review

Infinity Mirrors @ AGO

20180512_140456

Dots Obsession- Love turned into Dots 2007 Yayoi Kusama

Well, we finally made it to Yayoi Kusama’s  Infinity Mirrors at the AGO. Kusama is definitely having a moment at the moment. Her work seems to be custom made for our times, although she’s been exploring these ideas for decades. The rest of the world has finally caught up. The process of seeing Infinity Mirrors is almost a separate experience to actually viewing the work in Infinity Mirrors. Let me explain……

20180512_141006

Life (Repetitive Vision) detail 1998

Kusama’s work is a playful exploration of materials, sexuality and your position in the universe. We are all solitary dots in an infinite cosmos of dots. As bleak as that outcome sounds, she still infuses the work with a sense of jubilation. The work also acts as a catalyst for the viewer, where are you in relation to the work and do you make yourself the focal point?

The experience of Infinity Mirrors started long before the exhibit opened. The interweb was awash with images and the hype was thunder on the horizon slowly growing louder. Securing tickets was part of the experience. The logistics of the exhibit had to limit availability, so the demand heightened. No one likes to read these words “You are currently 9000th in line.” There was a sense of joy being able to be a part of it. You were given a time  and then all you had to do was wait. Kusama provided you with infinite space but had to limit your time and the result; time became the true star. You had 20 to 30 seconds in each room. Not a lot of time to drink in your place in the universe and that is why Infinity Mirrors works so well.  The obligatory selfie helps you freeze time to help sustain that fleeting moment. Yayoi Kusama has her finger on the pulse of our lives.

20180512_135447

Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity 2009

 

Advertisements

Films about Art…..Art about Money

20170512120704-DamienHirst_cropped_960x600So I just finished watching Damien Hirst’s Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable on Netflix, or should I say I almost finished. I have 12 minutes left but the little red circle started spiraling away and told me to  come back later. I think I’m good. I have entertained this ( bare with me while I find the right word) delusion – no that’s not it, lie- no,  farce – maybe (…..anyway it will come to me) for long enough. This particular moving picture show is engineered to perpetuate  the whimsical false narrative of an art exhibit that has completely lost the plot. Damien Hirst tried to mine the rich territory of the space between myth and fact, artifice and commerce and material culture and world-building but instead he delivered a glut of over-priced, over-sized and over-blown barnacle encrusted knock-off He-Man statues.

Damien-Hirst-The-warrior-and-the-Bear-1The film never addresses the actual specs of the exhibit. It was put on in two pavilions in the lovely setting of Venice. Apparently it took 10 years to fabricate and cost somewhere in the ballpark of 60 million dollars to produce. Hundreds of hours and assistants toiled over close to 200 pieces. The discerning art collector has their choice of three models to choose from for each piece. With or without coral along with a smaller dainty version in all manner of materials- gold etc… I guess the film is just a fancy commercial that stresses that we should all be aware of the vast amount of resources and effort devoted to this project. It also stresses how far over produced lazy conceptual art can masquerade the idea the emperor has no clothes.

r9e3CCSThe only piece I could find in the exhibit that I liked was this one. It caters to my lizard brain in the sense of beauty for beauty’s sake and the gold and the bronze play really well together.  The best part of Damien Hirst’s work are his titles but in this case they do little to add to the pieces and are rendered impotent. Am I being too harsh- maybe, but the film painfully pointed out  what could have been an engaging idea and squandered it. You feel sorry for the actors trying to sell shlocky bobbles all the while adding the odd wink to the artist. Perhaps a better title for this film could be A 20 000th of a League Under the Sea ……. because you know, it’s so shallow.

Maybe that’s the word I was looking for earlier.

The Greatness of Gatsby

the-great-gatsby-party

Summer for me is the time to sit back with a good book, here’s a repost to wet your appetite.

Every decision that Baz Lurhmann made in turning F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby into a motion picture was the right one. Right, but not necessarily good. The problem with making this film is; the source material is a fundamentally flawed piece of writing that has had more greatness foisted upon it than are hidden in its pages. Don’t get me wrong, the first time I read the novel I enjoyed the world of West Egg sure enough, and having just seen the film I still enjoy it but……….. let the spoilers begin.

THE GREAT GATSBYThe world that Fitzgerald created is one of longing rather than one of condemnation. Many words have been devoted to the corruption of the American Dream and the marginalization of the valley of ashes all under the guise of an apathetic blind God … yadda yadda yadda. If that was truly Fitzgerald’s intention, than it kind of makes him a hypocrite. Fitzgerald in real life wasn’t adverse to tipping a few back and seeing where the night would take him. He surrounded himself with eccentric and interesting people who came together in one of the most decadent scenes in human history: Paris in the twenties. He didn’t stay at the party for a brief moment but rather checked out seven years later. Fitzgerald drank the Kool-Aid and then handed it to Baz. It’s the spectacle that the movie uses for its armature to hang everything around and I don’t believe this would have offended Fitzgerald in the least.

GG-06742r-1386x693Say what you will about the American Dream; a theme that works for me is that there is nothing more exhilarating than arriving at a good party already at full steam and nothing more depressing than staying a little too long and watching the steam slowly escape. ‘The sweet life’ always ends with the party goers standing on a beach starring at an enormous dead fish. You can never recapture that initial high and if you try you will always be disappointed. Chasing the dragon is a fruitless endeavor and in Gatsby’s case his dragon is Daisy(Carey Mulligan).

careymulligan_2550464bThe movie shifts gears from the book with its portrayal of Daisy and her relationship with Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). The love story never really translates in the book. Everything Gatsby does is for her but you never can reason why. She’s like that girl in those Twilight books: an extremely two dimensional character that the people around her are willing to move mountains for. Why exactly? Well Hollywood tried to answer that question by amping up the love story  and turning Daisy into a more sympathetic character.  This is all about dollars and cents; no one would go see a movie where you don’t care if the guy gets the girl. Baz knows where his bread is buttered. This leaves you with the feeling that The Great Gatsby is no longer a book or even a movie but rather an industry. It is a pop culture artifact engineered to sell fashion, sell a soundtrack, be a star vehicle, sell a technology (the first thing I thought of when I heard Gatsby was 3D!) and most importantly make money. Take that: corruption of the American Dream, pass the Kool-Aid. It feels like a movie made by a committee. You can hear the pitch meeting in every frame. It’s too bad too, I loved the style of Strictly Ballroom and didn’t even mind the Jay-Z soundtrack but I felt like I was constantly being sold something. Sad thing is, I got the same feeling when I read the book; Fitzgerald was trying to sell the idea that he was a more important writer than he was.

CBSs-The-Great-Gatsby-Book-CoverThe book has some wonderful imagery and symbolism but feels a little inconsistent overall. The movie is more consistent but tends to spell everything out and goes a little overboard on the symbolism, especially that of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. It seems the film can’t go twenty minutes without checking in on how the green light is doing. I predict college kids will eventually turn this into a drinking game. The Great Gatsby is told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator: Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). He goes along with everything that people put in front of him and then at the last minute is indignant at the results.  The film doesn’t even touch upon his relationship with Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) with very little consequence. It is theorized that Nick represented one side of Fitzgerald’s personality while Gatsby represented another.

THE GREAT GATSBY“Who is this Gatsby?” This is supposed to be the big mystery that never really is a mystery in neither the book nor the movie. Having said that,I have to admit Leonardo’s reveal would  be my favourite part of the film. Baz nailed it; it was so over the top it was kind of awesome. Close-up, champagne glass, smug expression,  Rhapsody in Blue playing in the background and epic fireworks all added up to one of the most perfect/hilarious entrances for any character anywhere. Gatsby: ‘the poor son of a b*tch’ (a line conspicuously absent from the film) becomes more of a tragic character in Baz’s hands than Fitzgerald’s, along with the rest of Generation Egg. We are intoxicated by their decadence and apathetic to their plight.

Both the book and the movie are unabashed constructions of their times and this is where in their greatness lies, but just like the  green light off in the distance we never quite get there. ‘Pass the Kool-Aid old sport’.

3.5/5

GrowOp 2017 @ the Gladstone Hotel

FS2

Fables and Shadows Martha Griffith 2017

This is the 5th year for The Gladstone Hotel’s annual Grow Op exhibition, and 2017’s selection makes the strong argument: this is one of the must see shows of the season. Curators Christine Leu and Alan Webb with Lukus Toane have put together a rich ensemble of works that address the idea of landscape, habitat and environment.

20170420_132213

Rebecca Jane Houston

20170420_132231Stark Olga Klosowski

20170420_132131

Orchestration Lindy Wilkins and Dushan Milic

The show is a delight from beginning to end. It explores the music of weather, the power of an avocado pit, hidden histories, sandbox topographies, walking on eggshells, mini ecosystems, cloud-gazing, starfruit patterns and the secret world of snails among other things. It ‘s on from the 19-23. If you missed this year’s show be sure to pencil it in for next; Toronto’s art landscape is all the richer for it.

20170417_191318

Fables and Shadows detail

Film Critics: You’re Doing it Wrong

dad1f5a388abea684708d79047976f5e47fb55ae

I wonder how many decisions go into making a movie? A hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand …..more? Casting alone would present a thousand questions with multiple outcomes. Just to make it a little more complicated; let’s introduce a well established canon with a built in fan-base, but at the same time try to branch out and create something altogether new. Oh ya, and there is also potentially billions of dollars riding on the decisions you make. I think those last few factors may have some influence on the way you go about things. So what do you do?

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

You go out and make Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One a Star Wars story,……. then you market the crap out of all the decisions you made, then collectively hold your breath and see what the fans think, and then check your receipts, and then … maybe see what the critics are saying. So what are the critics saying? In the case of the two movies mentioned above: the consensus for both of them is that ‘they are both at home in the universes they inhabit with a welcome cast of new characters that create an enjoyable chapter to expand their canons but are not without their flaws’. Highly serviceable to borderline satisfactory. Wow brings a tear to the eye!

rogue-one-chirrut

As of this moment we have yet to create the perfect blockbuster movie that satisfies everyone. The reason being; there are too many specified factions to appease. How do you cater to the hardcore fans and the uninitiated simultaneously? They both require two different things that often run in direct opposition to one another. Now that we reaffirm all our own beliefs and opinions on social media, we can pick and choose the reviews that suit our experiences. If you want a nostalgia based Easter-egg laced review you’ll get it for the nod and wink crowd. If you’re more into the opportunity missed, what I would have done differently review, they’re multiplying like rabbits. If middle of the road, should I spend my money on this is more to your liking than just glance at the overall percentages or box office receipts.

A few things that need to be considered: what do you want to get out of the movie going experience? We all want to be entertained, ideally through our heads and our hearts but how high are our standards? Is anything short of (insert your favourite movie here) passable. Can a movie even come close to the character development and long range storytelling that we are spoiled with in the Golden Age of television? How much ownership do we have to these worlds and why do we take our entertainment so personally?

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Everyone’s a critic, myself included. I watched both films discussed and was happy with the results. The kid in me was tapping myself on the shoulder exclaiming “did you see what they did there?” more times than my inner critic poking me in the back saying”did you see what they did there?”.  I will probably get the DVD’s when they come out (because I’m a Philistine that loves dated technology) and watch them over and over high-fiving my inner child the whole time. Mission accomplished.

How’s that for a review?

Mystic Landscapes at the AGO

who-knew-it-was-a-triptych

Paul Gauguin: Vision After the Sermon 1888 The Yellow Christ 1889 Christ in the Olive Garden 1889

Who knew these three paintings were originally meant to be a triptych? I certainly didn’t; but now that they’ve been arranged together for the first time (for the exhibition Mystic Landscapes at the Art Gallery of Ontario) since Paul Gauguin painted them , it sure makes sense. The primary colour scheme alone should have been my first clue. The otherworldly theme of the story of Christ’s life as envisioned in French Brittany runs through all three as well as the artist himself appears in all three with him taking the starring role of Christ in 2 out of three. I always found this to be very revealing about Gauguin, it takes some kind of hubris to paint yourself as a martyr. Maybe this is the reason  they never made it to a church to serve as inspiration for the pious. Piety was kind of on the back-burner of Paul Gauguin’s life but I guess  he did like to dip his toe in the mystic. He was definitely a seeker.

My hat’s off to the curators for pulling off this feat (along with another, I’ll get to in a minute). I was most excited to see Vision After the Sermon when it was announced it was coming to Toronto, but had no idea the other two were along for the ride. Now that I’ve seen them as a triptych it’s hard to see them any other way. This is exactly what good curation should do, shed new light on the familiar and re-contextualize art into new and exciting combinations and narratives. Having said that: my biggest criticism with the AGO is some of their exhibition themes can get really stretched and unnecessary. Please let the art speak for itself and don’t put words in its mouth.

contemporary-wall-decals

Vincent Van Gogh Starry Night Over the Rhone 1888

The art not only speaks for itself in Mystic Landscapes but sings. Besides Gauguin you get heavy-hitters like Munch, Whistler and O’Keeffe and lesser known artists like Jansson and Dulac. There is a wonderful room devoted to the work of Claude Monet with fine representations of the various series he embraced over the years. His Waterlilies, Cathedrals, Poplars and Haystacks are all present. Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone is given a place of prominence near the end of the show. A personal highlight for me was this Egon Schiele,

554px-egon_schiele_-_landscape_with_ravens_-_google_art_project

Egon Schiele Landscape with Ravens 1911

but the biggest surprise of the show is the inclusion of our own nation’s artists. When it comes to landscapes, mystic or otherwise you have to admit Canada can hold its own. Lawren Harris, Emily Carr and Tom Thomson get to share the walls with Monet and O’Keeffe and rightly so. The curators have positioned our artists at the table with some of Art history’s biggest names and this is an exciting and revelatory prospect. It is one thing to propose this in our own backyard but another to shout to the hills, which will happen when this show ends its run in Toronto and moves to the Cathedral of Impressionism itself The Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

west-wind

Tom Thomson The West Wind 1916-1917

Make your way to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see Mystic Landscapes. Come for the Van Gogh, stay for the Gauguin and revel in our National treasures before the secret gets out and standing in line becomes a way of life.

 

Nostalgia Smack-down: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child VS Stranger Things

HP vs STThis hot hazy summer brought us a spoil of riches. We were treated to two superb pop culture phenomenons that tweaked our childhood nostalgia.(warning spoilers) I don’t want to give too much away, but in order to compare these two seemingly unrelated  media artifacts I will have to explore a few details. In both offerings the adults take a back seat and the kids fuel the adventure, but talk about your cursed children! (Oh Barb, we barely new you.)

harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child Both The Cursed Child and Stranger Things play heavily into our collective consciousness. We associate these things with mostly fond memories of our youth. Reading the many reviews of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child I began to see a pattern. People were just as excited to write about the ritual and anticipation of waiting and acquiring a new J.K. Rowling offering than talking about the play itself. With myself I found the expectation to be both very high and low at the same time. I really wanted to be back in that world again, because when you’re there, it is totally immersive. I also went into it with the knowledge that this wasn’t a complete novel  but a snapshot (co-written by J.K.)  in the form of a play and that ultimately the best way to experience the story would be to see it performed live. Like most of the readers who picked up the play, it didn’t take long to reach the end. So how did it fare?

HP15_Q4_030_Key_Art_Images_Pottermore7B

Revisiting these characters, I was a little worried that my ideal impression of them would be tarnished. How would they be portrayed? They even played with this idea by presenting different versions of each character that exist in alternative realities. I was delighted that in no matter what reality Ron and Hermione had feelings for one another, but Happily Ever After is not a real thing, even Han and Leia broke up over a problem child. J.K. embraces real life, (hog)-warts and all and the Cursed Child explores many of the pitfalls life has to offer.

Daddy issues play heavily into the Cursed Child affecting many characters especially Harry and his role as a parent. He has no compass to navigate these waters, having lost his real father as a child and then his two surrogates (Sirius and Dumbledore) in his teens. We as readers take on the parenting role in a diminished fashion; watching these characters (we see in some way as our own) behave in ways we can’t control. The Cursed Child can elude to a multiple of characters in the play, along with the expectation we place on this story. How can it  not be cursed?  Cursed but not without magic.

1385b630-2c31-0134-0ca6-0a0b9a139ea7Speaking of cursed magical children, Eleven has a tough go of it, along with her own personal Daddy Issues amped up to well…. 11. Stranger Things came out of nowhere. It hit the perfect 80’s sci-fi sweet-spot we didn’t know we were craving. It wore all it’s influences on its sleeve and did it with unwavering homage and unquestionable affection. As a child of the eighties I was in heaven; from the soundtrack to the wardrobe to the details I was transported back to my youth. A time when your bike was your lifeline to the world because there was no such thing as a cellphone. Our heroes have to use walkie-talkies to communicate to one another.

Stranger-Things-TV-show-on-Netflix-season-1-canceled-or-renewed-590x332The reviews are in and Stranger Things has become a bonafide hit. Word of mouth is loud and non stop. As quickly as we read The Cursed Child we binged all 8 episodes. Stranger Things had an advantage over Harry Potter and the Cursed Child being that it had no preconceived expectations or canon to be accountable to. It however firmly placed itself in some pretty big shoes. The parallels between early Steven Spielberg and early Stephen King are unmissable.  To bring a tale of two Stevens and do it well is a rare occurrence.

pQjYuG8lBoth the Cursed Child and Stranger Things use nostalgia as their hook but it’s the characters and the story that distinguish them as great. I was initially worried about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child but was left with a sense of satisfaction and closure. Now the big thing that worries me: can Stranger Things season 2 deliver on our new high expectations?

Chihuly @ the R.O.M.

persian detail

Persian Ceiling detail

Walking through the Chihuly exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum I was filled with mixed emotions. I wanted to be filled with awe and wonder, I wanted to get lost in the world of an internationally known glass artist who has shown at the Met, around the globe and now the ROM, but in the end I was completely underwhelmed. I concede this is an extremely unpopular opinion and that the majority of people who encounter this exhibition will leave transported, I’m just not one of them. This is on me. The last thing I want to do is dissuade  anyone from going to see it, in fact I do the opposite – please go and see for your yourself. I compel you to go and describe what you witness. I think the best way to approach this experience is trying to find the right words to describe it. This is a challenge for all the writers out there, whether you love it or you hate it please put it into words. I’ll start (extreme snark version).

potpori

Mille Fiori

Chihuly’s work is unabashedly decorative, it’s aesthetic hyperbole run amuck. It’s the gift shop in a casino. It’s Christmas ornaments on steroids. Not that olde (old with an e) timey Bavarian market Christmas, but the hell bent for tinsel aluminium tree 70’s Christmas minus your fun drunk uncle in a turtleneck. It reminded me of over-sized versions of potpourri you’d likely find in Donald Trump’s guest bathroom. Ok, ok I went too far.

christmas

Icicle Tower and Chandelier

Dale Chihuly is batting for the fences and you have to applaud him for that. He is trying to create a unique vision with no other intent but to dazzle the eye. He succeeds time and time again but the end result for me becomes too bombastic. The more time I spent with the work the less engaged I became, most people I’m sure will have the opposite effect.

blanket

Pendleton Trade blankets from the Artist’s collection

My favourite part of the exhibit was near the end, with the inclusion of some patterned indigenous blankets from the artist’s personal collection.I would go see an entire exhibit of those in a heartbeat. In the end I’m glad I saw it, and I apologize for the snark. If an artist’s biggest crime is trying to create something uniquely beautiful than what exactly am I complaining about again? Go see Chihuly at the ROM and see for yourself.

Chihuly June 25 – Jan 2

Hurvin Anderson: Backdrop @ the AGO

ba5

Flat Top 2008

I was unfamiliar with the work of Hurvin Anderson before I made my way up to the 5th floor of the AGO’s contemporary section. I was immediately struck by the similarities to a painter I greatly admire: Peter Doig. It then came as no surprise that Anderson was actually a student of Doig’s back in his native country of England during the 90’s.

ba2

Exhibition View

Backdrop which was first shown at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis consists of a collection of drawings, sculptures and photographs but it was the paintings I was most excited about. Anderson’s approach combines loose flourishes with flat passages that evoke both energy and control. His subject matter ranges from the Jamaican/Trinidad countryside to residential attic barbershops to the filtering of experience through barriers, fences and pattern.

ba4

Peter’s Sitter’s II 2009

Anderson’s paintings allude to the vulnerability of the sitter in a barber chair. There is an unspoken conception of trust and renewal. His barbershop patrons floating on flat backgrounds reminded me of another British painter: Francis Bacon.

ba6

Untitled (Welcome Series) 2004

Painting is alive and well at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Hurvin Anderson makes the case loud and clear.

May 19 – August 21

The Idea of North: Lawren Harris @ the AGO

lh1

Lawren Harris    Mt. Lefroy 1930

Growing up with an Italian Grandmother; the idea of portion control is a completely foreign concept to me. So when the tastefully arranged modest fillet of perch on a bed of zucchini was placed in front of me I had to remind myself I wasn’t in my Nan’s kitchen anymore. We were in fact dining @ Frank: the fine dining experience located at The Art Gallery of Ontario as part of Summerlicious. But the main reason we were at the AGO, was to see The Idea of North: the Paintings of Lawren Harris .

lh2

Exhibition view

The work of the Group of Seven and Lawren Harris is as ingrained into the Canadian fabric as road hockey or the first snow fall. It’s part of who we are, and the idea that no one outside of our little hamlet (9.985 million km2 – little) has any clue to their power and brilliance seems unfathomable. But what is so familiar to us is all shock of the new to our neighbours to the south and destinations further abroad. This is a very appealing prospect: what’s old is new again and what’s oversight is getting its due. This is at the core of this exhibition and one of the main motivators for its curator Steve Martin to get involved. He believed our national artist should be recognized internationally.

lh4

Untitled (Mountains near Jasper) 1934-1940

Martin is no stranger to the art world; he has been an avid collector for decades and has amassed an impressive personal collection. It was this collection that was the impetus for this exhibition. The story goes- the curator for the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles ‘discovered’ a small landscape at one of Martin’s dinner parties. She inquired who the artist was and when he proclaimed Lawren Harris, she replied “who”?  A few trips to Canada later and she was hooked and the only one she wanted to helm a Harris exhibition was ‘one wild and crazy guy’. His initial response was he would have to be crazy to take on something like this, but the need to give Lawren his due quickly erased any fears.

lh5

Mount Thule Bylot Island 1930

The Idea of North is a two part exhibition that focuses on two aspects of Harris’s career: his early Ward paintings of Toronto’s immigrant housing projects from the early 20th century and his momentous northern landscapes from the twenties and thirties. (There is also a small abstract near the end that ties Harris’ work to the city of Toronto but I’m going to focus on the other two aspects.) The Ward paintings do a nice job of highlighting Harris’ mastery of paint and colour but fall short of illustrating the pathos in which I believe they were intended. The effects feel too much like an observer looking in rather than an authentic documentation of immigrant life, but as far as images go they illustrate Harris’ life long pursuit of tapping into the unseen forces of the sublime that are at work behind the paintings. It is this aspect that makes his northern landscapes so powerful. He has focused the landscape to amplify its impact and presence.

lh3

Mt. Lefroy Study 1930

Whether you are long time admirer or first time observer The Idea of the North does a wonderful job of showcasing one of our national treasures. There are old friends to revisit and new surprises to discover. I did have to keep reminding myself that this not a retrospective (I love his mountains but his tree paintings are my favourites- saved for another time I guess) but rather a focused introduction, and just like my little perch – less is definitely more.

The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris

July 1- September 18