Board Picks: Alyssa Bistonath

I have a deepening appreciation for artists who can frame complexity, offering a jumping-off point for the mind to run wild. Light on nostalgia, heavy on illustrative and sculptural elements, these pieces have a tactility that comes off the wall without being too imposing.

I am particularly impressed by the craft involved in the making of each of these pieces. Each artist has carefully considered their medium and has tailored their work to elicit very specific and evocative feelings.
 Samuel de Lange, Nigredo Alendo IV, 2015, $1100 (Mounted)

The way that the light reflects off of the metallic paper in Samuel de Lange’s work is hypnotic. I could stare at the calming abstract images for hours, methodically matching the inverse repetition. First the circles, then the lines, the specks, the smudges, and finally the halos—each a piece of evidence decoding what might have been.

Abby McGuane, Figure study (fold), 2013-2015 (Sold Out)

McGuane’s piece has a sensuous balance of old and new. The bright white mounting offsets the gradated hues of the draping cloth and photographic elements. The zigzag of the fold offers a pathway contrasting the form of the head, shoulders, chest, and torso, creating balance and simplicity.

Ryan Park, Selection (YES), 2015, $1000 (Unframed)

The artist’s choice of textured paper means that this image is fascinating to look at up close and yet Park’s stand-out piece is perfect for a space that one would pass by multiple times a day. The modest red pops from the wall reaching out with a positive “Yes” — a mark of agency, and delight.

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Photorama Co-Chair Picks: Robyn Rogers

I am drawn to the graphic structure and bold abstraction in Ross Winter’s Corcoran Overlap. There is a suggestion of translucence in the fiery overlapping geometric forms. The structural approach to this composition is a great example of the artist’s varied image-making practice.

Ross Winter, Corcoran Overlap, 2012 (Sold Out)

Similarly, the work of Erika DeFreitas, also a structural collage image, is a change from her usual evocative portrait-based work. Perhaps it is that the weather has turned cool, but the soft edges of loose threads in this image have a lovely depth and texture that are reminiscent of a warm quilt.

Erika DeFreitas, untitled (these textile works) No. 15, 2015, $500

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Photorama Co-Chair Picks: Anouchka Freybe

Trace over, fold over, reposition, map out, crop in, crop out, drop out, cut out, imprint, hang up, stand back, walk around, light on, black out, repeat.

Oh ok I can’t deny, absence is beautiful to me, like I’m starting the storyline here, with these quiet cues, unfolding and stepping out into other familiar stories. Graceful systems. Trace a line between these four artists, thread a familiar logic: the index, the system. Subtle humour in Luong’s Desert Cross, atmospheric, as the original, but a chalk line drawn on the concrete floor,  reflect back to that point, to the previous incantation, implied movement, and like Casasanta’s Four Considerations, played right out to the edge, Schwitters’like, Demand’like, photographic flat but the folds expose the hand’s influence, cut out, and Sciarrino’s Cloak, hung like a table seen from above, reflections of an organized interior, shadow play, light’s imprint, glass transition into position, how much time do I need.. time to take, prescribed steps, Lili Huston-Herterich with Parker Kay, that Same Cloth, blueprint, cartoon line, the functionality of the room, documenting my movement and my movement before that, starting a story, stopping. These systems. Go back again and again. Grateful for the repetition – don’t want it to stop.

 

Images from Top, Left to Right: Alvin Luong, Walter De Maria, Desert Cross, El Mirage Dry Lake, 1969, 2015 (Sold Out); Jennifer Rose SciarrinoCloak: interior, 2015 (Sold Out); Maryanne CasasantaFour Considerations on Different Fading Systems, 2015, $1600; Lili Huston-Herterich and Parker KaySame Cloth, 2015 (Sold Out).

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Staff Picks: Kim Simon

What is it about certain images that make us want to live with them? It’s been a few years now that I’ve been thinking about the difference between looking at art in public spaces and what living with art can mean. That is, I’ve been thinking about whether our desires for various spaces and institutions differ from one another. I confess, as a curator sometimes I feel a bit guilty, as often what compels me to show work in the gallery is different than what I want to live with. I used to argue about this with my parents. As a budding younger culture worker, my parents’ homes were always filled with art, and although they weren’t (and aren’t) “collectors” per se, they always had an eye open for something they loved. I wasn’t always happy with their choices. I wanted the tough critical work to be chosen for the piece above the couch. It’s not that they couldn’t appreciate the demands of certain work, it was just that they insisted that, if they were going to see it everyday, all the time, they wanted to be surrounded by things that nourished them in particular ways. Sometimes the tough stuff made the cut, but not surprisingly, often it didn’t.

I’ve been thinking about my own nesting habits these last few years. I must be spending more time at home, because while my days at the gallery are happily filled with challenging ideas—work I want to debate with, work that keeps me up at night—these days, when I go home, I want to go home to a love fest. So this year for the Photorama blog, my selections (all of them being by great artists with established practices a given) are things that I think are just plain lovely. Love, love, love.

 Alison S.M. Kobayashi, Rainbow, 2014, $1100

Rainbow, by Alison S.M. Kobayashi, is the sweetest thing. She’s been collecting old black and white photographs of rainbows for a while… there’s something so funny and juicily melancholic about them. Ok, in this particular case I can also say that Alison has a solo show at TPW this coming February that’ll showcase her unique, smart and funny way of seeing the world through performance, video installation and drawing.

Sara Angelucci, Pomegranates, China, 2015, $700 (Framed), $500

Sara Angelucci’s Pomegranates, China, is super gorgeous. Doesn’t it seem like a dirtier, sexier Laura Letinsky or like a composition you could see sitting well in Van Gogh’s The Bedroom at Arles?

Dean Baldwin, Egg, 2012, $800

Dean Baldwin’s photogram, Egg, just makes me laugh, imagining the adventurer artist that Dean is, cracking a raw egg on photographic paper to see what he gets… and somehow it just always comes out so elegant.

Geoffrey James, Alex Colville on the Tantramar Marshes, c. 1971 (Sold Out)

I have to include this portrait of painter Alex Colville by Geoffrey James. It’s a wonderfully odd image, Colville twisting and straining in the wind of a 1970s New Brunswick landscape. The young James was shooting Colville for what was then the Canadian edition of Time magazine. As James tells the story, at the time Colville questioned him about whether he had any visual training, which he hadn’t. Who’d have thought that same image would end up as a postage stamp, canonized as an essential image of and in Canadian art history. Great image, great story.

See? Love fest.

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Board Picks: Annie MacDonell

I can’t stop thinking about this Geoffrey James photograph, dated circa 1971 and titled Alex Colville in the Tantramar Marshes. The image is of Colville, awkwardly bundled in a trench coat and hat, standing on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Or the Tantramar Marshes to be more specific.

James_Geoffrey.jpgGeoffrey James, Alex Colville on the Tantramar Marshes, c. 1971, (Sold Out)

Given the deadpan clarity of the title, it seems like everything in the picture should be pretty self-explanatory. But the more I look at it, the more I wonder WHAT IS GOING ON IN THIS IMAGE??  The dirt road, the high noon light, the distant barn, and most of all, the inexplicable twist of Colville’s body both towards and away from the camera. Is he just bucking against the wind, or did James catch him as he launched into a spontaneous interpretative dance? The florid angle of his hips is at such perfect existential odds with the cut of his trench coat, buttoned tight and belted over the thickness of his middle-aged waist.

If I didn’t have the title to identify the figure or locate it in the salt marshes of rural New Brunswick, I would have assumed this image was staged; that the man was an actor or dancer, that the setting was imagined, and the clothing straight out of wardrobe. If I didn’t know better, I would think it was documentation from a Pina Bausch piece, or a production still from David Lynch, or maybe a study for a Robert Longo painting. But no. It’s none of these things. It is a portrait of an esteemed Canadian painter, by an esteemed Canadian photographer, who both somehow ended up dancing together under the high noon sun on an old dirt road in a salt marsh in 1971. This photograph is amazing.

Gilmour.jpgElisa Julia Gilmour, Over their Own: Projected Mothers, 2015, $1500 (Framed)

Elisa Julia Gilmour’s Over their Own: Projected Mothers, 2015, is a series of 25 individual black and white prints, printed from 16mm film frames. The images are dark and difficult to read, blurred by their transition from moving image to still, their magnification from tiny 16mm frame to print. But if you look closely, you’ll see that each one shows a woman with child. The child is “veiled”,  or covered over in a blanket. This veiling is a direct inversion of the standard 19th century infant portraits, in which the mother is always hidden away beneath a cloth, to better showcase the child on her lap.

By far the most repeated and perplexing strain of advice I received upon becoming pregnant a few years back was the advice that came from my art friends. Everyone took turns warning me not to make work about motherhood. At the time, I smiled and nodded knowingly as if I was, of course, in agreement. At the time, maybe I was. But I’ve been thinking about it for the last three years and have changed my ideas on this. In a discipline so intent on dissecting and charting the human experience on all levels, why is this one particular human experience too broad or boring or vulgar to warrant our attention? And isn’t the urge to dismiss it just (to paraphrase the amazing Maggie Nelson) another disqualification of anything tied too closely to the female animal? I’ve been compiling some more detailed questions and answers on this subject, but in lieu of listing them here, I will offer up Gilmour’s images, which provide a muted rebuke to those who would prefer to have motherhood remain conveniently off stage somewhere.

Klie_Jackson.jpgJackson Klie, Untitled (making sense of the sunset), 2015, (Sold Out)

Jackson Klie gives us six tiny, perfect sunsets sliding downward across a surface of yellowing graph paper. The orange burn of the sky glances appealingly off the institutional green of the lines beneath them. The images, cut from instructional photography books from the 1960’s, have a richness and a slight gloss to them, making them jump off the matt surface of the graph paper below.

When you see the collage off screen (IRL, in person,) you’ll see that the whole of its dynamic hinges on the cut of these slivers of paper images. The thin sunset slices are roughed up at their edges. As a result, the paper they’re printed on competes with the image itself for our attention and the place where printed sunset meets the flat plane of the graph, where representation meets regulation, becomes as touching as a love letter. This mixture of romance and pure surface is also on display in Klie’s current show at The Ryerson Image Centre, where he’s worked collaboratively with Michelle O’Byrne to create a suite of image/objects with a similarly intriguing tension.

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Staff Picks: Sam Cotter

Windows Without a View

I’m not sure what sparked it, but this Photorama I’ve been thinking a lot about John Szarkowski’s ideas of photographs generally functioning as either windows (showing us a view that we would otherwise not have access to, the exterior world) or mirrors (showing us something of ourselves, our interior world).  Though I think we often treat photographs this way (especially those circulated in popular media), I think this outlook perhaps overlooks the photograph itself — a self contained aesthetic object capable of mass circulation.

Some of the works I’m interested in at this year’s Photorama take up the photograph’s ability to function as a window, but undercut our expectations of a view. Though these four works may have different agendas, I think they all play with the compression that occurs when a three-dimension world is framed into a two-dimensional image.

Bouabane_Kotama.jpgKotama Bouabane, Curtain, 2015, $600 (Framed), $475

Morales.jpgManuela Morales, Windowview, 2015, $120 (Framed), $80

Kotama Bouabane and Manuela Morales give us interrupted views of leisure/vacation subjects — Bouabane creating a playful trompe l’oeil that reminds us of the illusory depths of images, and Morales using superimposition or double exposure to impose a window (another framing device) onto a beachscape.

Burley.jpgRobert Burley, Darkroom, Building 3, Kodak Canada, Toronto, 2005, (Sold Out)

McCallum_Fraser.jpgFraser McCallum, Church Conversions, 2014, $200 (Framed), $150

Robert Burley’s Darkroom, Building 3, Kodak Canada, Toronto functions both as preservation of and (through style, scale and presentation) a monument to the end of the analog era of photography. Though Burley literally draws back the curtains to this otherwise inaccessible facility, in this work we are still denied a view into its workings. In contrast to the singularity of Burley’s image, Fraser McCallum presents us more quotidian views of churches being converted into condos, perhaps exploring how symbols of spirituality are being retrofit into symbols of capital. His use of harsh flash divides the stark plane of the wall and the dark void through the window — again denying us the pleasure of a view.

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Board Picks: Jon Davies

Looking through all the works that will be featured at this year’s Photorama, the images that most caught my eye all seemed to draw on collage techniques, building up potent compositions from unexpected combinations. Artists are perpetually compelled by the impulse to cut up and re-assemble different images and textures, and those working in photography are certainly no exception.

Murphy
Jennifer Murphy, Mummy, 2015, $2800 (Framed).

Jennifer Murphy’s flamboyant collages draw on her vast collections of found images of flora and fauna, many of which have a vintage look and nostalgic aura. Mummy presents a large, dazzling figure – one that reads somewhere between a creature and a runic character – built from a mummified bust turned on its side and expanded by serif-like flourishes of flower buds as well as a slimy snail.

Zeesy Powers, Condo Art, 2015, $150.
Zeesy Powers, Condo Art, 2015, $150.

Zeesy Powers’ beautiful Condo Art is a digital collage of watercolours of buildings interspersed with towering trees and plants. It reimagines the monotony of the Toronto skyline’s shiny “condo curtain” with an idiosyncratic and colourful parade of more organic vertical forms, each one more eccentric than the last.

Zinnia Naqvi, Clifton, 2014, $250 (framed), $100.
Zinnia Naqvi, Fez, 2014, $250 (Framed), $100.

Former TPW Membership and Development Assistant Zinia Naqvi’s Fez similarly captures the eye-catching juxtapositions of different surfaces and objects found in the city, with the edge of two sharply different painted walls forming a strong vertical line against a hillside strewn with buildings and satellite dishes, creating a portrait of a visually dynamic landscape.

Talia Shipman, The Seed, 2015, $500 (framed).
Talia Shipman, The Seed, 2015, $500 (Framed).

Finally, Talia Shipman’s enigmatic work is built of layers: a wood board, a photograph and resin, each framing or obscuring what lies beneath, adding up to a striking synthesis.

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