Sunday, December 23, 2007

Art Break, Visual Poetry

Visual poetry, visual art? Conceptual art, conceptual poetry? Where is the line? What makes for an interesting piece? Over at the Poetry Foundation Christian Bok has been chronicling visual poetry for us over the past few weeks. And while it is intriguing--and while there are some poets who create work that intrigues (derek beaulieu, Donato Mancini, Sharon Harris, etc.) I have to admit here that I might be more drawn to art that dips into textual territory than the other way around. And why might that be?

Check out Gillmore at Monte Clark Gallery, Toronto. The gallery text accompanying ECIAD graduate describes his work as "surrealist play between image and text," suggesting that he "uses graphic and organic forms to create balance between the multiple concepts in his work...". Perhaps it is the multiplicity of the work that I find compelling. Not to mention the leakage. If I have a complaint about some visual poetry it is the tendency toward sterility, the finality of the work. This viewer/reader in any case, prefers intensity, edges, a sense of the work as to engage, move around.

Yesterday I dipped into several galleries on Queen West. Stephen Bulger has "The Polaroids," of Andre Kertesz, a surprisingly playful assemblage of the photographer's polaroids. It's very strange to see his eye focus on colour, the images have a 90s feel to them, strong composition and colour, but within a specific range of subject matter that seems to work best with polaroids: hard lines of multiple colours intersecting, bits of things in skylines, windows...what I'm getting at is they were images you've seen before, and without the depth of field and contrast usually associated with Kertesz. Still, very strong show and the gallery is stunning.

At Loop, Maureen Paxton's "Ape Paintings" and Richard Mongiat's "Weeds and Wildflowers." Paxton's representational paintings of humans emoting responds to a text by Franz Kafka and are best assembled in the triptychs she offers in the back gallery. Although these are portraits in the traditional sense, they aren't the airbrushed variety, instead features blur into shadow, gestures magnify, the light washes and morphs, the face becomes the weather, the horizon, infinitely changeable and mesmerizing. Mongiat's abstract canvases evoke summer in Toronto--think the Ex fairground as wildflower field circa 1960 Soho. Playful thick lines seem much more simplistic than the work actually is.
photo courtesy of Engine Gallery Jump 72 x 56 in. Oil on canvas
Over the past few years I've noticed a fixation on movement in photography and painting--Robin Rhode, for example. Costa Dvorezky's enormous canvases at Engine Gallery are stunning. The formal aspects combined with the blood-like splashes and drips give a sense of indeterminate space that I find quite compelling. The colours as well, and the texture of the canvas.

The other show worth noting is an oddly disquieting installation at Katharine Mulherin. Reeking of children's fairy tales and dark Religious instruction the installation features boxed sets of beautifully crafted figures in woolly woods, the wolf descending...very creepy.

On the other hand, the Queen has her own youtube site. Is it the colonial in me who finds this exciting? Vintage Queen here. She has since developed less obvious ways of reading her speeches....