My Picks from Art Toronto

Jonathan Shaughnessy
Oct 21, 2013 3:18PM

Greg CurnoeMustache, 1965, at Michael Gibson Gallery

David MilneSt. Michael’s Cathedral, 1943, at Mira Godard Gallery 

Alison RossiterEastman Kodak Bromesko (London), exact expiration date unknown, ca.1940’s, (B), processed 2010, at Stephen Bulger Gallery

Sky GlabushPortrait as Gertrude Stein, 2012, at MKG127

Luke PainterCathedral (Neon Gothic), 2013, at LE Gallery

Maggie Groat at Erin Stump Projects

Jean-François LaudaUntitled, 2013, at Battat Contemporary

Ron MoppettPINK&GREEN/HOMEANDAWAY, 2009, at TrépanierBaer Gallery

Joanne TodDeluge, 2013, at Nicholas Metivier Gallery

Dean BaldwinBar Piano, 2013, at MULHERIN

So I’ve been asked to write highlights for Toronto on the tail end of visits to the Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters in London, UK, where at the latter fair standouts included Ellsworth Kelly’s small but exquisite postcard collages from the 80s at Peter Freeman, Inc. I’m not expecting to see any of these at TIAF but no matter as I’m happy to turn my attention to a notable collage that will be on view, in this case by the late, great, Canadian artist Greg Curnoe from the mid-60s and a piece called Mustache (1965) at Michael Gibson Gallery. Staying in the “pre-contemporary” (at least at the institution I work at where “Contemporary Art” extends officially to the past 25 years) how about that 1943 etching of St. Michael's Cathedral, by David Milne at Mira Godard? Milne turned this subject into a number of elegant and, within the artist’s late period when inks and colours were sprawling expressionistically across his landscapes, quite precisely-lined prints in the 40s. And while we’re in the 1940s, and even a decade or two earlier, I note a photo-series by Alison Rossiter that I always love to see work from and that Stephen Bulger Gallery is featuring in which the artist finds expired film rolls from more nascent, chemical periods for the medium that she processes and which reveal themselves in the form of chance-fully abstract fields.

Rossiter has found an enticing way to summon the surreal within the contemporary, and it doesn’t surprise me that many artists today are looking within their own processes toward earlier 20th-century “avant-gardisms” through appropriation or increasingly, a direct usage of these movements' transcripts (after all, Surrealism, Cubism, collage, etc. developed in contention with some of the most abrupt and tumultuous times of the past century, so what’s to think their ‘strategies’ should be outmoded now?) Ok, that could lead to an entire essay ; ) and if so what better illustration than Sky Glabush’s Portrait of Gertrude Stein (2012) at MKG127? These pieces by Glabush (which you can usually see one or two of in Michael Klein’s office/"cabinet of curiosities" that I always look forward to perusing in Toronto) blend Modernist tools with illustration. Speaking of the illustrative, I was quite taken by Luke Painter’s “Rebound” exhibition at LE Gallery this year (examples from which are featured at TIAF) that summarily and pleasingly blended Modernism’s mores with what followed in Post-Modern patternings of 1980s art and architecture on the one hand, and the commercial & ‘designy’ flourishing of 19th-century Gothic Revivalism on the other that if not fully preceding any and all “avant-gardes” at the very least coincided with their emergence.

Now if it’s just the tools of the latter you’re after — i.e. contemporary artists who are renewing the stratagems of cubism or collage in interesting ways today while not necessarily looking to historicize — then you may turn towards Maggie Groat at Erin Stump, or, following this lead into painting and that now age-old application of oil to canvas in an abstract manner there’s the offerings of Montreal’s Jean-François Lauda at BATTAT Contemporary. Keeping painting in mind and shifting to Western Canada, there’s also the formative example of Calgary painter Ron Moppett who lands at Trepanier Baer Gallery with PINK&GREEN/HOMEANDAWAY(2009) and whose use of templates and collage have been creating ambiguously narrative-based variations on all-of-the-above, and in ways that are entirely all-his-own, since the late 1960s. As you may conclude here, I’ve been thinking a lot about painting these days having been involved in an exhibition on contemporary trends in the medium within Canada at Galerie UQAM, Montreal, earlier this year. An established Canadian painter whose work was featured in “The Painting Project” is Joanne Tod, whose very recent work Deluge (2013) I’ll look forward to see at Nicholas Metivier Gallery.

There were many artworks featured in the Artsy preview that got me excited and, as perhaps is evident, thinking! And there’s sure to be lots and lots to sift through and take in later this week at the fair itself, just as there was last week in London for the frenzy of Frieze. To contend with the heady pace of things, however, it seems that Toronto has an ‘ace-up-its sleeve’ that the London fair didn’t: an elegant artwork-cum-space-for-convivial-encounter to give the atmosphere a ‘loungy’ aesthetic and embrace. I’m talking about Dean Baldwin’s Bar Piano (2012) at MULHERIN, one of a series of bars the Montreal-based artist has made over the years and that I was sorry to miss in its most recent incarnation in the exhibition “The Piano” at the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, this past summer. So on that note, and as my final “highlight,” I’m thrilled to be able to encounter it soon you there?!

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Jonathan Shaughnessy