April 18, 2017 [originally published in CV90 in Winter 2012] — During the Soviet era, it was unlawful to photograph anything that contradicted the reigning political ideology. As images were seen to be an extremely forceful argument to support the cause, anything that might show signs of rust on the well-oiled machine would not be tolerated. The negation of an outlet for visual evidence to the contrary of the accepted narrative attests to the very power of the documentary photograph, for it bears silence witness when it is too dangerous to speak the truth.
April 24, 2017 [originally published in CV90 in Winter 2012] — Guy Tillim’s sizable exhibition (initially organized by the Museum of Contemporary Photo at Columbia College in Chicago) at the Design Exchange was a provocative inclusion in 2011’s Scotiabank contact Festival. The title of the exhibition evokes the spirit of Patrice Lumumba, a staunch supporter of African nationalism and the first elected prime minister of the Congo after it gained independence from Belgium in June 1960…
May 1, 2017 [originally published in CV90 in Winter 2012] — Two photographic panoramas evocative of nineteenth-century popular entertainment were on view at the McCord Museum of Canadian History. The first was a panoramic vista made by the Wm. Notman & Son studio in 1896. The larger of the two, titled The Great Mural, was created by photographer André Cornellier in 1996, exactly a century later. Both show a 360-degree bird’s-eye (or God’s-eye) view of Montreal, as seen from the southwest…
May 8, 2017 [originally published in CV90 in Winter 2012] — In general, the art world is not kind to older women artists. Nan Goldin recently gave an interview in which she was brutally frank on the subject. She remarked that three-quarters of the art world wants her dead; her work has changed, but the market would rather have the Nan of yore: documents of seedy underbellies and demi-mondes. Now that she has the life perspective of a woman in her sixties, her hard-won ease does not square with the woman the art world wants her to be. Suzy Lake has made this harsh truth the core of her work. But then again, this is not a recent development…
May 15, 2017 [originally published in CV90 in Winter 2012] — The fourty-second edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles adopted the challenge of exploring the image economy, as well as photography’s relationship with the World Wide Web and with social networks, within the ambit of forty-seven diverse exhibitions. “From Here On,” the centrepiece exhibition at the Rencontres, presented photography in the context of the Web, the “digital revolution,” and how they circulate images.
February 2, 2017 [originally published in CV89 in Fall 2011] — Wang Qingsong’s photo scenarios focus on the ambiguities of China’s changing cultural identity and internal clash of ideologies. Pick Up the Pen, Fight to the End (1997) mimics a late Cultural Revolution poster, Take Up the Struggle of Polemics and Struggle to the End (1975), also on view. We see a girl wearing a Young Pioneers red scarf; Mao’s Little Red Book is on the table.
February 7, 2017 [originally published in CV89 in Fall 2011] — “Wanda Koop: On the Edge of Experience” is a major attraction of the Prairie Scene festival, the fifth presentation of this biannual event organized by the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to showcase Canadian regional art scenes. Koop’s show, a mid-career retrospective of sorts, consists of four chronologically arranged sections and offers a sampling from eight of the artist’s many series.
February 9, 2017 [originally published in CV89 in Fall 2011] — In Short Sentences, an aptly titled show of recent photographic and video work, Chih-Chien Wang offers a moving photographic journey that is also a poetic reverie on words and things, life and death. The show is fittingly bracketed by an image of the artist’s son asleep, and another of his son being breastfed by his partner, Yushan. In the former, Shaore Lies on Futon, a photograph of his son lying prone on a futon in deep sleep, Wang evokes the fragility of young life.
February 16, 2017 [originally published in CV89 in Fall 2011] — Grief and loss are guiding principles in Greg Staats’s exhibition “Condolence,” but so, too, are more complex notions of alliance and reconciliation. The exhibition, co-presented by Oboro and Articule galleries and split between these two sites, offers Montrealers rare access to the work of an artist whose works are not often seen in this city.
February 21, 2017 [originally published in CV89 in Fall 2011] — “Shadow Catchers” takes off from the tradition of camera-less photography initiated by William Henry Fox-Talbot, whose photogenic drawings, first displayed to the public in 1839, preceded photography with a camera – a “little bit of magic realized,” as he put it. And we sense his influence on photographers who followed, such as Christian Schad, Lucia Moholy, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and Man Ray, whose photogenic drawings…
February 23, 2017 [originally published in CV89 in Fall 2011] — Blue-tinged icebergs? Handmade plaster sculptures? The sleek, cool signature of Pascal Grandmaison is hard to discern when we first enter his recent exhibition at Galerie René Blouin. His new works hold several surprises: while they continue his investigation of the mediated photographic act, the figure-ground relationship, and the representation of the invisible, the three works included here are rich in metaphor, melancholy, and artistic modesty.
March 2, 2017 [originally published in CV89 in Fall 2011] — With Monologue, Patrick Ward has skilfully edited together a pool of handheld footage culled from video-sharing Web sites. In silence, a single and anonymous viewpoint scans, probes, and travels through a labyrinthine interior. As the viewer follows, ambling down dark halls, peering into basements, moving from room to room, an impossible ruin begins to take form. Ward’s exhibition is the first part of Skol’s novel thematic program, Unknown Artist.
November 8, 2016 [originally published in Spring 2011] — At the opening for Terrance Houle’s solo show “givn’r” on September, most people mingled in the foyer of the Art Gallery of York University. Sure, it was where the free wine and cheese could be safely consumed, but it also felt strangely appropriate for Houle, a Calgary-based artist from the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta, whose performances are done primarily outside the gallery.
November 15, 2016 [originally published in Spring 2011] — The mythographer Mircea Eliade once recalled an interesting belief about memory that is (or was) widespread in the world’s folk cultures.1 In the terrifying moment just before death, so the story goes, everything that has happened in a person’s life, “down to the minutest details,” flashes before his or her eyes. This sudden, sweeping apprehension is, in fact, a sign that death is swiftly approaching.
November 22, 2016 [originally published in Spring 2011] — Conceptual art ideas are pervasive in John Baldessari’s art, from his videos, to his photographs, to his hybrid photo-painted works. Presented by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Tate Modern in London, and following on from the Hirshhorn Museum’s “2007 Ways of Seeing” show, “Pure Beauty” puts another feather in John Baldessari’s cap as a West Coast progenitor of all that conceptual art was, is, or can be. His blending of photography, performance, video, and painting treads the edgy border between visual and textual with a natural affinity.