I have to say I had one of my better art viewer experiences at the new AGO. Many notable modern pieces like a hyper-realistic silicon sculpture of a stretched man's face, General Idea works on AIDS and totem poles made from golf bags. Most fascinating to me was the brilliant curation work done in particular salon collection documenting Victorian socialites of Toronto. What was brilliant is that a 2008 painting by Kent Monkman, a queer Cree photographer, director and painter questions the historical relevance of the works by colonialist British painters. His dense and cheeky re-revisionist historical painting turns the somewhat boring and routine viewing of European colonial portraits and landscapes into a fun sort of Where's Waldo affair. The density of the viewing experience was really engaging. Where layers of art history and controversy are layered together like a big art submarine sandwich with all the toppings.
It was certainly proved to me that the new AGO is more than the building. But, oh, the new building! Frank Gehry has really outdone himself with this one. The restraint and thoughtfulness towards to viewing of art, the neighbourhood and I'd even say the climate and culture of Toronto is laudable. Most people are familiar with his iconic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum. This is a different take on his style that seems really tailored for the AGO, Toronto and Canada. I'll let other people's photos speak for themselves. I forgot my camera, as I am apt to do lately, on my trip with some dear friends to the AGO this Saturday past. So here are some pics I dug up on flickr.
Above: From the street the new Frank Gehry "intervened" Art Gallery of Ontario Like a glass ship coasting down Dundas Street past old Victorian homes. The structural timbers of the glass façade like the wooden ribs of a sailing ship.
Below: Looking from the rear in Grange Park the blue titanium can float in the air when there's a blue sky.
Above: The Interior "Galleria Italia" is all about wood. And light. As the primary access concourse for the original 2nd and 3rd floors of the gallery it provides a lovely interlude and intermission between those collections. The love of wood as material for art and architecture is nothing short of patriotic.
Below: The use of ply-wood and leather are a dead give away that Gehry designed this furniture for the building as well. Surprisingly the leather ply is padded despite it's outward rigid appearance. Not designed for lounging however it's still comfortable relief when you're on your feet on a long visit. Screw the Wiggle Chair, I want these!
Above: The stairs in the Walker court weren't available to the public yet. But there was a contest to guess how many stairs were in them!
Below: The other stairs above Grange Park were however available. The view of Grange Park, CN Tower, OCAD Sharpe Centre and the rest of the city is sorta stunning. Also the stairs wiggle a bit which is unnerving.
There is a nearly hilarious situation here in Hamilton's almost-trendy James St. North arts district. With Australians, ex-news paper employees, arts burn outs and members of historic farming families changing the way the city approaches art.
I'm optimistic. Best of all I get to be part of it all.
I got to re-connect briefly with etherlad today too.
Good night. Didn't spend a dime.
Ok. Start at the beginning. I've been a busy boy.
Last weekend the Hamilton Artists Inc. did their annual "Artopia" fund raiser in which local artists took paint cans ("buckets") and made art pieces that were auctioned off. The event raised more than $10,000 for the Inc. AND everyone got righteously trashed on good beer. Jelly hosted with Dan Zen and it was a swell time.
This is Wax Mannequin fiercing the one-man-band having just hauled ass from Waterdown at a previous gig to close up Artopia.
This was an art party held by our friend Colm and others. Pictured is my back as I talk to roomie Jessica about... art? They were scoring a film live and painting the walls of an old construction company building. The irony was that despite the pretentious squat party feel it was in fact a rented building with a liquor license.
In the end it was all in good fun and people had a good time.
Yeah, I already told everyone that. Like twice. And once more when I was drunk and forgot I'd already told you.
So let me allow this to be my documented advice to all my local gays with money. Buy a house in the James Street Noth/Jamesville area. Barring something tragic like a horrible batch of acrylic paint that asphyxiates all the artists in the area it's unlikely this place is going to un-gentrify any time soon.
Oh and Douglas Drake is my roomie Doug. You know, just to get the biases out in the open.
Hamming it upToronto artists are finding a cheap and cheerful alternative to the megacity in Hamilton.
The New York Times ran a piece last year about how all the young New York artists were packing up their paint brushes and decamping for Philadelphia, which is close and cheap, and, has Philly Cheesesteaks. I joked with my editor: "Hey, maybe the same thing's happening with Toronto and Hamilton.''
We laughed. Oh how we laughed.
Imagine my surprise when I found it to be true.
"I'm a former Torontonian and I moved here two and a half years ago," says Ian Jarvis, artist and community programmer for Hamilton Artists Inc., an artist run spot that supports contemporary visual arts.
Mr. Jarvis tells me he was part of the whole Toronto arts scene -- still is -- "but it's really hard to be an artist in Toronto now," he laments. "You need two to three jobs to make a living so there's no time for art, and no room for art storage."
Artists are being priced out and pushed out of work lofts and studios as the buildings morph into cafes and condos. "So we decided to move to Hamilton, where we bought a four bedroom 100-year old Victorian house with a basement rental."
His mortgage? $276 a month. Actually, make that $138, because he splits it with his partner. "As a result," explains Mr. Jarvis, "I only need to work three days a week, which leaves four days for creating art."
( carrying on... )
Catching up here but this happened exactly a week ago. The Loose Canon (not "Cannon") gallery on James St. N and Cannon in unpopular downtown Hamilton had an opening. The same night Mixed Media and a few other spaces on the same stretch were displaying shows. There were bands playing, cameras flashing and people walking the streets waking dazed spirits of a place seemingly forgotten.
The exhibit "Landscapes" was pretty all right. Digital prints of rural landscapes on light boxes with some sort of funky subtle luminance highlights. I could take it or leave it. The "organic" light sculptures were total bullshit. "Organic" is a marketing term like "No money down". The best piece of art is the old exposed plumbing in the gallery that has been gold leafed. I fucking love that shit.
Now remember, the place I live is a city that has seen some serious decay. The only people downtown on a weekend night are homeless, drunk, selling drugs or using them. Just like any medium sized town from Windsor to Gatineau the City of Hamilton has the same big box developments, orbital highway and disposable homes we've all come to accept as the best our economy has to offer us.
Many Torontonians and urbanites in general use Hamilton as the brunt of many jokes about the smell and dirt. They are of course just uncomfortable with a city where many people have dirty hands. And it's not just the soot from the coke mill but acrylic paints and calloused fingers of musicians. Increasingly creatives from Toronto are moving to Downtown Hamilton because it offers the connectedness of the city with a price they can afford. There's just a lot to do and I'm glad to be part of it.