YOSHINORI NIWA AND SANDEE MOORE at Gendai Gallery (6 Garamond Court), to August 23. 416-441-2345. Rating: NNN
So far, it’s been a big year for community themes in the Toronto art scene. The Power Plant’s If We Can’t Get It Together kicked off the conversation in January, while a collectives-focused show opens this week at Edward Day Gallery.
The Arts Of Togetherness at Gendai Gallery also riffs on this theme, promising to “explore notions of interpersonal exchange and community” through the work of two artists, Tokyo’s Yoshinori Niwa and Winnipeg’s Sandee Moore.
Niwa is the standout. First – to be totally superficial – his wall drawing is one of the cutest I’ve seen. (Who can say no to a cat driving a van labelled “reason”? Not me.) Second, his participatory project Kite Flying With Local People has a genuinely sweet, nostalgic – and yes, inclusive – feel. Third, his display of collectively made kites is compelling. Everything from Holt Renfrew bags to Goodwill garments is transformed into elegant yet fun forms.
Moore’s works are a little more awkward. The overall framework – referencing communal Japanese rituals like bathhouses and karaoke – is promising, but tech glitches and a use of artist-developed jargon make it challenging to actually participate in her pieces.
Moore’s distancing of the viewer may well be intentional – truly inclusive communities are, after all, more fairy tale than real, and most subcultures require some form of hoop-jumping for entry. But the works still feel unfinished.
Ultimately, one of the most interesting aspects of the show is the gallery’s location in the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, where community is reflected in gardens, a library, historical displays and an agglomeration of related businesses.
Both Niwa’s warmth and Moore’s distancing find real-life reference points here.