Joseph Beuys at Artcore Gallery (55 Mill, Pure Spirits building), to August 1. 416-920-3820. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If it's one of those days when you want to explore but don't know whether to check out an art gallery or a museum exhibit, in Artcore Gallery hangs the solution: an art exhibit that's like a museum show. The spacious gallery presents a tribute to the late, very socially engaged Joseph Beuys , a great master of the 70s and 80s. The show incorporates Beuys's original work along with documentary photographs.
Over one hundred photographs illustrate Beuys at work on art with a humanistic, environmental, social and economic purpose. You can see him in action making the very work that now sits on the floor opposite you.
Disappointingly, the epic ideas for which he's famous - in particular, that art can change the world - aren't developed fully in the presentation of these pieces. For example, one hundred white boxes stand stacked against a wall, and you're told only that it's "F.I.U. wine" in defence of nature. It helps if you understand that Beuys was a founder of several activist groups, including the Free International University, emphasizing the creative potential in all humans, but the message might still feel unclear.
Longer explanations would also help with the display of autographed items like old military telephones and a three-pronged spatula. If he used them to do something interesting, we should be told what it was in more detail.
This German artist had cutting-edge theories of art as political action. Warning: a visit to this show might mean a night of library research. If you're smart, you'll go there first.