The $7 PORTRAIT SHOW at Penny Arcade (691/2 Nassau) to August 23. Rating: NNNNN
from the start, when zine-scene- savvy Penny Arcaders, Michael Comeau and Tara Azzopardi sent out a request for submissions as a "call to arms for all artists," the $7 Portrait Show has been sizzling with conceptual potential."Draw me to win tens of dollars," reads the text balloon emanating from one of five unidentified head shots provided as models. (Yes, this project was inspired by the learn-to-be-an-artist ads in old comic books.)
Artists were asked to do their own renderings of these faces on 81/2-by-11-inch lined, three-hole-punched paper, each to be priced at $7 (a figure determined by Ontario's current minimum wage). The artist gets $5 for each work sold.
Over 250 $7 Portraits flooded in, among them singularly strong pieces by some of the most interesting artists and illustrators working in Canada, including Royal Winnipeg Art Lodgers Drue Langlois and Myles Langlois, Fiona Smyth, Casey McGlynn, Pete Dakko, Matt Harley and Charlie Pachter. Since it was open to anyone, the show also drew submissions from kids in the Kensington Market neighbourhood. Many sent multiple pieces.
Right now Penny Arcade's walls are literally papered with these weirdly uniform faces, with gaps left where sold works once hung. No one's making much money here, but at these prices the sales are brisk, and the zine-quality $4 catalogue (hand-silkscreened cover, low-res photocopies inside) documents everything, albeit badly.
This is art for art's sake in its purest form, clever without being precious, and the overall effect is brilliant.