The 41st Annual Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition at Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen West), Friday to Sunday (August 30-September 1), Friday 10 am to 8 pm, Saturday 10 am to 7 pm, Sunday 10 am to 6 pm. 416-408-2754. ww.torontooutdoorart.org
The city's most bustling, colourful and diverse art show finally crowds Nathan Phillips Square this weekend after a summer spent hurdling heaps of garbage.The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition bills itself as a fresh-air alternative to conventional art shows and galleries. When the city's outside workers went on strike earlier this summer, the TOAE lost its claim on fresh air. When the inside workers walked out, too, the alternative was left scrambling for one.
A group of independent artists quickly responded by setting up Art Strikes Back. It was supposed to recoup some of the lost opportunity to sell art in the middle of July. Many artists rely heavily on the show to make the summer less of a starving season.
The TOAE proper had originally been rescheduled for October, which surely would have dimmed the show's perennial popularity -- some 100,000 people filter through it each year -- and further hit artists' pocketbooks. Worse, says Jennifer Rudder, executive director of the TOAE, the advertising budget had been blown on the no-show.
But something so good cannot be stifled for long. The city has since reimbursed TOAE somewhat, she says, and a cancellation resulted in this balmy long-weekend date.
Have the politics trampled on the art? Actually, no. This year's show looks to be as lively and diverse as ever.
As usual, the colourful landscapes and bright crafts will send art snobs screaming in search of the comforting glow of a video installation while at the same time delighting large numbers of people.
Painting dominates, and the familiar abounds. Landscapes and Canadiana are everywhere. Smatterings of realistic painting, abstractions and Group-of-Seveny works are here, there and everywhere. There's wonderful aboriginal work, but overall not much that's strikingly original.
There is some fabulous glass, jewellery and ceramics, despite the fact that they're not even considered art in all quarters.
But the two areas with the most exciting stuff -- even for the snobs -- are photography and sculpture. Plastics, polystyrene and more conceptual work have brought sculpture into the 21st century at TOAE, with artists like Sandy Plotnikoff at the fore.
The photography category includes compelling shots by a number of young artists, including Alex Homanchuk and Chris Curreri, both worth scouting for.
Others have brought the down-and-out aesthetic to the TOAE this year in gritty and impoverished-looking snapshots, in clear contrast to the Muskoka-before-the-mansions ideal promoted by so many.
If you don't have all day to browse, make sure to pass through sections Blue West and East, where the students are segregated. There is always some young talent worth checking out. You can discover them before the galleries.
In fact, many great young artists get their start here. The Bus galleries on Queen West, arguably the most vibrant venues to pop up on the Toronto art front in the past five years, have shown many artists first seen at TOAE.
And that's really what makes Canada's largest outdoor art exhibit wonderful. There are discoveries waiting for email@example.com