DUNCAN MACDONALD at pm Gallery (1159 Dundas East) to July 1. 416-937-3862. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Duncan MacDonald's charcoal drawings and maverick video installation represent an intelligent challenge for the viewer. A dozen romantic and Goethe-esque landscape drawings hang in a salon-style setting, bathed in warm, dimmed light.
MacDonald's drawings are pretty and kitschy at the same time, ironically referencing the styles of Van Gogh, Turner and other great masters of the past. In theory, his strategy makes sense: go shopping in art history, make cheeky paraphrases and end up with work that's hip and exciting. But it's a total turn-off in reality. MacDonald's charcoal technique is remarkable, but his mimicry of the symbol-laden romantic artists backfires, becoming too much an insider joke.
Even though the video installation, Several Attempts At Crying On Demand, feels completely out of place among the nostalgic landscape drawings, it makes a genuine point.
MacDonald is taped close-up while repeatedly throwing himself into attempts at crying. It's funny in an uncomfortable, toe-curling way, hinting at the way television influences our feelings.
The drawings and video installation are abstractly connected, both commenting on authentic emotion, but the installation doesn't stumble over its own concept.
It's a clever show, but MacDonald fails to tease the eye.