COLOURBLIND at the Blue Dot Gallery (55 Mill, building 47), to August 12. 416-487-1500, http://colour-blind.ca. Rating: NN
The Caribana festival has sprung into full bloom with a massive showcase of African Canadian art. COLOURblind launches 20-some painters whose work is thematically rooted in traditional African art.
Masks are portrayed in every imaginable way. Wildly colourful mask paintings hint at the joy of the ceremonial dance, while other canvases reveal a slightly darker undercurrent. Joy André's mixed media canvas, Veneer, takes a critical standpoint on the very tradition of the mask, which she sees as symbolic of the authority that traditional notions of gender impose in our lives. Veneer depicts a woman's silhouette beneath a wooden mask, with the words "rebellion" and "submission" printed on her back.
Darrell McCalla presents a different, less political criticism of the mask. His painting Envy touches on the element of charade that's intrinsic to the mask tradition. A highly realistic mask casts a sidelong glance at the spectator. The eyes are stone-cold yet convey a sense of envy. McCalla's palette is extremely dynamic, and his canvases balance boldness and lightness.
The showcase is remarkably vibrant in colour and quite strong in its expression. Most of the pieces are crafted with a great deal of dedication, but prettiness seems to have been a main curatorial principle; ingenuity and provocative thought are neglected. André and McCalla strike fresh attitudes in the midst of an overly beautiful show.