SHAMELESS PROMOTION at Open Studio Gallery (401 Richmond West, #104), to September 29. 416-504-8238. Rating: NNNN
Commercial art is the guiltiest of my guilty art pleasures. Whether on the street, in magazine or on TV or the Net, I swoon for savvy imagery and writing - no matter who paid for its production. Beyond Koons's kitsch ceramics and Emin's pornish confessions lies that dirty triumph of the shill.
Art history's heroes, I sheepishly rationalize, bolster my case: the Sistine Chapel was basically a commission, and many of Toulouse-Lautrec's museum-prized "artworks" were originally nightclub posters.
While none of the hand-produced gig posters that make up Shameless Promotion would be mistaken for Michelangelos, they are, in their own way, masterpieces.
Aesthetics range from retro grindhouse horror camp ( Stacey Case ) to fine-arty collage and surrealism ( Jeff Garcia ), from slick yet heartfelt indie rock ( Doublenaut ) to typography-fetish letterpress geekery ( Nicholas Kennedy ) and smudged, Mom's-basement, expired-housepaint-fume delights ( Jesjit Gill ).
All do Lautrec's spirit proud with combinations of attention-grabbing graphics, economical production values and varying doses of garishness, shock, humour and finesse.
The omission of local screenprinting powerhouses Michael Comeau (of Vazaleen-hawking fame) and XIX Studio Number Nineteen, for whatever reason, is disappointing. And sadly, here as elsewhere in the gig poster scene, female producers are either underperforming or underrepresented, I'm not sure which.
It's also regrettable that Telegramme, that rad local temple to poster-print love, doesn't stock these producers, emphasizing work from U.S. outfits instead. (They are working on this, but with no results yet.)
Still, in a city where college campuses will soon be overrun by art-poster monopolies hawking offset prints of Matisse and Klimt to the empty-dorm- wall masses, Shameless Promotion serves as a reminder of all the fresh, brash, energetic art available for the low price of a few moments of delicate staple-tugging.