Small was more in 2001.
1 MARCEL DZAMA (More Famous Drawings, Olga Korper Gallery, February
28-March 28) Irony is everything in the droll drawings of this meteoric
Winnipeg artist, illustrator and founding member of the Royal Winnipeg Art
Lodge. Drew Carey, Jim Carrey, Nicolas Cage and Dave Eggers may all be fans of
Dzama’s über-retro Jack Kirby-meets-Samuel Beckett aesthetic, but the thing
that really makes the wunderkind remarkable is how (using root-beer extract) he
makes basic brown feel cool.
2 JANET CARDIFF (A Large Slow River, Oakville Galleries/Gairloch
Gardens, June 1-November 4) Remounted just in time to coincide with Cardiff’s
and spouse George Bures Miller’s win of the jury prize at this year’s Venice
Biennale, this Glenn Gould/John Cage-inspired sound piece designed to take
viewers and their imaginations and memories through the breathtaking lakeside
Gairloch Gardens reveals a fundamental truth about beauty: it’s all in the
3 $7 PORTRAIT SHOW (Penny Arcade, July 28-August 23) Art for art’s
sake in its purest form, clever without being pretentious, this collaborative
installation cooked up by zinesters Michael Comeau and Tara Azzopardi offered
artists a chance to “win tens of dollars” by drawing one of five set
faces. Their invitation inspired some of Canada’s finest — including Fiona
Smyth, Casey McGlynn, Matt Harley, Charlie Pachter and Royal Winnipeg Art
Lodgers Drue Langlois and Myles Langlois — to send in over 250 submissions.
Yes, the individual portraits each sold for $7.
4 DONALD LAWRENCE (The Underwater Pinhole Photography Project,
Gallery 44, January 4-February 3) University College of the Cariboo prof
Lawrence takes lovely underwater pinhole photos of stuff like starfish, but the
Kamloops-based artist’s real creative genius lies in the hand-crafted
paraphernalia he uses to take these shots — gonzo portable developing rigs,
heavily customized kayaks and corroding homemade cameras, which he displayed
alongside the photographs. The best sculpture show of 2001.
5 LOIS ANDISON (Autobody, Koffler Gallery, November 8-December 16)
Funny, feminine and fabulous, Andison’s hypnotic kinetic sculptures are less
about mechanical prowess (think Robot Wars) than shifting perceptions of the
world around us.
6 GREG CURNOE (Life And Stuff, Art Gallery of Ontario, March 9-June
17) Art Gallery of Ontario chief curator Dennis Reid paid homage to late, great
artist, nationalist, regionalist and cyclist Curnoe in an exhibit that may well
prove to be the most personal — and emotionally moving — in Reid’s career.
7 TECUMSEH COLLECTIVE (Tecumseh Arts Festival, Fort York, July 1-27)
No Indian soldiers — not even brigadier general Tecumseh — were ever
garrisoned inside the walls of Fort York during the War of 1812, but the
spirits of the native warriors who fought to defend Canada were remembered when
eight First Nations artists, including descendants of the legendary Shawnee
leader, occupied the historic site this summer.
8 KAZUO NAKAMURA (Tashme2, Gendai Gallery, April 21-July 29) The
drawings made by Painters Eleven co-founder Nakamura (one of only two
surviving) between October 15, 1942, and November 25, 1944 — the period he
spent as a teenaged inmate of Tashme internment camp — debuted at the Japanese
Canadian Cultural Centre’s Gendai Gallery, where the thin, camp-issued wool
blanket laid out at the heart of the show cast an unmistakable chill.
9 ZHANG HUAN (Power Plant, September 21-November 18) Chinese-born,
New York City-based multidisciplinary artist Huan pushes cultural buttons with
performances that explore endurance and pain, but the videos documenting these
events are not what made his Power Plant show so compelling. Just try to forget
the large-format sequence of photos of Family Tree, in which Huan’s own face is
covered with calligraphy that spells out his fate until the text reads as
10 EMILY CARR, GEORGIA O’KEEFFE AND FRIDA KAHLO (Places Of Their Own,
McMichael Canadian Art Collection, June 3 0- September 9) What could all too
easily have felt like a purely academic exercise — mapping the creative
parallels between three women who are giants of early 20th-century Canadian,
Mexican and U.S. art — felt just right in the deft hands of art historian
Sharyn Udall and curator Megan Bice.
Auguste Rodin(From Plaster To Bronze, September 20-December 23, Royal Ontario Museum) The show is terrific. How far wrong can you go with the 19th century’s greatest sculptor? What sucks is the outcry from the Musée Rodin in Paris over the fact that a group of private Canadian collectors had the audacity to buy and display some of Rodin’s fragile plasters — an intermediary stage between the artist’s clay originals and the bronzes cast from them in multiples. The ROM responded by hosting a symposium on the ontological status of art, in which a none-too-subtle subtext was how the existence of the Canadian plasters (destined for a permanent home at the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie) threatens the French institution’s money-making monopoly.
There’s more than one way… (Art System scandal, May 30) When cops seize an artist’s work and lay charges, the art community tends to rally in support of the principle of freedom of expression. However, when OCAD student Jesse Power was busted with Ryan Wennekers for making a video that allegedly showed a cat being skinned — a piece that never was exhibited publically — gallery co-directors Daniel Borins and Jubal Brown came under attack for defending Powers. Some of the arguments the case raises are complicated, involving the food and cosmetics industries, but if in fact a cat was tortured in the course of making Powers’s video, the bottom line is pretty cut and dried: it isn’t art. Torture is never pretty.
September 11 The human loss eclipses everything else, but the fact that some prime art collections went down in the World Trade Center (including more than 100 Rodin bronzes) may well have a long-term impact on corporate art collecting and is already pushing up the cost of art insurance. This last certainly will hurt the ability of public galleries to borrow major works for shows. Locally, the Art Gallery of Ontario had to can its centenary celebration — it would have happened Saturday, September 15.