WAR ZONES at A Space Gallery (401 Richmond West, #110), to February 15. 416-979-9633. Rating: NNN
There’s a cavalry-full of strong war-themed art in local galleries right now. War Zones, a group show, is a valuable asset in that collective creative arsenal – though it has a few unfortunate misfires.
The standout work is A Burning Tree, a multi-video installation by Colombian-born, Toronto-based duo Guillermina Buzio and Jorge Lozano. Combining powerful archival footage of Colombian battles with text from Amnesty International reports, A Burning Tree is a sobering portrait of a civilian population under attack from both inside and out. But it’s also hopeful, showing that some young people are using art, music and dance to resist the cycle of violence.
In his adjoining installation, Charles L. Roberts: The War Years, Peter Kingstone’s videos rejig war visuals from newsreels and Hollywood, while his sculpture presents a psychic diorama of the Second World War, with olive-drab draping, 1940s USO hits and ephemera ranging from Esso’s bizarre “War Map” to old army uniforms. What comes across are the ways war has infiltrated individual and cultural histories in North America.
Rounding out the show, Afshin Matlabi’s crayon drawing of a missile on a “family outing” reworks the idea of “nuclear family” in a funny way, while Derek Hardinge’s photographs offer a sterner take on war-related stereotypes.
Overall, pretty potent. But inconsistent production values, like Kingstone’s insecurely attached wall texts and muddy audio, are a problem. And it’s a shame Matlabi’s pop-style prints of missile launches are out in the hallway vitrines. They’d contribute more inside.
If you do drop in, also check out A Space’s separate exhibition, Domestic Violence, by Scott Waters. His skilled paintings of fighter jets on flowered wallpaper reflect his own experience as a soldier and war artist, offering a worthy accompaniment to War Zones.