The month-long Contact Photography Festival of more than 500 artists continues at hundreds of local venues. NOW's art writers deliver tips on what exhibits you won't want to miss. Check out upcoming issues for more picks.
Where/When: Galerie Bertossini, (783 Queen East), to May 27. 416-466-3659.
What: Regent Park, Canada's largest low-income housing project and one of Toronto's most troubled neighbourhoods, depicted as the gated community/luxury resort it never was.
Why: Johnston cleverly inverts our notions of the area by focusing on arresting architectural details. Stagnant pools, abject hockey rinks, denuded basketball courts and expanses of landscaping dotted with abandoned furniture are shot to evoke a feeling of serene prosperity gone to seed. By schlepping found mattresses and chairs into pleasing configurations and staying clear of graffiti and trash, he constructs a surreal alternate Regent Park that might have been.
Buzz: As he did in his acclaimed 2005 series Photographs From The Bridle Path, which featured abandoned and gutted mansions, Johnston cuts through our assumptions about place, prosperity and class. David Jager
Where/When: John Steinberg and Associates (585 King West), to May 31. 416-506-0268.
What: Meditative and masterful shots of Cambodia's Angkor Wat, one the world's most beautiful temples, that focus on outlying and less frequently visited structures, where nature is quietly overtaking crumbling, smiling Buddhas, graceful relief sculptures and ancient pantheons of deities.
Why: According to the photographer, Angkor Wat (built in the 12th century and subsequently abandoned and overgrown by the surrounding jungle) is a perfect distillation of what abides in a civilization. In the long run, spirituality and nature win over empire and hubris every time.
Buzz: Snowdon studied with noted West Coast photographers Judy Dater, Marcia Lieberman and master printer Alan Ross, Ansel Adams's assistant. David Jager
When/Where: Gallery TPW (56 Ossington), to June 9. 416-645-1066.
What: Snapshots of exotic dancers catch them during their transformation from mothers, sisters, friends and lovers to sexual creatures. Their gazes and emotional postures are as diverse as the hundreds of eyes about to devour them during their routines.
Why: Rey explores the codes of female sexuality with a candid eye on the preparation required before the intense exposure of pole dancing and erotic sessions in semi-private rooms. Fragile moments of vulnerability and aggression shine through the makeup. The snapshots' rawness forces us to reconsider our assumptions and negative judgments about exotic dancers.
Buzz: Rey introduces a clever little shtick that I won't give away, but it emphasizes how sexuality is constructed by the media and social patterns. Bjarke Madsen
Nicholas & Sheila Pye
Where/When: Angell Gallery (890 Queen West), to June 2. 416-530-0444.
What: Husband-and-wife team Nicholas and Sheila Pye's brooding show torpedoes our dreams and nightmares about marriage. A short experimental film and a series of staged photos take us on an abstract odyssey into the pitfalls of creative collaboration and marriage.
Why: You gotta be up for blood, sweat and fire to brave the soft tragedy of the show.
Buzz: The Pyes' clarity and conceptual inventiveness are a marvel at first sight, and at second glance reveal an ironic humour that makes the experience unique. Bjarke Madsen