With Nuit Blanche getting bigger – though a bit too chaotic – and an OCAD student threatening the ROM, T.O.’s art scene gave us lots to talk about. Here are the shows that made us believe in the transformative power of visual art.
1 DEAD! DEAD! DEAD!
at Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation
Combining Punch & Judy puppets and police truncheons with cutting-edge art by the likes of Louise Bourgeois and Thomas Schütte, the collector/curator knocks us out with a show that plays with the melodrama of violence. Her exhibits just keep getting stronger. This one’s ongoing, so don’t hesitate.
2 KENT MONKMAN: THE TRIUMPH OF MISCHIEF at MOCCA
(Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art)
Monkman’s masterful revisionist paintings (think Botticelli’s Venus as a hot First Nations drag queen) and fun installations (crystal teepees!) turn the tables on gender, sexuality and race in all kinds of directions, forcing colonial art history take it up the ass for a change. Now… can we please get this shown at the Calgary Stampede? Closes Sunday, December 30.
3 BEN REEVES
at Jessica Bradley Art + Projects
Reeves’s stunning show tested the limits of what paint can accomplish by playing with ideas of scale, representation and originality. With each painting he asked in a new, invigorating way, “At what point do we agree that paint is merely paint, and at one point is it a picture of something?” It’s rare to see this kind of high conceptualism backed by solid painterly chops.
4 SCOTT SORLI: COMMON SENSE REVOLUTION
at Convenience Gallery and Toronto Free Gallery
Skipping the niceties of artistic symbolism and getting straight to the political point – in public, no less – made Sorli’s risky window installation one of 07’s top shows. Consisting of a large graph simultaneously tracking welfare cuts and homeless deaths in T.O., Sorli’s art work masterfully exposed the sociopathic insanity at the heart of Harris’s (and now, McGuinty’s) “common sense.” Election, anyone?
5 BANI ABIDI: THE BOY WHO GOT TIRED OF POSING
at Gallery TPW
The Pakistani photographer/video artist’s playful show focusing on modern appropriations of the persona of ancient hero Mohammad Bin Qassim not only let us in on another country’s patriotic nuttiness but also gave us a hopeful vision of art as a tool to undermine national mythology.
6 STEVEN SHEARER
at the Power Plant
Shearer’s retrospective show teases out the art-historical threads and androgynous vulnerability lurking beneath the brash adolescent noise of heavy metal youth culture. His classical drawings, frenetic collages and found images manage to lend an almost romantic burnish to a musical genre known more for its crypto-fascist aesthetics and crude male posturing. In doing so his work becomes a disturbing and enlightening exercise in cultural continuity. To February 10.
7 ANITRA HAMILTON: BEATER
at Mercer Union and MOCCA
Torontonians don’t often get to beat a pom-pom-festooned car with sledgehammers, piñata-style. But they rose to the challenge when an opportunity was offered by Hamilton’s Beater this summer. Whether channelling road rage or Kyoto angst, Hamilton’s henchpeople personified eerie real-world tensions between violence and virtue, savagery and spectacle. Deadly smart.
8 SHAPESHIFTERS, TIME TRAVELLERS AND STORYTELLERS
at the Royal Ontario Museum
Aboriginal curators Candice Hopkins and Kerry Swanson select resonant works by Faye HeavyShield, Alan Michelson, Brian Junger, Isuma Productions and others that comment on native history and colonial representation. Their impact is deepened by a handful of well-chosen artifacts from the museum’s collection, including fascinating tiny drawings done in the 1920s by Inuit who worked on Nanook Of The North. To February 28.
9 FASTWURMS: DONKY@NINJA@WITCH
at the Art Gallery of York University
Harper is stonewalling worldwide climate change talks and Facebook is turning us all into uniform pixels… but so what? If this Fastwürms retrospective showed us anything, it’s that nature/animals/sex/fun/Gaia/weirdness/peace still exist resiliently in the form of two middle-aged, bi-friendly Wiccans from Creemore, as well as (if you like their work) your own potential-warlock self. Shazzam!
10 GREG GIRARD
at Monte Clark Gallery
Girard’s photographs of two eras and two systems in head-on collision in present-day Shanghai were riveting, but not predictably so. Avoiding a sentimental or heavy-handed visual parable about urban change and development, he opted for an intimate and deeply observant approach that let the interiors and facades speak silently for themselves.