February 01, 2015

Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything

MOCCA in Toronto is showing a survey of Canadian contemporary artist Douglas Coupland. The exhibit brings together the artist's displays of found objects, installations, and paintings that explore Canadian identity and culture within the larger context of human evolution.

The most visually arresting piece is the installation made out of Lego pieces. It invokes a super city with skyscrapers in various shapes and attractive combinations of color.

The installation is a projection of what cities will look like in the future, which feels kind of alienating and nonconducive to human interaction.

Compare the futuristic city with the suburban environment, shown right across from the skyscraper installation, to start a dialogue about urban evolution. This installation is built from Lego kits manufactured for a standard housing model typically seen in suburban settings. In these houses every detail looks exactly the same. In its repetitive monotony and lack of individuality, this type of architecture feels as isolating and alienating as the future vision of the soaring city that stands right across from it.

Another installation displays found objects that Coupland has collected over the years. In the work above objects with primary colors are neatly arranged in a wall display.
 These objects all have one thing in common: They are components for model kits.

The detail from the installation below shows found objects of Canadiana, objects that, reflects the artist's identity and history.

The next set of paintings are contemporary interpretations of paintings from the Group of Seven artists, Canada's most influential group of artists who produced landscapes with modern techniques in the 1920s. The colorful set of paintings below are abstracted to graphic designs with geometric forms, translating the original Group of Seven paintings to today's contemporary sensibilities.

The black and white paintings go a step further in abstracting the original work through geometric patterns and a monochromatic color palette. 

The work above, called the Spectra Four Seasons, is an exploration of light reflected upon the landscape through the changing of the seasons. Upon close inspection, the work reveals itself as a set of pencil crayons inside an acrylic case.

This work abstracts the Group of Seven landscapes further in a whimsical way in a contemporary language.

October 24, 2013

Art Toronto

Jill Greenberg, O'Born Contemporary

Art Toronto, which started today, is Canada's only international art fair. The fair features about 110 galleries, 30% of which attend from outside Canada.

This year the fair hosted Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) from Beijing. The center is founded by Baron and Baroness Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten, prominent Swiss collectors. The UCCA offered limited edition prints by renowned Chinese artists, such as Yue Minjun, shown below.

Portraits by Alex Katz seemed to be popular, with pieces shown at multiple galleries. The one shown below is from Miriam Shiell Fine Art.

Takashi Murakami's alter ego DOB made an appearance in a limited edition print at Tokyo's Tezukayama Gallery.

I thought the painting below was a Roy Lichtenstein from his Mirror series, but it turned out to be a piece by the writer/artist Douglas Coupland, shown at Daniel Faria Gallery.

There was a Roy Lichtenstein however, in yet another limited edition print, at Galerie Raphael from Frankfurt.

The most interesting artwork seemed to be presented by galleries in the NEXT section of the fair, dedicated to emerging artists. Mitsuo Kimura's painting shown below, by LE Gallery, represented the exciting work of new artists at the fair. Mitsuo is a Japanese artist who recenlty moved to Canada. His art is influenced by Japanese anime, layered with his challenging experience of adapting to a new culture and language, expressed in bold color and painstaking detail. The name of the painting sums up his experience: Emotional Ocean.

October 07, 2013

The Extraordinary Talents of David Bowie

Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is the 2nd stop for the touring exhibition, David Bowie Is, after it's debut at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London earlier this year. David Bowie is an unusual subject for this blog, as he is primarily a musician and performer, but his style and creative output influenced many contemporary artists.

David Bowie himself was influenced by traditional and contemporary artforms and expressed these influences through his costumes, designs for sets and album covers, music, films and theater. The costume that opens the show, above, is inspired by Japanese kabuki theater whose performers wear elaborate costumes and make up.

The video installation below shows David Bowie's first TV performance on UK's Top of the Pops with a costume inspired by the movie A Clockwork Orange.

Another installation brings together all his influences from books hanging from the ceiling, to images and videos of artists, actors, films projected on 3D screens, with costumes displayed across the space. 
He collaborated with other artists and avant garde designers, such as Alexander McQueen while Mcueen was still a student.

Thierry Mugler, known for his futuristic designs, created the outfit in the middle, below.

Other extravagant costumes on display are below.
David Bowie sought to shock and provoke on stage and through all media where he appeared. Below is artwork for an album cover that he commissioned from illustrator Guy Peellaert, depicting him as half man, half dog.
Among other artists with whom Bowie collaborated was Tony Oursler, who created music videos. Below are puppets Oursler created for a concert with David Bowie's face projected on them.
Bowie painted too. Below is a self-portrait that he painted for an album cover.
His other paintings shown below demonstrate his influence by German Expressionism.

One of the most interesting things that I learned in this exhibition is that, before he started his career in music David Bowie worked in advertising. It explains why he was so successful in synthesizing art, design and contemporary culture, and melding influences wide ranging from Marlene Dietrich to Sigmund Freud, to construct a unique image and promote it so spectacularly. 

July 25, 2013

Multiverse by Leo Villareal

The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC has a light installation by Leo Villareal in the underground walkway that connects the gallery's East and West wings. LED lights along the ceiling and one wall of the walkway are programmed to create abstract configurations of light. It creates an immersive experience in an otherwise dark space.

February 05, 2013

Ai Weiwei: According to What?

Hirshhorn Museum's survey of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei exhibits his broad artistic practice. Ai Weiwei recently became more recognized around the world because of his provocative work that challenges the political establishment in China. He was arrested and detained by the Chinese government which fueled the artist to use the internet and social media as an active platform for commentary and art. His art focuses on the relationship between Eastern and Western culture and society.

His early work employs traditional furniture, ancient pottery, and daily objects in ways that question cultural values.

Below, an antique pot from the Ming dynasty is emblazoned with a corporate logo which comments on the commercialization of traditional culture.

The two photographs below, with the ironic titles "Study of Perspective: Tiannamen", and "White House", respectively, question and criticize political authority.  

He has been under surveillance by Chinese authorities and not allowed to leave the country. Below, a surveillance camera in marble is presented as an art piece, as evidence of his plight and as a comment on the broader impact of the government on personal freedoms.

A line of backpacks snakes around the gallery's ceiling as part of his ongoing investigation into the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In the earthquake, a school collapsed killing hundreds of children. The Chinese government tried to cover up the impact of the earthquake to detract attention from the shoddy construction of the public school.

Cube Light, a chandelier suspended from the ceiling, is Ai Weiwei's interpretation of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1928 film October, in which a chandelier was shaking during the storming of the Winter Palace, representing the instability of a government on the brink of collapse, continuing his criticism of political authority.
An immersive photographic installation documents the construction of the Bird Nest, the main stadium of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Ai Weiwei collaborated on the design of the stadium with architects Herzog & de Meuron.