Art Marathon: Toronto’s vibrant art scene [Updated!]

Scott McFarland’s large-scale photographic mural “Corner of the Courageous, Repatriation Ceremony for Sergant Martin Goudreault, Grenville St., Toronto, Ontario, June 9th 2010” (2012) in the courtyard of MOCCA. Photo by M-KOS

Toronto’s vibrant art scene and exuberant artist community package many artist-run spaces, a number of notable commercial galleries as well as important public and private art institutions. The annual Scotibank Contact photography festival testifies as a case study to the city’s cultural dynamism, currently showcasing over 100 artists under the theme: Public. M-KOS journeyed to Toronto for this occasion and more, featuring the Canadian metropolis within our regular Art Marathon.

The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) and the University of Toronto Art Centre simultaneously present two of Contact’s primary exhibitions, Collective Identity and Occupied Space to include works by Ai Weiwei, Philippe Chancel, Baudouin Mouanda and many more. We also visited other collaborating venues such as Art Gallery of Ontario (Max Dean, Albums), Design Exchange (Lynne Cohen, Nothing Is Hidden), Gallery TPW (Mark Bouolo, No Permanent Address), O’Born Contemporary (Jill Greenberg, Glass Ceiling) and Angell Gallery (Andrew B.Myers, Common Misconception; Jon Rafman, 9-Eyes of Google Street View)

Deborah Stratman, Tactical Uses of a Belief in the Unseen (2), 2012. Installation view at Mercer Union. Photo by M-KOS

Besides Contact festival, M-KOS also visited Mercer Union, an artist-run centre established in 1979 which showcased the architectural sound installation of Deborah Stratman. Another non-profit space sits just across the street from Mercer, Gendai Gallery is exhibiting its own take on architectural installation work, albeit of a smaller scale, by Columbian artist Angelica Teuta. Through the back alley off a residential street joining Ossington Avenue, we access G Gallery‘s long rectangular space sponsored by University of Guelph, currently showing Gordon Peterson’s Nightmare painting series.

Liza Eurich, It Exists In the Cut, Exhibition View at MKG127, 2012. Courtesy of MKG127

Kevin Yates, installation view at Susan Hobbs, 2012. Courtesy of Susan Hobbs.

Other spaces include MKG127, a commercial gallery small in size but often presenting rigorous idea-based works by local emerging talents. At the time of our visit, this gallery exhibited minimalist works by Liza Eurich, entitled It Exists In the Cut. A further trio of adjacent commercial galleries on Tecumseth Street comprise Susan Hobbs, Georgia Scherman Projects and Birch Libralato. Hobbs showed Kevin Yates’s latest works, a scale-model container ship deconstructed by mirroring its vertical features, hinting at a vessel that could either be floating or sinking. The ship piece was accompanied by a video projection, adorning a cross-shaped mirroring effect onto quiet water surface patterns. Georgia Scherman Projects exhibited both the early and recent works of Suzy Lake (part of Contact festival), and Birch Libralato boasted Howard Simkins’ new paintings. Farther down Niagara Street, we find the lavender-clad premises of Diaz Contemporary, hosting an exhibition by Vancouver based abstract painter Elizabeth McIntosh.

Elizabeth McIntosh, Pink Nude, Exhibition view at Diaz Contemporary, 2012. Courtesy of Diaz Contemporary

In close proximity to the latter four galleries stands Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation, a building camouflaging its true nature with a frontal signage saying: ‘Uniforms Registered”. This, we are told is a leftover relic from the building’s previous owner. Inside however blazes an immaculate gallery space now showing STRAIT-JACKET (a title inspired by a 1964 film by the same name, starring Joan Crawford), a long term exhibition curated by Dr. Hendeles herself from her own collection to include works by Pipilotti Rist, Barbara Kruger, Robert Gober et al, in juxtaposition with antique objects such as Punch & Judy puppets, as well as Joan Crawford’s original 14K gold bracelets she wore in the said film, and more.

Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation on King Street W, Toronto. Photo by M-KOS

Finally, M-KOS witnessed LA artist Kerry Tribe’s production at The Power Plant, located by Toronto’s Waterfront. The exhibition entitled Speak, Memory comprised the Canadian premiere of her latest film There Will Be _____ (2012) and two other filmic installations HM (2009) and Parnassius mnemosyne (2010). Tribe investigates the inaccuracy and vulnerability of memory using meticulously manipulated media, making her show one of the most striking for this Art Marathon.

Film still, Kerry Tribe, There will be _________, 2012. Courtesy of 1301PE, LA

Typical to Canada’s art system, Toronto manifests a strong infrastructure of artist-run spaces that not only provide exhibition opportunities for artists but also allow them to take on more experimental projects. Although Canada admittedly lags in clinching a competitive, internationally renowned art market, Toronto does stand at the center of the country’s cultural economy. Recently two of Montreal top commercial venues opened branches in Toronto to promote the sales and profiles of Quebec artists. Unfortunately, due to lack of time or gallery closure, M-KOS will need to come back another moment to cover many other notable venues like Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, Clint Roesnich, Daniel Faria Gallery, Scrap Metal, Paul Petro, Art Metropole, A Space and YYZ. The art scene in Toronto is certainly a busy one.

Lynne Cohen, Untitled (Malevich) 2011. Scotibank Fine Art Collection (part of Contact Phtography Festival)

Richard Mosse, Kabila Kabanga, 2010. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY (part of Contact Phtography Festival)

Jon Rafman, Rv888, Finnmark Norway, 2010. Courtesy the artist and Angell Gallery (part of Contact Phtography Festival)

Gwenaël Bélanger, 100 rue Blainvill Ouest, 2009. Courtesy Galerie Graff, MTL; Nettie Horn, London. (part of Contact Phtography Festival)

Suzy Lake, Suzy Lake as Françoise Sullivan, 1975/2012. Courtesy Georgia Shcerman Projects. (part of Contact Phtography Festival)

Kevin Yates, Ship in a Bottle, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Susan Hobbs

Kevin Yates, Stones on Ice, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Susan Hobbs

Howard Simkins, Untitled, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Birch Libralato.

Michelle Gay, Retrieval Pictures, 2012. Installation view at Birch Libralato. Courtesy the the artist and Birch Libralato.

Susan Hobbs, Georgia Scherman Projects and Birch Libralato on Tecumseth Street. Photo by M-KOS

Liza Eurich, Slab, 2012. Halved plinth and photocopies of hand marbled paper. From “It Exists In the Cut” at MKG127. Courtesy the artist and MKG127

Liza Eurich, In Two Parts, 2012. 100 hand bound books. From “It Exists In the Cut” at MKG127. Courtesy the artist and MKG127

MKG127 on Ossington Avenue. The gallery now has a plan to move to a bigger space

Elizabeth McIntosh, Beginner’s Luck, 2011. From “Pink Nude” at Diaz Contemporary. Courtesy the artist and Diaz Contemporary.

Elizabeth McIntosh, Books on Tables, 2011. From “Pink Nude” at Diaz Contemporary. Courtesy the artist and Diaz Contemporary.

Gordon Peterson, Nightmare, exhibition view at G Gallery, 2012. Courtesy the artist and G Gallery. Photo by M-KOS

Gordon Peterson, Series of Painting “Nightnare”. Courtesy the artist and G Gallery. Photo by M-KOS

G Gallery entrance in the backyard. Photo by M-KOS

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