Construction update


Greetings friends and followers!

We hope you are having an enjoyable holiday season so far. Here’s a quick post to update you on what’s been happening at TYPOLOGY. Since our last post, we’ve reached the final stages of completion for phase one of our new website, and will be ready to launch in the new year. We’re excited to soon be bringing you an official introduction to the project space, information on what’s to come, and guidelines for artists and curators who may be interested in participating. Also we’ll be moving our blog, Typologica, to a new home within the website, from which we’ll continue to post updates, reviews, and news as we prepare for our grand opening later in 2013.

Construction continues over on Shaw Street as well. In a message from Artscape, we were informed that the City building permits were finally obtained over the summer and extensive renovations have commenced, including:

— Interior mechanical electrical and structural demolition
— Infrastructure for the new elevator that will make the building completely barrier-free
— Installation of steel beams to provide structural support for new partition walls
— Demolition and installation of new roof
— Structural work to shore up attic support for new HVAC equipment that will be installed on the roof
— Repair and restoration to the exterior masonry
— Installation of new double-glazed windows which replicate the original windows

So, lots happening behind the scenes!

Thanks for all the interest and support over the past year and best wishes for a wonderful break over the next few weeks. We’ll look forward to catching up with you in 2013!

After the storm: Denyse Thomasos

The past week has been a whirlwind in many ways, not least because of the devastation Hurricane Sandy wreaked on the East Coast. Here in Toronto, we saw howling winds, a week of rain, and trees down, but nothing like the floods and power outages to our south. As cleanup began over the weekend in New York and New Jersey, we kept tabs on our friends’ progress down there while confronting a wholly unrelated, yet no less saddening tragedy up here — the death of a person we didn’t even know.

Denyse Thomasos in her studio, in a portrait taken by her husband of two years, Samein Priester. She also leaves behind their two-year old adopted daughter, Syann.

Denyse Thomasos, raised in Toronto but based in New York since graduating from Yale’s MFA program in 1989, died suddenly this past summer at the age of 47 after what was supposed to be a routine medical procedure. Represented by Olga Korper in Toronto and Lennon, Weinberg in New York, she was at the height of a career distinguished by bold, politically-engaged, semi-abstract paintings filled with light, colour, and the electrifying energy of her urban experiences traveling around the world.

At last weekend’s memorial exhibition and celebration at Olga Korper Gallery, Gaetane Verna‘s tearful and moving speech touched on Thomasos’ life as a traveler and a transplant (she was born in Trinidad and moved to Canada at the age of 6 in the wake of political violence) using Thomasos’ own words: “To experience exile is to live in the faith of a homecoming.”

Later, her studio assistant from the past two summers would relate how Thomasos worked “absolutely intuitively, painting like a storm” — an apt metaphor, made particularly resonant in light of nature’s recent show of force. (Incidentally, Thomasos lived in the East Village, an area that was affected by the hurricane last week).

In closing, she said, “Even if you didn’t know her, her paintings are her.” If so, then Thomasos must have been a confident, assertive, open, and wonderfully expressive person; gathering and spilling over with energy and life. In short, a true force of nature herself.

Above and below, works from the memorial exhibition, presumably in various stages of completion, ranging from monumental wall-sized compositions to spatial sketches on tiny canvases.


All works by Denyse Thomasos, contact Olga Korper Gallery for details. Portrait of Thomasos in her studio by her husband Samein Priester. All other photos by Shani K Parsons

Art Toronto 2012: Highlights from the Fair

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Two Planets: Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass and the Thai Villagers, 2008,
digital pigment print, Tyler Rollins Fine Art, New York

The Toronto International Art Fair is bigger and better than ever, having eclipsed Art Chicago (which was canceled earlier this year) as Merchandise Mart’s only North American art fair north of the border and not on the coasts. (In case you’re wondering, Merchandise Mart, which also runs The Armory Show, Volta Basel and NY, and Art Platform Los Angeles, was itself recently bought and renamed by Swiss media conglomerate, Informa Plc.)

With over a hundred exhibitors from 23 continents, more than 20,000 visitors expected to attend, and projected sales in excess of $20 million, Art Toronto 2012 set itself apart this year with a rich program of panel discussions and curator’s tours co-developed with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the Power Plant, and the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (MoCCA), a diverse selection of artists and galleries highlighted within the Focus ASIA area and exhibition, the AGO’s ongoing and very visible acquisition program, a capsule exhibition of the RBC Canadian Painting Competition finalists for 2012, and a focus on the fresh perspectives offered by newer galleries in the Next section.

Focus ASIA, Beyond Geography exhibition view with Tromarama’s Ons Aller Belang in the foreground and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled 2008–2011 (the map of the land of the feeling) I, II, III in the background

A tour given by Focus ASIA co-curator Katherine Don was impressive in its scope. The feature exhibition, titled Beyond Geography, framed contemporary Asian art as a politically and socially engaged, cross-disciplinary, and multifarious state of affairs unconstrained by territorial or national borders even as issues of identity continue to be interrogated. The result was a strong yet nuanced and diverse selection of work by artists hailing from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and beyond, practicing anywhere from Shanghai, to New York, to our own backyard in Toronto. Visits to some of the galleries within the section yielded an even wider selection of media and artistic approaches, balanced between more and less identity-driven practices.

Sheau-Ming Song, Linen and Masking Tapes, 2012, oil on Belgian linen, Galleria H, Taipei, Taiwan

Sheau-Ming Song’s work plays with gesture, materiality, and abstraction in creating images not overtly concerned with issues of identity.

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Two Planets: Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass and the Thai Villagers, 2008, single channel video, Tyler Rollins Fine Art, New York

Video was by turns humorous, poetic, and incisive both within Focus ASIA and at the fair as a whole. Likewise, painting was extremely prominent within the larger fair, visually outweighing sculpture and photography in its sheer quantity and variety. Still, it was sculpture and photography that often stopped us in our tracks. Above and below, some snapshots and highlights from our two days at the fair, with links to exhibitors following each image.

Poklong Anading, Anonymity, 2008–2012, photographic transparency print, lightbox series with 9 unique photographs, Galerie Zimmermann Kratochwill, Graz, Austria and Manila, Philippines

Poklong Anading’s striking photographs featuring Quezon City residents holding mirrors to their faces is a powerful and affecting mediation on the post-colonial Philippines’ struggles for identity.

Ken Matsubara, selected Movie Objects, 2010–2012, MA2 Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

Ken Matsubara’s self-described Movie Objects were the talk of the fair. Viewed within antique boxes and frames on the wall, or more mysteriously, through the bottoms of water-filled glasses set on small tables or stools, video vignettes transformed portrait photographs and falling objects into ghostly apparitions of wonder. Click on the images above for two video clips from selected works on view.

Marie-Claire Blais, Brûler les yeux fermés s_15, 2012, acrylic spray on canvas, Galerie René Blouin, Montreal

Marie-Claire Blais’ sparkling canvases and works on paper are aglow with ocular events and organic processes at both ends of the cosmic scale, from the realm of quantum fuzz to formations of nebulae and galaxies. In general, galleries from Quebec were well represented and made a strong showing at the fair.

Jessica Bradley’s booth was one of our favourites. Roughly divided between gestural or painterly markmaking on one side, and figurative abstraction on the other, Bradley’s display was a clear, cohesive representation of two facets of her curatorial approach and interests. Of particular interest were the wonderfully textural paintings of Sasha Pierce and rising star Julia Dault, shown in greater detail below.

Julia Dault, New Wave, 2012, oil on vinyl, Jessica Bradley, Toronto

Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based Julia Dault is making waves in both painting and sculpture, here and in New York where she currently lives and works. We saw her taut, muscular rolled-sheet sculptures at the New Museum’s triennial, The Ungovernables, this past spring, and are looking forward to seeing her similarly tactile, weighty, and richly material painting again one day at the AGO; New Wave was one of three works purchased as part of the museum’s annual Art Toronto acquisition program.

Sasha Pierce, Laguna Agate, 2012, oil on linen, Jessica Bradley, Toronto

Sasha Pierce’s jawdroppingly detailed works on canvas are visual explosions of what seem to be intricately knitted threads of richly coloured paint. Hovering between painting, sculpture, and the textiles they resemble, they beg to be marveled at — and touched. We of course did no such thing, but got close enough to practically touch with our eyes, and the image was no less mind-boggling from mere inches away. Despite our attempts to document Dault’s and Pierce’s tromp l’oiel textures digitally, both must be seen to be believed.

Denyse Thomasos, Untitled, 2012, acrylic on canvas, Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto

Denyse Thomasos’ wall-sized canvas, full of life and vibrant urban spirit, is made all the more poignant knowing the artist died just a few months ago, much too young, and at the peak of her career.

Exhibition view featuring paintings by Celia Neubauer and Alex Bierk, General Hardware Contemporary, Toronto

In General Hardware Contemporary’s engaging and eclectic booth, Celia Neubauer’s hybrid landscape frames Eastern-inspired views through industrially-shaped apertures — a lyrical foil to Alex Bierk’s deadpan family portraits of his late father, artist David Bierk, and his brother, Sebastian, better known as Sebastian Bach of Skid Row fame.

Scott Everingham, Cotton Lodge, 2012, oil on canvas, Galerie Trois Points, Montreal

Above, Scott Everingham builds a castle in the sky (actually, a Cotton Lodge, based on the title) using attenuated lines, swipes of colour, and barely-there two-point perspective. Everingham is represented by Galerie Trois Points in Montreal, but Torontonians will get another chance to see his work early next year in a show at General Hardware Contemporary.

David Burdeny, Oyster Farm, Vietnam, 2012, archival pigment print, Jennifer Kostuik Gallery, Vancouver

David Burdeny, Matrix, South China Sea, 2011, archival pigment print, Jennifer Kostuik Gallery, Vancouver

The territory between abstraction and representation continues to be fertile ground for painterly explorations of architectural space within landscapes both actual and imaginary. Meanwhile, these photographs by David Burdeny capture the unreal in the real, documenting otherworldly waterscapes from China and Vietnam.

Exhibition view featuring works by Juan Ortiz-Apuy (sculpture and photographs at right) and Mathieu Beauséjour (drawings at left), Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran, Montreal

And finally, newcomer Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran, another of our favourite booths, featured a strong and well-edited selection of work by Juan Ortiz-Apuy, Mathieu Beauséjour, and Jacynthe Carrier. Costa Rican-born, Montreal-based Ortiz-Apuy’s breathing suitcases are simultaneously witty and strange embodiments of the tribulations of placelessness – whether self-imposed through travel, or forced due to migrations or disasters. Beaséjour’s presence was seen, felt, and heard, through the sound of his beating heart reverberating within the tremor of a massive gong — whether inducement to comfort or dread depends upon the viewer’s own emotional and perceptual baggage.

Jacynthe Carrier, Parcours, 2012, video, Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran, Montreal

Carrier’s equally enigmatic video, Parcours, has a diverse group of people, some carrying bundles of fabric or foam, running circles through a wet and barren landscape. The elemental sounds (water, footfalls, breathing), and seeming absurdity or futility of a collective race to nowhere triggers poetic associations and questions of survival, our relationship to possessions, the environment and each other, and ultimately the value of life itself.

In the air: Exhibits, books, and yes, binders full of women

Staff at the Mechanics Institute, Toronto, 1895, from Toronto Reference Library Archives

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that the internet’s been ablaze with binder references since Mitt Romney’s infamous gaffe during the 2nd presidential debate just over a week ago. Not only have the inevitable Tumblr and Twitter accounts blown up with remarkable speed and fury, Amazon saw an explosion of satirical binder reviews submitted in the debate’s wake, raising this form of crowdsourced art to a whole new level of political engagement.

Here in Toronto, we were surprised and not just a bit delighted to see the Toronto Reference Library jump into the game with their timely blog post, “Binders full of women: Etchings at the Toronto Reference Library“. Featuring an extensive engravings collection of 18th and 19th century actors, dancers, and japanese kabuki prints, as well as hundreds of thousands of historical fashion, graphic design, and advertising images organized by decade, we’d argue that the TRL’s binders inspire a bit more confidence than Romney’s — and at the very least are probably quite a bit thicker.

Druckworks: 40 Years of Books and Projects by Johanna Drucker, Columbia College Chicago

Back in the US of A, another woman has been making waves in the world of artists books since 1972. Joanna Drucker is a prolific book artist, writer, and scholar/critic who is internationally known for her work in visual poetics and digital aesthetic theory. Her retrospective, titled DRUCKWORKS: 40 Years of Books and Projects by Johanna Drucker, is on view at Columbia College Chicago through December 7th, and will travel to the San Francisco Center for the Book in May 2013. A full-length catalogue is available through the Center for Book and Paper Arts here. (via Pedro Velez/@JonesDistrict)

Drucker also co-founded the Journal of Artists’ Books with Brad Freeman in 1994, and as the longest-running journal in the field it has become a record of the development of the art form. The beautiful current issue, JAB32: From Portugal, traces the history, ideas, people, and works that define experimental publishing, art, and poetry in Portugal from the mid–twentieth century to the present day.

Various artists, KWY covers 1958–1964, photograph by Filipe Braga

Exhibition view, Postscript: Writing after Conceptual Art, at MCA Denver

Speaking of experimental publishing, the reviews are out for Postscript: Writing after Conceptual Art, an exhibition we previewed earlier on the blog. Befitting today’s theme, it is curated by two women (Nora Burnett Abrams and Andrea Andersson, friends both), and approaches art and language through its examination of conceptual strategies of appropriation, redaction, transcription, translation and constraint. A major publication will be available next year, hopefully in time for the exhibition’s opening here at the Power Plant in June. Currently on view at MCA Denver.

João Onofre, Catriona Shaw Sings “Baldessari sings LeWitt” re-edit, “Like a Virgin” extended version, 2003

Read “Postscript: MCA Denver defines language as an art medium” at 303 Magazine
Read “Re-use of Language: The exhibition Postscript brings together experimental literature and contemporary art”, featuring an interview with Nora Burnett Abrams, at Magenta Magazine

Lastly, we greatly enjoyed Sheila Heti’s review of Sophie Calle’s The Address Book for The Believer Logger. Having found an address book on the streets of Paris in the 1980s, Calle proceeds to contact each person listed within for an interview about its owner. A fascinating project which makes Vito Acconci’s Following Piece seem tame by comparison, Calle’s transgressions were published as a series of articles in the Libération until the address book’s owner threatened to sue. Ultimately (and luckily for us) he agreed to its publication after his death, and the result is Siglio Press’ lovely little volume, featuring a luminous series of photographs and designed in collaboration with Calle herself.

Read more about The Address Book on the Siglio Press website, where the book is now available for purchase at a discount in advance of wide release.

Big ups to the ladies then! For even more inspiration, read this editorial by the legendary Judy Chicago earlier this month in The Guardian“We women artists refuse to be written out of history”.

Judy Chicago, Bigamy Hood; photograph: Donald Woodman

(thanks: Megan Park)

Too much photography: The passions of Martin Parr

Martin Parr, Kleine Scheidegg, 1994

Martin Parr gave a great talk at the AGO last night — by turns witty, irreverent (why do photobook intro texts “always seem to mention Robert Frank, or Walker Evans, or Atget? It’s boring as fuck!”), serious, and sincere. For over 40 years, Parr has been obsessively documenting humanity’s obsessions, turning his camera on formerly overlooked aspects of modern life including consumer culture, the middle class, tourism, bad weather, the British, the bureaucratic, and the boring. In the process, he has forever changed how we look at and use photography — both to examine and understand ourselves as much as the other — generating through thousands of images an exhaustive yet strangely intimate anthropology of the absurd.

There is no dearth of writing on the work and influence of this internationally known photographer, so we’ll just link to a few great articles below and leave you with some notes and quotes (mostly paraphrased) from the talk as well as a series of images from Parr’s presentation. Certainly they — and he — are best able to speak for themselves.

Martin Parr, Peter Turner, and Michael Fish, Bad Weather, 1982, A. Zwemmer Ltd, London

On bad weather:
In Britain, bad weather is a national obsession. Usually people wait for good weather to take photographs — if you go out with a camera on a sunny day, people will always say, “Great day for taking photographs!” — so I decided to go out only when the weather was bad. I found an underwater camera and flash — this was back in the early 80s — and was told that I was the first non-swimmer to purchase an underwater camera. Using the flash would transform the rain and snow into blobs on the image — and I liked these blobs. Depending on the camera settings, one can drastically change how an image represents the subject — in this way there is an inherent subjectivity to photography that is under the control of the photographer.

In 1982 Parr published Bad Weather as a photobook — the first of over 60 books, including limited edition artists books as well as mass market publications, that he has published to date.
More on Bad Weather by Harpreet–Khara

On collecting
I am a collector — of books, ephemera, memorabilia…. Even photography is a way of collecting the world in images, the organization of which is a way of trying to make sense of it all. I hated Margaret Thatcher, and couldn’t fathom why someone would want to own a plate with her face on it — so I started collecting Margaret Thatcher memorabilia. I collect plates, photographic trays, postcards — sometimes the photo is so bad it becomes good, and this is a territory I am interested in. Postcards especially are illustrations of social history. When I was young and the M.I. Motorway was new, it was considered a treat to be taken onto it. Now, of course, it is not. 

Martin Parr also collects Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi watches (the latter being much rarer than the former), and owns more than 12,000 photobooks. Incidentally, Parr’s greatest find from his time in Toronto is FILE Megazine by our own General Idea — the bookshop (Monkey’s Paw, we’re guessing) had only a few copies, so he’s now on the hunt for the rest of the set.

See our previous post featuring FILE Megazine

See more about Parr’s collections in these articles:
“Parrworld: Documenting or Staging?” on Metropolis M
On curating (and collecting trays): interview by Gordon MacDonald for Ideas and Ideals in Visual Culture
“The Poetics of the Motorway” by Emily Cleaver for Litro

Martin Parr, Conservative ‘Midsomer Madness’ party (1986-1989), Bath, Avon, England

On the boring and the British:
I wanted to find out if it could be possible to take an interesting photo of a very boring place. I am interested in aspects of modern life which are overlooked — for instance there were lots of photographs of the very poor and the very rich, but not much documenting the middle class. Everyone has their prejudices and I began to go to places I felt particularly averse to: craft fairs, aerobics classes, Conservative house parties. In this way I found I could explore my ambivalence about the UK through photography.

This body of work became the photobook Cost of Living, which Parr considers to be one of his most personal and successful projects, as he was able to “discover a technique and apply it in a way that really resonates”, defining a new style of photography for the time (mid- to late-1980s).

See a slideshow of more photographs from Britain on Phaidon’s website

Martin Parr, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, from Small World, 1990

On tourism:
I began to travel and shoot for magazines as a way to build my portfolio in pursuit of membership to Magnum — this was back when magazines had much larger budgets for photography. Through this I became interested in the disconnect between the mythology of places (Angkor Wat, the Acropolis, North Korea) and the reality of being there, jostling with hundreds of other tourists trying to get a clear shot.

In answer to a question on beauty:
For vacations, which I rarely go on since I love what I do so much, I suppose I go to beautiful places so I don’t feel the urge to take pictures.

Martin Parr, Acropolis, from Small World, 1991

Parr’s photobook Small World, contains some of his most iconic photos. Originally published in 1995, it was reissued in 2007 by Dewi Lewis Publishing. See more information and a brief interview about the book on The New Yorker’s website

Erik Kessels, Photography In Abundance, 2011, installation view at Foam, Amsterdam

On the future of photography:
People say that everything’s been photographed, but it’s not true. Making a connection to the subject matter through photography is what allows for original and exciting work. Now we know that all photographs are lies, and we’ve got to puncture that. Seeing the bad stuff (and I shoot lots of bad stuff myself) is important as it allows us to know when we are seeing something good. There are about 2000 new photobooks every year and I try to look at as many of them as possible. 

For an exhibition in Amsterdam Erik Kessels printed out every photo uploaded to Flickr in 24 hours and filled the gallery space with them. Facebook is an incredible archive of photographs — most of them boring, but a testament to the sheer amount of visual information out there. We’re lucky to be working in a time where we can print on demand. Anyone can go out and make a book for fifty bucks today.  

Other mentions include:
Redheaded Peckerwood, a photobook by Christian Patterson (see Brooklyn Rail article here, images on the artist’s website here)
the Becher School, of course (info and images on the MoMA website, see our post on typologies here)
Gary Winogrand, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, of course
Alec Soth (and how he self-published Sleeping by the Mississippi in and edition of 25 before gaining recognition for his work; see our posts featuring Soth here)
and other fellow Magnum members Donovan Wylie and Larry Towell (read about their stunning show at the Royal Ontario Museum earlier this year here)

In 2008 Parr curated an exhibition titled New Typologies for the New York Photo Festival, featuring some of our favourite contemporary artists including Penelope Umbrico, Jan Banning, and Joachim Schmid. See more in this review by Sarah Coleman.

Read more about Martin Parr’s career on the Magnum website
Parr has a blog! Read his last post (from April), titled “Too much photography” here

Bonus material:
“Ten Things Martin Parr Can Teach You About Street Photography” by Eric Kim, via Gallery 44
Watch Teddy Gray’s Sweet Factory, Parr’s wonderful 2011 documentary, on YouTube

In the air: Postscript to open and other news

Opening tomorrow at MCA Denver is Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art, a wide-ranging exhibition that features the work of over fifty artists and writers including Carl Andre, Fiona Banner, Erica Baum, Christian Bök, Marcel Broodthaers, Ryan Gander, Michelle Gay, Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, Glenn Ligon, Gareth Long, Michael Maranda, Seth Price, Kay Rosen, Dexter Sinister, Andy Warhol. Presenting works from the 1960s to the present, the exhibition includes paintings, sculpture, installation, video and works on paper which explore the artistic possibilities of language.

Co-curated by Nora Burnett Abrams and Andrea Andersson, Postscript will be accompanied by a major publication, featuring both scholarly essays and contributions by select writers and artists featured in the exhibition. Postscript will be traveling to The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Canada, in June 2013 — and we are very much look forward to seeing it.

The above has been excerpted from MCA Denver’s website. Read more on the exhibition here

In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings and speak its own language.

— Peter Zumthor

In recent news, Peter Zumthor has been awarded the 2013 Royal Gold Medal for lifetime achievement in architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). As RIBA President Angela Brady, states, “Peter Zumthor’s work renews the link with a tradition of modern architecture that emphasizes place, community and material practice. His writings dwell upon the experience of designing, building and inhabitation while his buildings are engaged in a rich dialogue with architectural history. I will be delighted to present him with the Royal Gold Medal.”

We are delighted as well — Zumthor’s 2011 Serpentine Pavilion was one of our favourites. See our post featuring his and all the other pavilions here
Read more about Zumthor’s award and achievements on the RIBA website
Pictured above is Zumthor’s amazing Kolumba Art Museum in Cologne, Germany. See more photos and information here

The Mona Lisa mystery continues, with experts now arguing over whether the Isleworth Mona Lisa is an authentic da Vinci, painted ten years earlier than the version in the Louvre and representing a that much more youthful Gioconda.

Read more on the debate at Discovery News

The Isleworth version is owned by the Mona Lisa Foundation, a Zurich-based consortium founded exclusively to research and analyze the painting, ostensibly to prove its authenticity. Their website is a visually rich, fascinating look at how art historians analyze and compare works of art in order to gauge not just authenticity with regard to artist, time period, materials, techniques, and provenance, but even the artist’s intent with respect to originality v. duplication, and response to the subject.

See detailed critical comparisons between the Isleworth Mona Lisa and the Louvre’s version (including an approach using age regression techniques!) on the Mona Lisa Foundation’s website

See our own post on the multiplicity of Monas here
The Mona Lisa Foundation has a comparison page here

Erica Baum, Examined, 2009, archival pigment print from the Dog Ear series, 9 x 9 inches, courtesy the artist and Bureau, New York
Peter Zumthor, Kolumba Art Museum, photo © Jose Fernando Vazquez
Side-by-side comparison of the Isleworth Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa Foundation and Mona Lisa – Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, Musée du Louvre 

Corner: John Armstrong and Paul Collins at General Hardware Contemporary

The image arrives as so many do these days, in our News Feed, onscreen. Superimposed upon nondescript boxes, thick lines in contrasting colours cross over each other, canceling the underlying image in a graphically powerful act of negation — it grabs our attention immediately. At first glance, it could be the document of a tricky installation; lines or forms projected or assembled in dimensional space, then photographed from a precise vantage point so as to resolve the fragmented reality into a convincingly flat, yet altogether illusory image. But doubt creeps in upon closer inspection, as the interplay between surface, depth, and detail begins to open the image to all manner of interpretation: are we in fact looking at a photograph of an installation, a painting of a photograph, a photograph of a painting?

A visit to the exhibition brings us closer to the truth — but a truth that is not at all simple. There are paintings on photographs, paintings on the surfaces of paintings, paintings on photographs of painted surfaces. There is even a painting on the surface of a moving image. In all these permutations we begin to see that for John Armstrong and Paul Collins, it is this literal intermixing of media which interests them; the spatial (im)possibilities that arise when our eyes and minds are faced with images in which differing visual realities have been mashed-up into a defamiliarizing new whole. Their collaborative process has been described as a “productive antagonism” — and perhaps not coincidentally this is also an apt metaphor for how their painted gestures engage photographic space, and how Corner as an exhibition confronts its audience as well.

The lines – varying in thickness, spacing, shape and hue – act upon but never completely obliterate the underlying image, and the resulting visual tension engages the eye in a dance (or battle) between graphic surface and perspectival space. Relationships emerge, telling visual stories: lines that express, emphasize, elide; images that retreat, reveal, resist. Details, too, are discerned: a face, a word, a space — but in a departure from previous pursuits this work eschews the textual in favour of the textural, and the act of reading becomes wholly subordinate to the facts of seeing: corners (where they exist), perspective, flatness, layering, rhythm, movement, and depth.

Of these facts, rhythm and movement are perhaps keys to understanding the process behind the work — and the artists did speak in musical terms throughout much of last week’s gallery talk with Bonnie Rubenstein. Performing a self-described call-and-response over transcontinental distances and durations, Armstrong and Collins create works which seem to warble, whisper, ring, reverberate, jangle, and clash — highly improvised compositions which willingly embrace visual dissonance en route to surprising harmonies of an unusually synesthetic order.

Corner is on view at General Hardware Contemporary through October 13
See more collaborative work by John Armstrong and Paul Collins here

images, from top to bottom:
John Armstrong and Paul Collins, NongfuCorner, 2012, oil on chromogenic print, 20 x 30 inches; St. Peter’s Corner, 2012, oil on chromogenic print, 20 x 30 inches; Qi Jiu Ga Gallery Corner, 2012, oil on chromogenic print, 20 x 30 inches; Dreamscape Corner, 2012, oil on chromogenic print, 20 x 30 inches; Corner, exhibition view at General Hardware Contemporary, 2012; last three photos by Shani K Parsons; all images courtesy General Hardware Contemporary

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