Last chances ...
In the final throes of my catch-up -- and moments before the Contact onslaught descends -- I wanted to point you to a handful of shows in their waning moments that are worth a look, if you haven't already.
Helpfully, they're all clustered side-by-each along a quiet stretch of Tecumseth Street a little south of Queen, which makes it easier. From South to North:
1. Toni Hafkenscheid and Richard Storms at Birch Libralato:
Hafkenscheid has always been one of my favourite Toronto artists working in photography, so I was disappointed to learn that I'd miss 3/4 of his first show here in a few years. But that was the only disappointment: For years, I've found Hafkenscheid's gifts with the tilt-shift technique to be nothing short of mesmerizing (Leah Sandals, who spoke to Toni, tells you more about here). In a nutshell, the technique compresses the visual field in such a way that the subjects become hyper-realized; you feel like you're staring at a photo of a tiny, precise, slightly-too-perfect model of the real thing.
That was how I felt, at least, when I saw Hafkenscheid's pictures of iconic Washington, D.C. landmarks like the Washington Monument at his last show, a few years ago; the pictures seemed to represent not just the subjects, but a hazy, colour-saturated, idealized dream of them, which fits their nationalistic function so perfectly. Here, Hafkenscheid shoots what he calls "relics of the future," and the images take on a similar unreality, albeit a touch more bleak; the Hoover Dam, above, has the chilly air of an abandoned utopian order, waiting for the perfection that never arrived. Hafkenscheid has also cntributed to one of the public installations for Contact this year, at TTC subway stations.
Storms, meanwhile, is an interesting pairing, in that his painting practice has always been drawn from the blur of images that flash by us through the news media everyday (Storms is highly familiar with this; his day job is as a graphic artist with CBC news). Throwaway photos filtered through the contemplative -- and much slower -- process of painting embue the images with significance where there was once just disposability, which gives you some pause when you think about the millions that slip past, unnoticed. Until May 8
This one's not going -- it's gone, as of April 24, and I regret not posting about it sooner. I've always liked Hurlbut's work, which tends to engage with notions of mortality, both personally and more broadly. I remember, a few years back, a show of hers at Prefix, in which she showed photos of the ashes of several deceased subjects, each of them named: Mary, Scarlett, James (her father). Most were delicately arranged on black fabric, lending the pale, dusty remains an otherworldly, almost cosmic air; others rooted the series on the ground, with ashes bound in small plastic bags being weighed on small scales.
In any case, I found them captivating, a thoughtful engagement with the notion of mortality, and what's left behind For the Scherman show in April, Hurlbut showed a series of "portraits," of a sort, of ventriloquist dummies from the 50s. You can see them as relics, for one thing-- name the last time you saw a ventriloquist act -- but also as the remains of a dead practice. The difference is, unlike us, they retain their form -- the remains of a relationship with a puppet-master long-since past, and just as dead because of it.
3. Scott Lyall at Susan Hobbs
Lyall describes his shows as “scenographies more than sculpture,” and if you think of his 2008 Power Plant show "The Colour Ball," you'll get what he means: It appeared to be a stage set for a performance of some kind yet to come -- or just finished -- and suspended in time as it was, it left you to quizzically complete the picture for yourself. At the Hobbs gallery, Lyall's show, "Early Video," is notable because, well, there isn't any -- the gallery space shows a selection of colourfully scribbled drawings, some on the wall, some propped against it on the floor. Apparent patches of pale paint -- actually, meticulously rendered sheafs of powder-coated vinyl, as Jen has helpfully pointed out below -- on the otherwise-white gallery walls suggest something unfinished; it's as though something happened here to interrupt the process mid-stream, abruptly emptying the room. You're left to wonder if they're ever coming back.