Dan Adler

  • picks November 21, 2008

    Spring Hurlbut

    Set in a darkened room, Spring Hurlbut’s hypnotic video Airborne (all works 2008) begins with a woman wearing a mask—presumably for protection from toxic chemicals—gently removing the lid from a container. Its dusty contents waft through the air. One might first associate this dispersal of hazardous particles with a terrorist act, such as 9/11 or a letter laced with anthrax powder. However, after instigating this smoky event, the woman leaves the scene. Her absence suggests a laboratory space in which rates of evaporation or combustion are recorded by the camera’s cold and objective gaze. This

  • Kelly Richardson

    In this exhibition, Kelly Richardson toyed with the limits of photography and video while playing with the notion of the manufactured landscape. The photographs Scene Setter #3 and Scene Setter #4 (both 2008), for example, depict lush picturesque lakes bordered by trees in an environment imbued with the artificial (the perspective appears slightly askew; the blue sky so flat and unmodulated as to imply digital enhancement). Unfortunately, however, the images are too subtly manipulated to stray far from a sentimental postcard aesthetic.

    Scene Setter #1 and Scene Setter #2 (both 2008), however,

  • Geoffrey Farmer

    Geoffrey Farmer’s video The Fountain People, 2008, consists of footage of a fountain located in front of an escalator, most likely in an upscale shopping center. While waiting for some narrative to commence, and perhaps for the titular characters to appear, one must make do with the banal sight of spouting water, the dull glow of lights underwater, and the sedating stream of Muzak. In the accompanying installation, the two typewritten pages affixed to the wall provide little interpretive guidance but allude to strange aquatic forces that covertly watch, surround, and transform in ways analogous

  • Paulette Phillips

    ENTREZ LENTEMENT. That warning is accompanied, in Paulette Phillips’s prints Knock Knock One, Two, and Three (all works 2008), by images of overlapping photographs depicting a building’s interior. Blurred details and small holes in each of these suggest that they are snapshots—perhaps once pinned to a studio wall—that have been scanned and enlarged against colored paper. Typical of the artist’s pictures, the work combines enticing visual features—in this instance, a shiny surface and collage aesthetic—with an ambiguous narrative.

    An association between domestic architecture and the uncanny is

  • picks May 16, 2008

    Yvonne Singer

    The title of Yvonne Singer’s installation, Signs of Life; an intimate portrait of someone I don’t know, 2008, may at first seem misplaced, as the piece is mostly composed of numerical and bureaucratic documentation. The value of Singer’s project resides in the capacity of this impersonal information to speak to the patient viewer on emotive, aesthetic, and metaphoric levels.

    Affixed to one wall are three long rows of hand-rendered charts that laboriously trace medication use over the course of over ten years. Scrawled at the top of several of the graph-paper sheets is the word PREDNISONE, a

  • picks May 13, 2008

    Arnaud Maggs

    Arnaud Maggs’s series “Contamination,” 2007, consists of photographs of water-damaged pages from an aged ledger book. The exhibited images contain no recorded transactions. Given this lack of information, the marks that are present on the delicately frayed paper take on metaphoric values that are surprisingly rich. This semantic wealth is made possible in part because Maggs has enlarged the book spreads to a scale conducive to the detailed and respectful viewing of an artifact that has obviously suffered.

    Each picture features a pair of facing pages with images that mirror each other: straight

  • Kadar Brock

    Night Time Is the Right Time, Radar Love, and Electric Avenue (all works 2007) were the largest and most arresting pictures on view in Kadar Brock’s recent solo exhibition of abstract paintings, “You Only Live Once.” And despite their sentimentalizing pop-music titles, there was indeed the danger of meeting a clangorous end from cardiac arrest when initially confronted by this discordant mélange of techniques, styles, and colors.

    First drawn to the canvases’ garish fluorescent yellows and pinks, the eye then wanders anxiously among an array of layered, juxtaposed, and overlapping geometric shapes.

  • Marla Hlady

    Marla Hlady takes apart and rebuilds machines that make sounds. In recent years she has been preoccupied with rigging domestic objects, including toy drummers and teapots, to produce unexpected tones. Playing Piano, 2007, an installation shown recently at YYZ Artists’ Outlet, represents a shift toward a larger scale and a more accessible context. Striking in its complex barrage of visual and musical stimuli, the work consists of a late-1920s player piano with keyboard and bellows compressor removed (here to the front of the exhibition space). The parts still function to produce an audible rhythm,

  • picks March 26, 2008

    Martin Golland

    Each of Martin Golland’s recent paintings is based on a photograph taken by the artist of an architectural environment. The works frequently focus on entrances, windows, and other peripheral areas of buildings, which, treated by Golland as backdrops for gestural mark-making, yield unexpected metaphoric qualities. The composition of Tapered Window, 2007, is dominated by a diagonal wall adorned with a troubling array of bloody stains, scruffy white flourishes, and passages of fecal brown. Beyond the wall is a room with a window framed by what looks like blond wood—a chromatic contrast to surroundings

  • Graham Gillmore

    THANKS FOR NOTHING-NESS: The words are carved in rounded block letters, into a glossy, enamel-painted wooden panel. True to its word, Graham Gillmore’s Thanks for Nothing (Ness), 2007, features . . . nothing else. But despite the dearth of imagery, there is plenty of visual interest here: in the controlled aggression of the excavated picture plane, in the delicate shadows cast within each letter, and in the tiny dots that result from the heat emitted by the artist’s router. All these features lend an unexpected gravitas to the otherwise dismissive phrase, the sarcastic tone of the underlined “

  • Martin Bennett

    In a coincidental prelude to “The Geometry of All Four Seasons,” an exhibition of Martin Bennett’s new oil paintings, the doorway of Clint Roenisch Gallery was littered with maple leaves. Suggestive of a loose grid in faded tones of brown, rust, green, and gray, the leaves provided a fortuitous tactile complement to the largest picture on view, Static Image Painting/Brown/Boat/Villa Borghese, 2006–2007. The work features a not-so-scenic nature scene based on a photographic image—taken, as the title makes plain, on the grounds of the famed Roman museum—featuring birds, a man rowing a boat, and

  • Kelly Mark

    The highlight of Kelly Mark’s recent survey exhibition—curated by Barbara Fischer at two of the University of Toronto’s main galleries—was REM, 2007, an installation reflecting the artist’s long-standing preoccupations with television culture, repetitive labor, and wasted time. The work consisted of four makeshift living rooms kitted out like the sets of domestic sitcoms. Each space was furnished with a TV and other items referencing a range of class and cultural signifiers. These included a white shag rug, an expanse of Buren-esque striped carpeting, a banged-up coffee table, a glass

  • Carsten Höller

    I ALWAYS SAY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU SAY was the apt greeting at Carsten Höller’s recent exhibition “One, Some, Many” at Shawinigan Space, an enormous former aluminum smelting factory that served as a summer outpost of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The phrase is repeated textually and orally—as an English subtitle and spoken Japanese—by a pair of identical Japanese women in Höller’s Tokyo Twins, 2005–2007. The two talking heads appear on monitors that here faced one another, sentinel-like, across the gallery entrance. Recalling Bruce Nauman’s absurdly reductive enunciations in his

  • picks October 31, 2007

    Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky

    Installed as an evenly distributed, sprawling configuration on the weathered floor of this gallery, Vancouver-based artists Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky’s “Clutter Sculptures” depict clusters of everyday objects—derived mainly from the studio, the home, and the hardware store—in a manner that often yields a startling expressive complexity, given their lack of descriptive details and their limited range of commercial colors. These objects are metal and foam armatures approximating the shapes of mundane things—such as paint cans—which the artists have covered with thick layers of plaster,

  • Iain Baxter&

    Aside from functioning as a mild irritant (it’s all too easy to read it as a typo), the ampersand legally appended to Iain Baxter’s name serves a conceptual end by designating others as fellow authors of his oeuvre. For Baxter&—a pioneering figure who first adopted a light-box format for photographs depicting banal streetscapes in and around Vancouver back in the ’60s—this dispersal of authorship has been almost too effective, given the signature styles of more prominent Vancouver School artists such as Jeff Wall and Roy Arden. Baxter&’s lack of recognition, particularly outside of Canada, is

  • Liz Magor

    Liz Magor’s recent exhibition of sculpture was one of her best to date, combining—with the formal refinement we have come to expect from her—a nuanced mixture of references to domesticity and wildlife, still life, religious art, and Minimalism.

    A pair of sculptures, Bedside and Dresser (all works 2007), installed on the ground floor of the gallery, address the tensions that exist between private and public contexts for the display of artworks and other objects. Each work features a cast of a deer’s head, occupying a shelving unit attached to the wall with large triangular brackets so that it

  • Monika Napier

    Given the severe material restrictions she imposes on her practice, Monika Napier’s sculpture is surprisingly expressive and complex. Her recent exhibition at Mercer Union featured a single, sprawling installation, Power Cord Series: nexus, 2007, which was composed solely of electrical cords, plastic twist ties, and what looked like old-fashioned price tags. Although some of the cords were plugged into outlets, any speculation about their functionality was arrested by their lack of convergence with any appliances and their dispersion throughout the gallery. Some lone cords extended from the

  • picks April 25, 2007

    Dean Baldwin

    Dean Baldwin’s exhibition “Attempt at an Inventory” reflects the Toronto-based artist’s preoccupations with the themes of consumption and self-documentation. Small photographs of food and drink are displayed as an enormous grid covering one gallery wall. The work indicates almost everything ingested by Baldwin during the course of 2006. Recalling the long-term duration and diaristic intent of Stephen Shore’s photography, each item in Baldwin’s culinary journey is depicted from above; this uniformity provides the project with a subtle flavor of rigor that is enhanced by the arrangement of material:

  • Allison Hrabluik

    Allison Hrabluik’s recent show featured a video, a sculpture, and three pictorial works exploring landscape and the idea of a rural life revolving around the seasons, winter in particular. Hrabluik’s projected video Rossendale, 2006, incorporates stop-motion animation of a man performing menial farm tasks, such as pitching hay, sawing wood, drawing liquid fuel from a barrel, and tinkering in a workshop. These simple jobs are made strange and symbolic by the jerkiness of the movement and the continual alternation between scenes of actual labor and images of toylike models of the farm’s structures,

  • picks March 20, 2007

    Johannes Zits

    Johannes Zits’s new exhibition, entitled “Digital Twist: New Works on Nakedness,” features two series of photo-based works and a video (all 2007) that explore the subject of public nudity. The highlight of the show is a group of digital prints that combine found images of naked people with abstract motifs flatly rendered in pure colors. Derived from the Internet, the photographs convey widely differing motivations for shedding clothes. In Confrontation, a man taunts police in riot gear; here nudity functions to enhance an activist’s outrage. The cause of exhibitionistic thrills appears to inspire