Friday, July 14, 2017

A Better Grange Park

John and I are often in the neighbourhood of Grange Park. After a year of landscaping and construction the park has reopened and is already attracting a wide variety of users.
The "Great Lawn" with its circular sidewalk, snuggles up to the front steps of the Grange (the Boulton family mansion, 1817) and to the south wall of the AGO.
It was fun to see a frisbee being tossed on one part of the lawn
while undisturbed under a nearby tree a family enjoyed a quiet picnic.
The walk leading up to the Great Lawn from the south features quotations from local poets.
Bill remembers swimming with Milton Acorn forty years ago at the adjacent University Settlement Community Centre (where we still swim today).
There is a new children's playground on the east side of the park,
with state-of-the-art equipment.
It has already been discovered by local children and summer activity groups.
The waterworks are another of the playground highlights --
providing a safe place for kids and their parents to play and cool down.
We liked William Pye's gleaming fountain, Acquaverde (2017) in the north-west corner.
Local dog owner's have already adopted the new off-leash dog park on the south-west corner 
The west side of the park features shade trees and more places for quiet contemplation
with Henry Moore's iconic sculpture, Large Two Forms,
looking very much at home in its woodland setting.
Kudos to the City of Toronto for this tremendous new public space -- an oasis in the density of the downtown core.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ydessa Hendeles at The Power Plant

In the final years of her Toronto foundation, Ydessa Hendeles began experimenting with a new form of art based on juxtaposing art and historical objects.
The Milliner's Daughter at the Power Plant in Toronto continues this work. It is her most ambitious, unified and successful project to date. 
The Milliner's Daughter is installed in seven rooms. From Her Wooden Sleep... (2013), is a room full of wooden artists' manikins. The manikins are presented in large groups
and more intimate, private groupings.
Bill particularly liked this life-sized articulated male figure
and I loved this narcissistic manikin enjoying its reflection.
In THE BIRD THAT MADE THE BREEZE TO BLOW (2006-2011) Hendeles juxtaposes a Deco-esque automaton car/airplane with framed reproductions of Gustave Doré's illustrations for Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Here is Doré's illustration of the Mariner with his burden, the dead Albatross, around his neck. 
An oversize key with a Jumbo the Elephant logo awaits the winding up of the automaton car. (More about "Jumbo" later.)
When the car converts into a plane its front grill becomes a propeller.
In Crypt (2016)
a life-sized Santo figure, 
a reclining manikin in a vitrine
and a sitting manikin share a eerily lit room.
The narrow Fleck Clerestory houses a new piece: Blue Beard, 2016
with its looming pair of male and female manikins in vitrines.
 Canadian Child (2009) consists of two elements -- a photo of Ydessa as a child on a bike with a Union Jack and an oversized bicycle bell.
The Blue Beard sculptures look good from the second floor gallery.
The next room presents The Dead Jumbo (2011), with a newspaper photo of Jumbo the Elephant's death in St Thomas, Ontario 
along with Jumbo's obituary and a little tin bulldog reading the obit.
Note the "Jumbo" wind-up key that we last saw in the BIRD THAT MADE room.
Finally we visited Marburg! The Early Bird! (2008-2016) -- a room with a vitrine with the impoverished fairytale hero and his inheritance, Puss in Boots.
The Puss in the vitrine is particularly creepy.
By the way, keep an eye on the shadows. The "staging" and lighting of the rooms is terrific.
On the floor at the entrance is a very enlarged version of Gustave Doré's illustrated Puss in Boots book with an oversized pair of spectacles. The book is as big as a child's bed.
We loved this original oil painting by Doré of the famous cat in fierce form (note the mouse-snack hanging from his belt!).
Hendeles was born in Marburg when her parents settled there after they left Auschwitz. It is one of the German towns now featured in the Brothers Grimm tourist trail. 
There are many tightly woven threads in this exhibition. We've already been back for a second look. On until September 4th.

Friday, June 16, 2017

New Rodney Graham in NY

This spring John and I caught a great exhibition of Rodney Graham photographs at the 303 Gallery in Chelsea.
Do you know Graham's work? He creates large-scale, backlit, staged photographs -- think of the work of other West Coast Canadian artists Jeff Wall or Stan Douglas.
 Humour is a delightful element of his images and he often casts himself as the central figure. Coat Puller, 2017.
  One problem we had in recording the show was that the combination of natural and tungsten lighting in the gallery with the light from the backlit photographs caused colour balance chaos for our cameras.
Consider Antiquarian Sleeping in his Shop, 2017. 
 These details from Antiquarian are closer to the "actual" colour of the photograph.
 Media Studies '77, 2016
 Dinner Break (Salisbury Steak), 2017.
 True wit.
I loved this piece. Newspaper Man, 2017. 
Newspaper Man details
In the lobby of the gallery there were some published works from Rodney Graham's career.
John wants this 10" vinyl disc -- Rodney Graham Getting it Together in the Country: Some Works with Sound Waves, Some Works with Light Waves and Some Other Experimental Works. He immediately looked it up on Discogs -- it's already prohibitively expensive.