The latest iteration of the Grimsby Public Art Gallery‘s Biannual exhibition is, to appropriate the words from local artist / musician Avery Mikolič- O’Rourke, a much bolder exhibition than I expected.
Many works push the expectations – both in media and subject matter – that you might expect from a small community gallery. TERRORI$T, a massive work by Philip Hare, which seems initially almost gauche in its “loud” colours actually, upon more considered examination, has a dark sense of humour contrasting the pinks, yellows and blacks of the balaclava’d “terrorists” of the title. Next to it, two works by Gabrielle de Montmollin (Miss Pink and the Giraffes and Gold Bowl, Black Boots) offer her seemingly playful, but a touch disturbing, colour tableaux employing toys and other props in rich scenes. Miss Pink seems quite blase among her animal entourage, whereas Gold Bowl looks like a maquette for a murder (I recently encountered an image, in my social media feed, of an abandoned prosthetic factory in Eastern Europe, and the limbs there were haunted, in a similar style..and ‘haunt’, I must add, is a term for a space a predator may frequent to hunt…).
As with previous versions, there were multiple jurors selecting the works. All are wall works, even if “poking” out from it, as with Ted Karkut‘s indianyellow 1, whose golden curved black locust stems mime a shelter while threatening any who lean in too close. Emma Walters’ Good Luck – a photograph with mixed media – also plays with three dimensions, with what could be dark humour (in such a formally bright piece) or existential dread. Across the gallery is another piece I’ve been drawn to, on my repeated visits (do I need to say, with so many diverse works, that you must see it often, and perhaps make a point of visiting with works you may have “missed”, previously?). Carrie Perreault was in the previous Biannual Juried Exhibition, with what I considered the strongest work, as it “walked” across the gallery (you can see what I mean here).
Her etching / screen print / mixed media I have always taken the weather personally, VE 10/15 is like much of her work I’ve experienced: a formal delicacy and use of media with a title that displays her often personal and funny (even sarcastic) aesthetic. Next to Perreault is E.M. Carr, with Rifts in the Polar Night. Initially I read this is as a textured flatness, a contemporary revisiting / interpretation of [M]modernist legacies: as with Arnold McBay‘s For Kazimir which references Suprematist Kazimir Malevich, who, I say brooking no dissent, is the greatest painter of the first half of the 20th century (it is known. #artcriticfromhell has spoken). As in McBay’s gloppy oil stick on wood (maybe I leaned in to sniff it, as it seemed so corporeal, ahem), Carr’s mixed media on wood has spiderwebby, veiny “map” lines interspersed with chunky, thick patches that suggest plaster or clay. Again, despite the show being all wall work, sculptural elements manifest in numerous works (the texture of the grey clay in indianyellow 1, for example).
Photography is well represented here: Walters’ aforementioned piece, but Greg Smith’s Cyan Blue 1 & 3, nestled in a corner wall jamb, and Sylvia Galbraith‘s Vertigo would be hard pressed to be more different. Smith’s works are reminiscent of still lives, and the rough edges and the deep – I keep thinking “thick rich” – blues help lend a certain gravity to the vegetables Smith has created chosen to turn into “portraits” here. The singularity of the photogram (1) and cyanotype (3) makes them almost iconic. Galbraith’s Vertigo, however, is a much larger work, dark and tumultuous, like looking at an ocean surface that is in the midst of a storm: as implied by the title, the photograph is frantic and flowing and ebbing, unlike the stasis of Smith.
Marla Panko (curator, Carnegie Gallery), Stephanie Porter (Head of Education, Woodstock Art Gallery), past GPAG Director Mary Rashleigh and current Director Rhona Wenger have juried an “eclectic but strong” exhibition that (I’m citing Wenger, but I concur) includes “some of the best new works Ontario artists have to offer…from Windsor to Ottawa to Midland.”
Some of the names here are (hopefully) familiar and Wenger appropriately praises regional representation. If you had the chance to visit de Montmollin’s work in Now Here at AIH Studios in Welland, you’ll see how her works are narrative and yet enjoyably absurd. A further regional connection: I first encountered Tony Calzetta‘s “painted drawings”, also in Now Here, in a GPAG exhibition. David Samila‘s I Made Most of This Up: Hoodwinked and I Made Most of This Up: Crummy are fun and funny pieces, with a scribbly cartoon charm, executed in a direct style (gouache and watercolour on paper).
Like all shows in the Grimsby Public Art Gallery, the 2018 Biannual Juried Exhibition is only on display for approximately a month, closing on November 11. Its a striking show, bold and very different from the previous, a bit more mature, a bit less “safe” and pushing what a regional gallery might offer. The work that encapsulates the exhibition most perfectly for me is Hare’s TERRORI$T, both in that its hand stitched textile (not the only fabric work in the show, but too often, still, if something is NOT painting it gets short shrift in gallery spaces) and that the subject matter is political and dares, with his accompanying artist statement, to be relevant socially while consistently drawing me back to its corner of the gallery space due to its intensity and brilliance of execution.
This is a far better, far stronger, exhibition than I expected, both aesthetically and ideologically. Go see it. Repeatedly, until it closes on November 11th.
All images courtesy / copyright the artists’ respective web sites. The Grimsby Public Art Gallery is located at 18 Carnegie Lane, Grimsby, Ontario.
Bart Gazzola (also known as #artcriticfromhell) is an arts writer/critic who has published with Magenta Magazine, Canadian Art, New Art Gazette, Galleries West, PrairieSeen, Long Exposure and BlackFlash (where he was Editorial Chair for 3 years). He is Assistant Editor at thesound.rocks and a frequent contributor to various cultural spaces in Niagara.