Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Nostalgia for Nineties Nostalgia in David Kramer's Paintings

David Kramer, Stupid Shit, 2018, oil, acrylic, enamel, pencil on canvas, 48" x 36"

David Kramer, Lodestar: Handmade Memes and Analog FeedsKatherine Mulherin Gallery, 250 Emerson Ave., TorontoDec. 1, 2018 - Jan. 12, 2019

Nostalgia in Post-Modern culture has been recycled so often that nostalgia chains form: in other words, nostalgia for an earlier decade that in turn was defined culturally by its nostalgia for an even earlier decade. Nostalgia two times over applies to David Kramer's painting. His retro Sixties and Seventies images - from groovy convertibles to soft lens porn shots - recall how trends and icons from those eras were fetishized in Nineties culture, for example in the film, Boogie Nights. It seemed at the time that the decade was an end-of-century mining and compilement of vintage kitsch that was then saturated with irony. The image of, say, the "square" picnickers preparing for a road trip (No Picnic, 2014) seen in the jaded Nineties may have carried an ironic bite, as did many images of pre-Sixties revolution culture, but its sharpness may be somewhat diluted in the eyes of today's viewers, who will not read it as a satire of their parents' generation as it was read twenty years ago. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see paintings recalling the retrograde media searches of the Nineties. After all, that was a time when we did not fear the future nearly so much as we do now (remember "the end of history," the "information highway" leading to utopia, and the "we are the world" let's-hold-hands-across-the-world optimism of globalism), and thus we did not mind looking backward with a confident, cocky glint of the eye.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Kirby Anderson, Studio Visit

CRISPR SCULPTR 9.0, 2018, acrylic and gesso on heavy duty cardboard, dimensions variable. Photo: K.I.A.

CRISPR TXT, 2018, burnt archival watercolour paper, 24" x 14." Photo: K.I.A.

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting Kirby Anderson's studio in one of the few live/work warehouse buildings left in Toronto: a little oasis amidst the middle-of-the-road nightclubs encircling it. Anderson is a maverick in this city's art community: he does not possess an MFA, and he bypasses the public and private gallery systems by selling his work directly to collectors. 

His paintings, really they are sculpture/painting hybrids, take gene-editing as a metaphor for combining and recombining prior paintings. The pictured CRISPR SCULPTURE points to the future as Anderson continues to add new sections and produces resultant new iterations. CRISPR TXT, on the other hand, points to the past, a history of prior paintings that the artist has sandwiched together for viewing in the present tense. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Taking a Chance on a Young, Local, Queer, Black Artist

Devan Shimoyama, Weed Picker, 2018, mixed media on canvas, 84" x 72" x 3"

Devan Shimoyama
Cry Baby
October 13, 2018 - March 17, 2019
The Andy Warhol Museum
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Devan Shimoyama is just four years out of the Yale MFA program and still under 30, yet he's having his first solo at the Warhol. Congratulations to the museum on a risky and ultimately winning move. 

Shimoyama's arresting painting questions conventions of Black masculinity by queering  the Black body as well as the traditional masculine zones it inhabits (for instance, the barber shop) with flowers and glittery decorations. His paintings' striking colour patterning and camp excess may be what one first notices before taking in the underlying politics though. And there should be nothing wrong with mixing the pleasurable and the irreverent with the political.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Exodus to Hamilton Brings Results

Mike Hansen; I'm Happy and I'm Singing and A, 1, 2, 3, 4; 2018; acrylic on canvas, 48" x 60"

Mike Hansen, There's a Light That Enters Houses with No Other Houses in Sight, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 60" x 96"

Mike Hansen, Amarillo Ramp, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 20" x 24"

Toronto artists have been moving to nearby Hamilton for half a decade to escape skyrocketing housing costs. While this minor exodus (no, Hamilton is not New York's Brooklyn; it is more Cleveland's Akron) is common knowledge, the art that has come out of it is not.

Accordingly, I was excited to receive an invite to visit the capacious studio of Mike Hansen, a recent transplant from Toronto. A bit less than a year ago Hansen renovated a tween birthday party palace that was once a bike gang clubhouse. Located adjacent to a scrap yard and around the corner from Hamilton's landmark steel plants, it seems galaxies away from anything self-proclaimed artisan, sanctimoniously vegan, or cloyingly upmarket, which is to say Toronto.

Hansen's recent paintings, all completed since he moved into his studio, are based on music he listens to (Hansen is also an experimental jazz musician and sound artist). He sketches them out on the computer, then projects and traces them. Their assertive, colourful forms suggest connectivity if not collectivity, an implication of improv jazz and musicians' camaraderie in general.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Alan Belcher's "Oils" at MKG127

Alan Belcher, Oil on Canvas, 2018, oil paint on sewn canvas tarpaulins, 36" x 36"

Alan Belcher
On View...
MKG127 (Michael Klein Gallery)
1445 Dundas St. W., Toronto, ON

Alan Belcher is one of my favourite Toronto artists, and like many of Toronto's best artists, his work is better known elsewhere, at least institutionally. Belcher's work has a bang-on visual impact, a sense of humour, and a Pop sensibility that's at the same time well-informed by art history. His greatest strength though is the carefully orchestrated interaction between material and concept. Here the messy, heavy canvas tarpaulins that are the foundation of his "oil paintings" befit the rough rigs he paints on them, and thus they not only further the oil pun but also contribute aesthetically to the rendition of the paintings' subject matter.