I recently had the privilege of hearing Gary Panter give a lecture (of sorts) at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Panter, who grew up in Texas as part of a devout Christian family, lives in Brooklyn and works as a cartoonist, illustrator and artist; in addition, he is part of an experimental punk rock band called ‘Greg, Matt and Gary’. Panter is celebrated for his album covers and for his cartoon, Jimbo, which chronicles the adventures of the artist’s self-described “punk/nuclear/hillbilly” alter ego. His lesser known pursuits include light shows and puppetry.
Panter spoke on art, cartoons, design, drugs, punk rock and what it was like to work on the set of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. His talk was infused with practical advice for aspiring artists (“Not beating yourself up is important. If you’re daunted by sketchbooks, burn a few. You have to be more important than your art supplies.” ), philosophical mantras (“My theories on Aliens is that they will not land until we stop eating meat. If you want them to land, stop eating meat, if you don’t, have a BLT.” ), parental advice (“Pot never kills you. Cocaine, speed and E all fuck you up. Unless you want to be walking around with a little pork pie hat and no teeth, don’t do them! You choose ladies.” ), art history (“Rauschenburgs look to me like a teenaged kid’s room and a Sunday cartoon…DeKooning was a master of abstract, but he also did some unflattering paintings of women.” ) and lot’s of humour.
I am a fan of the new Art Gallery of Ontario. Unlike Daniel Libeskind’s design for the Royal Ontario Museum, Frank Ghery’s design is elegant and progressive, and a big improvement. That being said, I have been disappointed with the gallery’s programming. The AGO’s make-over established the gallery’s prestige and currency; but the gallery has not kept up with it’s progressive looking façade. The AGO should be establishing itself as a cutting edge art museum on the international stage, which begs the question: King Tut?
I’m bitter about the King Tut show. Yes, King Tut created revenue, and it certainly got people into the gallery; but for what? The oversized artificial King Tut figure on the corner of Dundas and McCall, and the clownish King Tut hats sold in the exhibition gift shop, made the AGO feel more like an amusement park than an art museum. More enraging than the exhibition’s blatantly commercial aims, however, is the fact that the Tut blockbuster is responsible for banishing Tino Sehgal’s The Kiss performance from it’s original location in the gallery’s main atrium to a little room all the way on the fifth floor!
I spent yesterday morning browsing at TYPE Books, which is one of the best bookshops in the city. We love TYPE because it carries a selection of publications that have been produced by creative, independent publishers.
I picked up The Selves by Sonja Ahlers, which was recently published by Drawn and Quarterly. Drawn and Quarterly is a publishing company based in Montreal that specializes in comic books and other graphic works. The Selves defies any simple catagory; it looks like an artist’s book, feels like a zine and is described by Ahlers as ‘a feminist scrapbook’ on her website.
Art History is a concept store nestled in the heart of Queen Street West, just a block or two east of The Drake Hotel. Inside you’ll find what you’ve always dreamed a garage sale could be: china sets, clothes, glassware, zines, jewelry, ashtrays and trinkets galore! Nostalgia, vintage and hand-made reign.
Remember the not so distant past, when the inane chatter we now send in the form of texts and tweets was hand-written and passed secretly in the classroom? Local artist Tara Bursey has commemorated the art of note-writing with her Ninth Grade Notes Project. You can buy photocopied notes circa 1995 from the cash for $2. I bought Note #5 and a vintage green polka-dotted silk scarf.
This morning I wandered around the Sunday Antique Market at Front and Jarvis. The market’s unspoken speciality is Canadiana, and I was lucky enough to spot this book at one of the stalls! Published in 1978, Toronto The Good features historical photographs of the city sourced at the Metropolitan Toronto central library on Yonge Street, which is now referred to as the Toronto Reference Library. I plan to post historical photographs of The Good periodically.
I also purchased a working Polaroid camera for $15.00, an issue of Maclean’s Magazine from 1946, a few Montreal Expo 1967 postcards, and some wicked vintage buttons! Happiness.
On display at Birch Libralato is an eerily beautiful suit of photographs by Toronto-based artist Toni Hafkenscheid. The exhibition is aptly titled ‘Relics of the Future’ as it considers the faded legacies of dated monuments and infastructure projects.
Highlights for me include a photograph of the Niagara Falls Tower (2009) against an inky blue evening sky, and one of the Trenton Plane (2010), which reminds me of road trips east along HWY 401. Both works recall the now lost optimistic spirit that drastically changed the face of Canada’s architectural landscape in the 1960s.
Thanks to his use of the tilt-shift technique, Hafkenscheid’s photographs are like soft-focus memories whose subjects are at once personal and linked the popular imagination. One particularly puzzling effect of tilt-sift is that all photographed objects and scenes appear miniature in size, like toys or scale models. The nostalgic pangs we feel looking at Hafkensheid’s photographs are thus strongly linked to the loss of childhood play.
We adopted Toronto’s historical nickname, the good, for our blog because it aptly describes both what’s frustrating and wonderful about this city. The nickname has long described Toronto’s conservatism and propriety. With our blog, we’re hoping to reclaim the derogatory moniker and shed light on those striving to make the good a great place to live. Our community of artists, designers, musicians and the like should be celebrated. There’s a vibrant arts scene here that goes unnoticed to outsiders and we’d like to bring attention to it. The good is about community, sharing and everything that’s cool about this place.