Sunday, April 11, 2004

Review Round-up


In between last week and today, I discovered one more place for art reviews, which now brings the total of media outlets to 12. For those of you interested, these are they: Le Devoir, The Gazette, Hour, Journal Le Plateau, The Link, The McGill Daily, The Montreal Mirror, Montreal Campus, La Presse, Quartier Libre, Radio-Canada, and Voir. If you know of any other ones, please feel free to let me know, ok?

In this week's Hour, Isa Tousignant writes 681 words about Matthieu Dumont's exhibition at Skol. Craftily employing the open-ended question Ms. Tousignant successfully straddles the fence, saying nothing terribly negative, not anything completely positive. Referring to Skol as a "source of pleasure" she then counteracts that positive with "it is candy coloured, but non-consumable until it is fictionalized or processed" later in the piece. If I had been her editor I would have killed the word "dude" and given her another 319 words.

Switching over to the sister publication, Voir decides to waste 287 words republishing what appears to be a press release over Nicholas Mavrikakis' byline on an historical exhibit about the Lachine Canal. They then try to salvage some editorial credibility by letting him use another 582 words to drop names left, right and center while not saying much about Bertrand R. Pitt's exhibition at Plein Sud. While Mr. Mavrikakis uses the open-ended question like it is going out of style, it seems to me that the main point of the article is for Mr. Mavrikakis to show off to his readers how many exhibits he has seen in Montreal. He mentions Marc Seguin and Mark Tansey at the Musee des Beaux Arts, Martin Boisseau at Galerie Graff, and also what he is currently reading. His descriptions of the three videos and the techniques used to create them are either a function of word count, or lack of imagination. Your call.

The Gazette (or more properly Henry Lehman) finally decide to get around to reviewing Kamila Wozniakowska's show at the Musse des Art Contemporain. Using code words like "quirky" and sentences like "art, like life, is more about preconceptions and style than it is about real flesh and blood" Mr. Lehman writes 689 words that effectively to illustrate his ambivalent feelings about Ms. Wozniakowska's work. I particularly like the fact that he only describes one piece (Saint Sebastian Receiving Unsolicited Advice On Professional Martyrdom) saving the bulk of the article for an attempt at eloquence that I can't help but imagine was prodded into publication by a threat of a hissy fit by some mandarin at the museum.

Over at Le Devoir, they continue their policy of saying if you want to read our stuff about art here in Quebec you're gonna have to pay through the nose for it. As I mentioned last week, $3.93 to read a single article. In this case what David Cantin writes about the Mimi Parent and Jean Benoit exhibition at the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec. Do you think this might have some cause and effect relationship with why more people don't know anything about contemporary art in Quebec? Personally, I'm more annoyed at the hoops that I have to jump through in order to read Michel Hellman's work. This week he wrote about the Nina Levitt show at Oboro. I have no idea what he thinks about it, but I am mighty curious.

Moving over to the new addition to the round up, Radio Canada has three articles up currently - I don't know if any of them are "new" and how often they update the site, we'll have to wait until next week to figure that out. They have some short hits (341 words, 302 words, and 318 words) about some exhibitions that definitely need and could use the publicity. First there is a retrospective of four years of Quebecois cartoons at the Bibliotheque nationale du Quebec on Saint Denis. The thing that is particularly fascinating is that the four years in question are 1904 to 1908. Who would've thunk? Claude Couillard then gives CO2 at Art en majuscule some much needed credibility. And lastly, he jumps on the band wagon about the Stephen Schofield/Patrick Coutu exhibits at Optica. Given what are the obvious space limitations I don't see why he thought it necessary to write about the show. Other than having the best selection of images on line about the shows (which sorta undermines the point) he doesn't do anything more than write something that could've been a press release about the shows. I don't mind this, and actually would highly recommend it for exhibitions at places like Art en majescule and the Bibliotheque who otherwise would not be known by the majority of people, for major galleries (of which I would consider Optica to be one) I would prefer that reviewers, or critics, write something useful.

In this week's Mirror, there ain't much but a bunch of short press release reprints, 164 words on the Maisonneuve Party next Thursday. 116 words about the Derapage 5 video screening (also on Thursday). 182 words (in two paragraphs!) about Alexandra Ranner's Corridor at Dare-Dare. I like it much better when they run full articles. Gives me something to chew on.

Then lastly ('cuz I'm probably gonna break 1,000 words today) La Presse and Jerome Delgado spends 365 words writing about the Eliane Excoffier exhibit at Sylviane Poirier. I find it particularly nice that he uses 364 words in a separate article to interview Ms. Excoffier. I don't know if I've ever seen or read something like that in La Presse (or for that matter any other mainstream press). I applaud the effort by La Presse to explain in Ms. Excoffier's own words what she's trying to accomplish. The review itself serves no purpose, in my opinion, other than to get pictures of some nekkid women on to newsprint. The interview explains to the reader how Ms. Excoffier makes her art, and then lets her (as opposed to Mr. Delgado) name drop some seriously obscure women artists. I also like the article and interview 'cuz I've already seen the show! And while I wasn't initially that impressed with Ms. Excoffier's work, the stuff by Christina Horeau, which is also on display I quite enjoyed.

I briefly contemplated mentioning the reviews in the Globe & Mail, ArtDaily.com, and a couple of other places but decided against it, because they weren't Montreal. However if you know of any other places I definitely wanna know abot 'em, ok?

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