Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Nice dovetailing


Some quick hits this morning. I (as per normal) was listening to Joe Cummings' Arts Report on CBC Radio Two and the lead story on the eight o'clock edition was about a Thomas Kincaide Gallery in Toronto. I got a very big kick out of shouting "no," "No," and "NO!" at the radio, you know it got my adrenaline pumping. Then, I figured that since yesterday was an R & R day, after the weekend, and that I would go through some older articles that had caught my eye, and wouldn't you know it the first one is about the "Painter of Light."

Last week the OC Register, in California, published an article by Richard Chang about an exhibition of Thomas Kincaide's that will be happening at the Grand Central Art Center and California State University, Fullerton's Main Art Gallery. Now, I've never been to either one, but my guess is that the Grand, is probably like the Saidye Bronfman Centre here in town, Cal State Fullerton's is the equivalent of the Leonard and Bina Ellen at Concordia U. For those of you, blissfully unaware of Thomas Kincaide, here's a quote from the article:

...Thomas Kinkade? He's the king of schlock, the bane of art critics everywhere. The fellow who mass reproduces his paintings and sells them to folks with no taste. The dude who rakes in $100 million a year.
And then, also for those of you still blissfully unaware of Thomas Kincaide, here's a quote from the New York Stock Exchange: Quote.

Now, I like the idea of Cal State wanting to shake things up, I'm a tad disappointed with Mr. Cummings talking about an event at a Thomas Kincaide Signature Gallery in the same manner as he will the opening of the Rodney Graham show.

Next up!

Again, last week, the Boston Globe ran an article by Christopher Dreher, about litigation as a publicity stunt. Now, I assume y'all know about death as a career move (be honest, when was the last time that YOU listened to "Letter from America?") but seeing as lawyers ostensibly working for Michael Moore, and Fox News threatened some writers because of the titles chosen for their books and it then caused the books to get more coverage than they normally would have, I can only assume that said lawyers did not graduate a) anywhere near the top of their class, and b) their school was something like Slippery Rock State Normal School.


Two Saturday's ago, the Palm Beach Post wrote how Florida Arts Groups had successfully lobbied the Florida state legislature to restore $21 million in funding. The line that got me was this one: "...arts groups began flooding legislative offices with 200,000 multicolored protest cards..."

It made me think that I'm obviously gonna have to ramp up my database to include all the MNAs in Quebec, and perhaps go so far as to add all the MPs in Ottawa, too. And I thought sending out more than 12,000 invitations was plenty. Obviously not.

More tomorrow, I promise.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Before my second cup of coffee


Initially I was going to try to write something yesterday night after the Great Lake Swimmers finished playing here, but it was not going to happen. Something about exhaustion. So, instead you get me bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first thing in the morning.

Yesterday was a thoroughly enjoyable day. It started with the kid-friendly vernissage, continued with the pet-friendly vernissage, and nothing like a bunch of short squirts, and some furry folk to put an even larger smile on your face on a bright and sunny day.

We ended up receiving more than 70 people (contrary to popular belief, I did not count the pets). Which was a new world record for the kid-friendly vernissages. I quite liked it when there were (by my count) three dogs, a cat, and at least seven kids all scampering around making a glorious racket. On one hand I was quite pleased that there were no cookies left over, on the other hand, this morning I am a tad disappointed that there aren�t any left over cookies.

If I find the time I might try and rope in the people responsible for Sesame Street as the next sponsor for the gallery � you know, something along the line of �Zeke�s Gallery is brought to you by the number four, and the letter Z.� Although on second thought, it might be a tad difficult to explain things if Zeke�s Gallery was brought to you by anything other than the letter �Z.� And I�m not quite sure if I am ready to be accused of ignoring the 25 other letters yet.

Janice Tayler�s art was quite well received. The rugrats were scampering all over the place trying to figure out which paintings had the flowers, and where the flowers were. Those that had a year or two of schooling ended up focusing on the hidden letters and crouching numbers, but fortunately nobody got into any martial arts battles. Although in retrospect, that could�ve been sorta cool. I�ll try and post a longer review/discussion of her art slightly later in the week.

That all being said, I�d like to remind everybody a) that there is a Board of Director�s meeting here tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7 pm, if you would like to become more involved in the day-to-day workings of the gallery you�re invited, or if you would merely like to see how the gallery functions and get involved in a more month-to-month basis that�s cool, too, And then b) we still have some tickets left for the Expos home opener, if you would like to join the group, email me, or call, you�re most welcome and your presence would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Just a regular day...


Yesterday was a whirlwind of a day. I needed to do some chores, and figured that while I was downtown it would be a good idea to see some Art. Hey, you know me, I never stop thinking!

I started at 460 Sainte Catherine, and there are a bunch of galleries there, notably: SKOL, La Centrale/Powerhouse, Gora, Dare-Dare, Han and Occurrence. Now one thing to think about if you're going specifically to go see art, it is a good idea, a very good idea to make sure that the gallery, or galleries are open and exhibiting stuff. As I was doing chores, wouldn't you know it, but SKOL, La Centrale, and Dare-Dare all were closed.

But ever the thinker that I am, instead of complaining about lemons, I made lemonade! I had conveniently brought invitations to Janice Tayler's exhibit here, and figured that while there might not be art on the walls for me to see, there quite likely would be people inside the galleries who would be inclined to come look at art, hey! What a concept! That's why they pay me the big bucks.

But sometimes things ain't what they seem. The folk at Dare-Dare were downright dismissive of me. Nothing like a nice open, warm and friendly atmosphere to foster an environment of understanding where people are interested in experiencing new things, eh?

Thankfully, the people at all the other galleries weren't so rude. The people at SKOL were nice, the staff at Videographe (not exactly wall, art, but art none the less) were downright inviting, but the most fun was at Han Art (the only commercial gallery of the bunch) where I was given the third degree. It was almost like giving a class in how I run a gallery. Maybe, just maybe, Mrs. Scott (I have never been able to surmise her first name) would consider coming to Zeke's and seeing how things are here, instead of just trying to get some answers without offering anything in return, she made it just about impossible for me to check out the art on her walls (which if my notes are correct, was by a guy named Jean-Pierre Lafrance). As I was distracted, I can't really comment on his art, other than to say that it was sorta big, and most definitely abstract.

I then made it over to Occurrence, where they had some photographs by Normand Rajotte. Big Photographs, with bigger borders of some nature landscapes and mud. Remember this, it will figure in more as you scroll down.

I then crossed the street to the Belgo building where at last count there was something like a gazillion and a half galleries. In 10 words or less for those that I saw:

Rene Blouin: A good joke, but would've been better two letters later.
Roger Bellmare: I liked getting to see Maclean's art on the walls.
M du B. F. H. & g: It looked really kick-ass, and I chatted with Chuck.
Circa: Mmmm, Tako! Along with little pearls, wow!

At which point, I suddenly realized I wasn't able to concentrate anymore, so I made a mad dash down the stairs, figuring I might have enough stamina to check out what was on Pierre-Francois Ouellette's walls. He had Louis Joncas' photographs on the walls, and from what I could tell, he and Normand Rajotte must've been identical twins that were separated at birth. Louis Joncas (or maybe M. Ouellette) prefers big black wood frames, while Lili Michaud (or more likely M. Rajotte himself) prefer unframed with big white borders on the paper. But it was pretty much like one of them parted their hair on the left, and the other on the right.

After which I realized it really really was time to go, I almost broke about seventeen things (ok, only the coffee table and the doors) but thankfully only came out of there seeing cross-eyed. I was able to successfully navigate myself back to the gallery, where I promptly took a nap.

Thursday, March 25, 2004



Well, the show is up, now you should come see it. ok? But as you're reading, on Tuesday I wrote about what appears to be a very interesting exhibition at the Getty in California. Today I came across Andrew Taylor's commentary on the very same show. Wicked Cool, eh?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Nothing Much Today


I've been hanging Janice Tayler's Show. Did you get you invitation?

Click here, to see it, if you didn't, ok?

In case you didn't we have 5 (count 'em! five!) vernissages for you.

Thursday March 25 at 5 pm (otherwise know as tomorrow) we're hosting the Non-Smoking Vernissage, a sort of advance preview, or dress rehearsal if you may. Come and tell your friends what to expect.

Friday March 26 at 4 pm there's the Super Secret VIP Vernissage, which is by invitation only. (Black Tie, too please). No
this is NOT an invitation, RSVP, Zeke at (514) 288-2233.

Saturday March 27 at 8 pm there is the traditional Smoking Vernissage. This is the one to come to if you're only going
to come to one. Don't miss it.

Sunday March 28 at 2 pm we have the Kid-Friendly Vernissage. This has become a "new" tradition. Tons of fun watching
the short squirts run around and ask tough questions about the art. Suitable for folks of all ages, but if you're in between 8 months and 8,000 months we have home made cookies and milk for you.

And finally at 5 pm on Sunday we host the Pet-Friendly Vernissage. Kibbles and bits! 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Goin' to California


One of the bigger white cubes in the world is having an exhibit called "The Business of Art: Evidence from the Art Market" and boy oh, boy! would I like to get myself out there. I guess I'll just have to settle for a catalogue (and somehow I don't think that the Getty discounts their catalogues as much as the Musee des beaux Arts does).

From a quick scan of the website, it seems that either they have decided to ignore the Quebecois Canadian variations, or the Quebecois Canadian variations aren't significant enough to blip on their radar. They seem to be focusing on collectors, dealers, artists, and scholars, to which you can also probably add curators, critics, and connoisseurs. Off the top of my head, if they were going to be doing it say here at the gallery (or in other words in Quebec) you'd have to add politicians, bureaucrats, and mid-level white collar workers (aka foundation managers).

Now, if you read the intro on the website they basically describe a dealer as a "middleman between artist and collector," but then go on to say that the roles "...has evolved into that of an influential art-world figure who can affect, and in some ways control, private and public perceptions of the history of art." Umm, does anybody in their right mind think that Rene Blouin, Olga Korper or Monte Clark are going to influence Canadian perceptions of art? And just to clarify things, by "Canadian" I mean the guy in Moose Jaw who drinks Canadian, and thinks that the Leroy Neiman poster of Wayne Gretzky

that he saw in the Hockey Hall of Fame was alright, but not worth the money (after all, you can get a case of two-four for less than $20 at the Beer Store right down the corner).

Now compare that sentence to this one: "to clarify things, by "American" I mean the guy in Lincoln, Nebraska who drinks Bud Lite and thinks that the Andy Warhol print of

Elvis is kick-ass, but jeezus those folk in Noo Yawk gotta be crazy to pay that much money for it (after all he can a mighty fine copy of it right down at the mall for less than the price of a two-four).

Or in a slightly shorter sentence, Rene Blouin ain't no Leo Castelli. Olga Korper ain't no Medici.

Then returning to the Getty's description of the exhibition, they gloss over what it is to be a collector - but then again, it is a web site. Maybe we should cut them some slack. On second thought, naw. They only talk about some chick named "The Countess of Verrue" and a dead dude from France named "Gabriel Frizeau." Hell, just from a quick scan of the Sotheby's web site I can come up with a dozen names of collectors, and if it is as they say that the auction catalogue for The Countess of Verrue only exists as a handwritten manuscript then obviously she was no master of market timing, had she waited another 300 years she could've gotten her name embossed in gilt on the cover of a 4 volume slip cased catalogue. From my perspective there are only two reasons to collect, either you're certifiable (which ain't such a bad thing some times) or you want to impress somebody ("wanna come up to my place and see my etchings?") ok, maybe I'm glossing over things, too. Sorry.

Then they go on to give a quick description of the Artist as they relate to the business of art, with the interesting little nugget being that Gaugin was making a cool $100K a year as a stockbroker, before he became an artist full-time. Makes me think twice about all those dot comers who cashed in their options and went to Tahiti.

Then lastly, pity Willi Bongard died in a car crash. He sounds like a cool guy.

Here in Quebec Canada it is most definitely the bureaucrats who wield the most influence. Who was the numbnut who decided to pull the plug on the Dunlop Art Gallery? Or the incompetent nincompoop who invested the Canada Council's money badly? Or the people who put the brakes on MOCCA moving downtown? If any of those people have a name, I'd love to know it. For lack of a better term I'll call them bureaucrats. OK?

Then with regards to the Art market in the 21st century I would also emphasize critics. The Getty web site sorta takes a stab a 'em, lumping them in with scholars. But unless you have people reading and talking about art, there ain't gonna be no such thing as an art market. And despite the "best" attempts by Chantal Pontbriand, Rick Rhodes, Henry Lehman, Bernard Lamarche, et al (sorry for the fancy-ass term) they aren't (in my eyes) doing anything other than attempting to keep their noses clean and their mortgages paid.

Take the Montreal Mirror, please! (apologies to Henny Youngman, may he rest in peace) when you pick it up, what do you read? The movie listings, the rant line, and then maybe if there is time, you sorta scan the rest of it. Look at the Gazette, you read the headlines, after all you do want to know who got murdered in NDG last night, and then you flip to the sports section (or maybe it's the other way around like it is in the Journal de Montreal) and then the rest of the paper gets used in the bird cage.

If they (or any of the other media outlets mentioned or not) had any really compelling writers do you think that Vie des Arts, Parachute, Espace or the rest of the bunch would have to be supported by the government? Like I said yesterday, the government should support cultural stuff that can't support itself, but at the same time that cultural stuff should also be sorta good, don't you think? If you disagree with me, that's fine, but how many Russian Artists who did not emigrate to the west during the cold war can you name? What about some contemporary Cuban Artists? Now instead of using a friggin peer jury process (if all the peers are mediocre what are you gonna get? Rubber Biscuit?) what about giving out cash to needy organizations only in the beginning? Say three years, if by then the artist, or organization hadn't figured out how to make it work in a commercial sense then they gotta find something else? Then to make it fair, only every third application received would be accepted. Betcha right darn quick there'd be some Canadian Quebecois artist making a splash internationally. Isn't that how they make films here?

Monday, March 22, 2004

12,350 and counting...


We just finished putting address labels no invitations for Janice Tayler's show. Are you gonna be getting one? Two? More? If I ever come around and ask you to help, just say no, it is a fate worse than hell. Takes 6 people about 5 hours of pure tedium. Special thanks go out to Graham, Donna, Jason, Janice (of course!) Jeff and Tammy.

Then, to pick up on some old stuff. Last Tuesday, the Marie Chouinard Dance Company (who ARE on the mailing list, every last one of 'em,) wrote an open letter to Line Beauchamp that was published in Le Devoir, pleading the case that Quebecois culture needs to be supported by cash from the government.

Now I tend to view government funding sorta like I view heroin. Once you start, you're gonna have a whale of a time kicking the habit. Somebody is always gonna be lurking in the corners trying to get you some methadone, and when the time comes (have you ever heard of a government increasing the amount of funding for the arts?) you're gonna be in some serious pain.

Then on top of the whining from the dancers, they give some specific examples of Quebecois culture; Film, Music, Theater, and Dance. They somehow forget literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, along with food, craft, and a whole whack of other things that contribute to the Quebecois Cultural oeuvre. If you're gonna whine, at least be inclusive, there ain't no need to piss off some people because they aren't included on the list.

Then to keep piling it on, in about a year, said dance company will be performing at Place des Arts. 3 nights, I would guess they're gonna be in Theatre Maisonneuve (1,458 seats) for a total of 4,374 tickets available. Now, tickets for dance performances at PdA go for anywhere from $25 on up to $80. Lets cut that in half for a nice and easy average - call 'em $52 a pop. Now lets take that figure and multiply it by the number of tickets available. Pesto-Bingo! $229, 635. Not bad for 3 nights worth of work, eh? Now to be fair, there are at least 23 people who work for the Compagnie Marie Chouinard. So we continue with our math, and that comes out to slightly less than $10,000 a person for 3 nights.

Alright, I'm being very simplistic. And there a scads upon scads of things that I am glossing over (rental of the hall, publicity, rehearsal time, travel expenses, to name just a few) but even if that takes 90% of the $10,000 gross, I could be very happy living on $300/day. If the company works only 50 days a year (from a rough scan of what they did in 2003) that works out to $15,000 a year for every last person working for Marie Chouinard. Now the government is supposed to kick in more cash? I'd tell Julie George, Cathy Pruzan, and Uriel Luft to start getting the company about two to three times more work.

If the government is going to kick in cash to support culture, according to me, they should be supporting art that cannot support itself. And if anybody is interested I could come up with a list easier than it would be to fall out of my bed. Can you tell that I'm cranky from slapping 12,350 address labels on invitations?

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Jerome Delgado, huh? Stephan Aquin, No! Stephan Aquin, Yes!


In today's La Presse. Jerome Delgado writes 276 words in French (285 in the English Translation) about the most recent something-or-other by the Quebecois boy-genius Marc Seguin. He could've cut it down considerably. But to cut M. Delgado some slack, he does use a bunch of the words to give a history (short as it is) about M. Seguin.

How he could think that the things on paper used to wrap stuff (Kraft paper, you know the type used for paper bags, and flowers) "representent la souffrance humaine, suite logique de la solitude et de la folie qu'il a souvent traitees en peinture." (or in English for the Blokes in the house: "represents the human suffering, logical continuation of loneliness and the madness which it often treated in painting.") is beyond me. In a plainer English, they are thirteen pieces of paper, all about four feet square. Some of them have some gold schmutz either around the border (which does make for a pretty effect) or stuck somewhere sorta near the center. He's then given them all titles along the lines of "Possessed man trying to jump out a window," or "Parents who have made a pact with the devil." You know your standard issue cutesy title that ends up substituting for any sort of content within the drawing, because there ain't no content within the drawing.

What M. Seguin thinks (or at least attempts to make us believe) is content are these ridiculously faint and incomplete drawings, that with the help of the titles might, possibly, and perhaps approximate something that seems like it could, with a certain allowance for artistic license, seem like what is supposed to be there. But given how far from anything they are, I would much prefer to say that M. Seguin has been parked for to long at the artistic parking meter, and should either get a whopping big ticket, or better yet, for 13 unpaid fines, have his artistic license revoked for a spell.

Other than currying favor with the mucky-mucks at Place D'Armes and in Quebec City, I can not understand why Stephan Aquin would have given M. Seguin the necessary space in the museum. The drawings aren't "beaux-arts" they are "boo-arts." But before I go on a rant about M. Aquin and his choices for art in his section of the musee des beaux-arts, I should a) mention that the catalogue for the Pipilotti Rist show from 2000 is now available for $10, good things do come to those who wait. It just seems like I'm going to have to wait until 2007 until I can get a copy of the catalogue for Francoise Sullivan's show. And b) that thankfully the museum mucky-mucks have decided that M. Seguin's exhibit qualifies as part of the permanent collection, so all you need to see it (assuming that you really really really have a need to see bad art) is a pair of eyes. If they had wanted me to shell out $12, I would've demanded my money back on the spot.

But going beyond the bad art, there were a couple of wicked cool, and kick-ass things that, without the bad art, I would not have seen (or perhaps appreciated as much). First and foremost, I gotta give big, humongous props and shout outs to whoever is the lighting designer at the museum (my guess 'cuz the museum web site ain't too helpful is that it was either somebody hired by Paul Tellier, Dan Kelly, or Jacques Dragon - but I could be wrong). Once I had given the stuff by M. Seguin as much time as I was capable of, I ended up having to wait for my companion. While I was doing that I realized that there was this corridor leading off of the exhibit. And when I turned my head, I realized that suddenly the lights there had gone off. Now, what's a museum without lights? And unlike my experience at the McCord (where the lights were off and couldn't be turned on), I sorta thunk that perhaps the folk at this museum might know what they were doing. So I took a chance a waved my arm, and sure as shootin' the lights responded to the hidden motion detector and came on (in a brilliantly organized and staggered manner). I filed this away until my companion had had her fill of M. Seguin (it seems like she has a higher tolerance than I do) and then I said, "check this out!" complete with a massive grin on my face. We approached the darkened corridor and then I waved my hand. The lights came on and we laughed like grade school children.

Now, while in the corridor, there were some good pieces, and some bad pieces. This is where M. Aquin goes from a "no!" to a "huh?" They've got a Robert Walker, a Gregory Crewdson, a Holly King, an Edward Burtynsky and some person named Farley (I unfortunately didn't write down their first name). All of them rock like nobody's business, and I highly recommend that you get your butt down there to see 'em [now that I've made the links, the Robert Walker is not the one that I saw, the Holly King is, and the site for Edward Burtynsky and Gregory Crewdson are there for background info]. What made the moment even more special was that while we were there, my companion and I got into a "discussion" about the nature of digitally manipulating photographs - For the record, I don't like it being classified with regular photography, it should be stuck with other crafts, like quilt making, or knitting. As we were just standing around and talking (with loud voices) the motion detectors thought that we had gone elsewhere, so one wall of lights decided to turn themselves off, this naturally brought our attention to the suddenly dark wall.

Me, being quicker on my feet, waved my hand, sorta like how I assume Charlton Heston did it, and wouldn't you be struck dumbfounded like some bad reincarnation of Archie Moore against Rocky Marciano or Cassius Clay, as the lights graciously decided that yes, I was God. Cool, eh? I recommend trying to hit the museum when there ain't too many folk there so that you can do it yourself, tons o' fun!

But the best was yet to come (and this is where M. Aquin gets his "yes!") after that corridor (for those who don't trust me, it's the one with the landscape photographs) there's another one, with a whack of "Recent Acquisitions!!" (or at least that's what the stickers scream). And there's a Botanski (again my note taking was sloppy) they got two John Currin's (which surprised the hell outs me) a really kick-ass piece by Barry Allikas called "Mile," a Jack Goldstein with 25 different colors in it. And then way in the back, set up in such a way that you can only see it out of the corner of your eye (which is a really good way to be introduced to it) they have this thing made out of LEDs by some guy named Jim Campbell.

It is called "5th Avenue Cutaway #2" and it is owned by somebody named Luc Bellier, and as far as I can figure Daniel Langlois had a hand in making sure it saw the light of day. Basically, you got a grid of those aforementioned LEDs, 24x32, and what Mr. Campbell has done is take some film that he made or borrowed, and through some top secret hush-hush proprietary process he has transformed that film into a red and white sucker that is projected by the LEDs. Take my word for it, it is spectacular. The technology probably ain't so tough (after all, they've been doing it on Time Square for well nigh 60 years, and on the Ginza for slightly less time) but mostly when you see it in those circumstances, you ain't so close. If you don't like it, let me know, and I'll refund your money.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Slow and gray

The CBC pre-empted ArtTalks for the leadership convention of the Conservative Party. Tony Harper won, big deal. The word "art" appears in his web site, according to Google exactly twice. Thank heavens that Art Hanger used to be the defense critic for the Conservatives (or was it the Alliance?)

For what it is worth, the word "art" (again according to Google) ain't anywhere on the conservative party's website.

Then my mom got her letter published in the New York Times! Woo-Hoo! If you're interested, it was in response to this article, which in turn was a report about this article.

Then, picking up on some more bits and pieces from a while back. The Globe & Mail ran this story about how the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie, Ont is having difficulty because of some sculptures. As far as I can tell it is in fact because Revenue Canada has cracked down on folk trying to make a quick buck. Basically, the idea was you buy a piece of art, for say, $500. The next day this guy, on your behalf donates it to a charity, the charity cuts you a reciept for $5,000 which is good against your taxes. Obviously this ain't such a good idea.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Kibbles and bits (or should that be bits and pieces?)


A whole whack of things today. So let's jump right in to the deep end:

Today's reading included the following articles:

CBC Arts News: Gallery turns funding snub into Room for Rant
The Globe & Mail: Westons to donate up to $25-million to ROM
Le Devoir: La culture dans l'encre rouge
La Presse: La Culture croule sous les dettes

Hmmm, a gallery in Halifax (which by the way is a kick-ass gallery!) can't get funding so turns around and does something about it. A museum in Toronto snags $25 million dollars, and the Qu�bec government says that there have been cost over runs in the construction of the bibliotheque nationale so they float an idea about reducing the funding for other art stuff.

Who gets it? And who doesn't? Personally what I want to know is does the 1% for art get increased due to the budget over runs? If it doesn't, then what's to prevent other public developers in the future to artificially reduce the budget for their projects so as to shaft the artists?

And toss on the fact that the Cinematheque Qu�becoise gets a whopping $250K from the mandarins in Qu�bec City and Place D'Armes and so as a consequence are closing down for the summer to figure out how to save the place. My suggestion, invite Lise Bisonette out for a swanky dinner, and ask her (politely, of course) if they can't do something like a merger or marriage, or as this is Qu�bec a civil union. You know as well as I do, that in 5 years, the bibnat is gonna need more space, why not plan for the future, now? The Cinematheque is a very nice space and if something isn't done, will be empty in the near future.

Then, for the next drive-by, can I bring your attention to a blog? Thanks. Humbug which normally writes in limerick form about baseball has gone over and above the call of duty. Score Bard (yes, that's the name of the person who writes it) has written a 6-part entry about how he might attempt to statistically analyze art so as to be able to tell what artists are like Barry and which ones are like Bud Harrelson. I've read it twice, and am still formulating a response to it (it is dense, but quite tasty, sorta like your favorite Cheese Cake, or Chocolate Torte). Once I get my letters all lined up, I'll let you know.

And then lastly, in an attempt to do the Zeke's Gallery Hustle just a little bit harder and faster, can I bring your attention to the swanky new yellow box on the right? I've decided to take the plunge and let the computers at Yahoo handle all the messy underside of getting information about what's happening here out to folk. So I have (as you might have already noticed) stopped sending out newsletters (mass mailings, those funky "little" things with horrific French translation). But I am (to use the geek term) "porting" it over to the kind folk at Yahoo.

If you would like to get the newsletter (still gonna have the horrific French translations) type in your email address in the box, and then click on the big purple button. If you don't want to get it, don't do that. As for specifics, A) it will come out most Thursdays. B) I'm the only one who is going to be writing and sending it (so you won't get stuff from other folk because of me). If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask, ok?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Visual Culture Studies


I'm not certain where or how I came across this, but I did, and boy oh boy! does it have an awful lot of stuff inside. If you're too lazy don't have enough time to read it (it is 5,000+ words) I can synopsize: Michelle Marder Kamhi (the author) doesn't like the idea that current big thinkers are aiming to "treat the Nike of Samothrace and Michelangelo's David, say, on a par with Mattel Toys' Barbie and Ken dolls."

On the surface I should probably disagree with her. But things are rarely what they seem, and I do end up agreeing with her, to a point. She starts to win me over right at the beginning when (as with all good academic papers) she defines her terms.

By visual art, I mean what is broadly termed "painting" and "sculpture" (traditionally termed fine art): that is, two- and three-dimensional re-creations of reality whose purpose is to concretize ideas and values in an emotionally compelling form. In contrast with the decorative arts, the crafts, or the various fields of design, such works have no physical function, but instead serve a purely psychological or spiritual need.
My definition of visual art is "whatever makes you think." This intertwines nicely with Ms. Marder Kamhi's "concretiz[ation] of ideas in an emotionally compelling form." And while there are very significant differences between both of our concepts there are many more similarities.

As an aside, I find it humorous that the Musee des Beaux Arts is currently exhibiting Tangra sculptures (which while not exactly on a par with Nike of Samothrace or David do approach them) and they just finished exhibiting Ken and Barbie. My guess is that Guy Cogeval does subscribe to current visual culture concepts. Maybe it has something to do with getting those K-12 kids into the museum, I don't know.

Ms. Marder Kamhi goes on to decry how visual culture decodes information (or in plainer language - interprets) about the object, while explaining that art uses expression and depiction to convey things. In other words if you're a visual culture dude then the understanding of the context within which the object was created is not only important but is arguably the most important thing about the object. If you want to argue, then an understanding of the depth and scope of the object and the thought process that the person making the object had while making it, all the while having a thorough knowledge of the social context within which it was made could also be considered vital, too. From my side of the monitor, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And while using your eyes and inquiring about everything you see is a very good thing to be doing, putting Ken and Barbie on the same shelf as David just won't work.

I gotta get back to work, so I'll leave it up to you to read the rest of the article.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Over to the musical side of things


Scanning through the previous posts, I realize that I have been a tad sketchy with my posting. It is entirely due to my making the Live at Zeke's Gallery CD catalogue. It is now completed and in the process of being printed. Ask for one by name. In a nutshell, it lists the 39 CDs that were recorded here in 2003, the 28 CDs that were done in 2002 (along with brief descriptions) a history and explanation of the gallery and the recording series, complete with almost full-size color glossy photos! Don't forget to ask for one by name. And while all of that was happening I also completed another eight CDs of shows from 2004, which if you've been keeping count means that we're up to a total of 75. Collect 'em all! By name.

But in the interest of keeping your interest, cause I don't think flogging the CDs any harder will keep your eyelids open for long, Alexis Petridis the [Manchester] Guardian's rock and pop critic wrote, back in February that most if not all, musicians should cease and desist. He doesn't like the potential glut of recordings, that he, as a critic, would be forced to hear if there weren't any record companies.

It sounds like he's whining about having been subjected to Finley Quaye's Vanguard, Terence Trent D'Arby's Neither Fish Nor Flesh or Lauryn Hill's Unplugged V2.0. The only problem with his argument is the really really bad albums that he lists all came from the major labels. As a firm proponent of the DIY ethic, I can't see how any record label can do anything but get in the way, and take money from the pockets of the people who should rightly get it. Hell, the gallery splits the proceeds of all the CDs 50/50 and I think that the gallery is taking way too much (but on the other hand, I realize the necessity of the gallery continuing to pay rent and a phone bill).

If Mr. Petridis really can't stand bad music, then maybe he should get another job. He gets the music for free and still whines. For the record if there had been no record companies than it wouldn't have taken 40 years for Smile to see the light of day, and the Basement Tapes would've probably come out way quicker, too.

Yes, there are a whole whack of CDs that have been produced here that you're not going to like, but there are also a bunch of CDs that have been produced here, that you are going to adore. I guarantee it. If you dig L'Ensemble en Pieces then you're probably not going to get off on David Pearce. But if you think that Dragana is your cup of tea, then you'll probably enjoy Pemi Paul or Dirty Ol' Band. But if you close your ears, and don't listen to any of them then the only things you're going to hear are the endless variations on Celine Dion that get played in the Metro. And that, my friend, is definitely going to make you a lesser person.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Responding to a need


Between last night's show, tonight's show, and Janice's upcoming exhibit, there ain't been much time for anything. But... in response to a number of requests, yes, I am organizing an outing to the Expos Home Opener (Friday April 23rd at 7pm). I have reserved section 214 (well at least 85% of it). They cost $21 and are on a first come, first served basis. Email me for more details.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Making Excuses


It seems that I have been busy since Saturday. Apologies. You would think that since I'm in between exhibitions that I'd have tons of time to go see art and write. Wrong-O! Boy-O! I've been working on the 2003 Live at Zeke's CD catalogue and sampler. Thankfully they are almost done, or at least at the point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. More on them later (yeah, right!)

So I'm going to deal with some odds and ends that have been hanging around on my desktop for a while.

First off, there ain't no easy way to lead into the National Museum of Funeral History. But I get some sense of comfort knowing that they are there.

Second, last month the Wall Street Journal published an article by Lee Rosenbaum which frets over the losses of "single-collector 'jewel box' museums." Specifically the Barnes in Pennsylvania, and the Terra in Chicago. There aren't really anything exactly like either one of them in Canada (but an argument can be made that there ain't anything like them anywhere in the world, too). Although you can also make a case that the AGO is quickly becoming a "single collector" museum. Whatever, bemoaning progress doesn't strike me as a constructive use of time.

Third, Richard Dorment wrote at the beginning of the month about Art Dealers who also masqueraded as scholars. I'm in the process of reading The Art Dealers by Laura de Coppet and Alan Jones, and it has occurred to me how lacking (read: pathetic) my knowledge about Art Dealers and Art History is. Now, I know I can suss out a reasonable Art History course, or at least some half decent books. But does anybody know where you can find a history of Art Dealing? The only book I've heard that deals in depth with Leo Castelli costs $428!

Fourth (and this really should be first) there is this really really cool blog called Humbug. Normally it deals with Baseball in a poetic manner. But now it is flipping things completely over, and Scorebard (the guy who writes the blog) is attempting to get some statistics down on Art. Right now he's written the introduction, part one, and part two. I've had the time to scan the preview, and it looks wicked cool. I highly recommend that you check it out, and if you are lucky enough to read it before I do, let me know what you think, ok? Thanks.

Then lastly, in last Sunday's NYTimes, there is an overview/reflection on the surfeit of Art Fairs that are about to happen in New York written by Roberta Smith. Interesting to see how the other half lives.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Michael Govan, Yes! Isa Tousignant, No! Gerald Ferguson, why not?


It looks like I have three things to cover today. Good thing it is the weekend. First off, on Thursday, I went to see Michael Govan at the MACM, and other than learning that Marcel Brisebois regularly drives the New York State Thruway at speeds in excess of 150 Km/H it was quite interesting. I initially went in thinking that this was going to be a celebration of the establishment, "long live the White Cube, and vive the multi-syllabic word!" Boy was I wrong.

Yes, the establishment was there (Mr. Govan's tour had been organized, or something had been done so that the magazine Canadian Art could get their name involved) Melony Ward introduced Mr. Govan, and there were far too many people who draw paychecks from the MACM to count. And on the surface Mr. Govan gave an infomercial about Dia: Beacon and the Dia Art Foundation, all fine and dandy, and it was quite effective, too, because my companion whispered to me breathlessly after he finished that "we must go see it."

But once you got beyond the glitz and fancy-ass suits, the idea that Dia is pursuing is quite cool. I'll leave it up to you to follow the various links so that you can discover it on your own. No need for me to report on the infomercial, but when I do make it down there, I'll be sure to let everybody know what I think. The thing that truly impressed me was the consideration and thoughtfulness of Mr. Govan. Contrary to most of the people in the Art World here, he was gracious and extremely generous with his time. And his responses to my questions were extremely helpful, too.

In a nutshell, I asked him if he had any hints or suggestions on how I could turn this here gallery into an organization that was at least half as kick-ass as his. He gave me a bunch, on how to id potentially helpful board members, how to handle the rest of the "establishment" and then on what he thought was the best job in the world. I hope that I can do all of them (although I don't think that I would have as much fun doing his favorite job as he did).

Then yesterday I was talking with a friend and he asked me what I had thought about Isa Tousignant's review of the Dominique Blain show, especially since I had already commented on the Le Devoir review. This was particularly timely as the previous night I had finally had a chance to ask Ms. Blain herself what she thought about my review. I'll leave it up to you to ask Ms. Blain for her opinions (how's that for delegating stuff? Good, eh?) But as far as the weeklies go, I don't pay much attention to anything beyond the headline.

If a show gets into a weekly, the publicity is good. For the record, getting your show in the Mirror is better than getting your show in the Hour as for getting more people to see it. But given how much space they give to visual arts (although the Mirror seems to be making a conscious choice to give more and more) and the amount of money they pay their writers getting one's knickers in a knot is not worth the time. Now that I've said that, watch me get my knickers knotted.

Starting at the top, the subheading for Ms Tousignant's review states that "Activist artist Dominique Blain stuck in the museum." Ummm, not to state the obvious, but if Ms. Blain's goal in life was to get a solo exhibition at the MACM then she'd be mighty disappointed with the rest of her life. If Ms. Tousignant had even walked down Saint Catherine street she would have come across the other show that Ms. Blain has going on in town, which while similar to some of the stuff she's got at the museum, in the same way that Ms. Tousignant's review this week is similar to her review last week, makes it plainly obvious that Ms. Blain ain't stuck in any museum.

Then while I took exception with the wall text at the beginning of the exhibit, Ms. Tousignant ignored it totally. She pigeon holes Ms. Blain into one type of art that she thinks overwhelms everything else and makes it irrelevant. Or if you want to read for yourself: Her pithy line at the end, "one more person's spiel about the "issues," as beautiful and smart as it may be, doesn't honestly help anyone." Sums up her view rather well. The only problem is that she admits that it ain't even her idea.

Back up at the top she states:

Maybe what set my train of thought in motion was the parallel between Dominique Blain and Noam Chomsky the guide made within the first minute of the tour.
She then writes that she has an "allergy to anyone else's predigested thoughts about art I haven't yet seen." But she continues by going so far as to quote the tour guide! Writing: "'She aims at a wide public,' said the guide that day, 'she doesn't concern herself with art critics and aficionados. She wants people in general to be faced with the passivity intrinsic to Western culture in the face of these issues.'" And then recoils in horror at passivity. I'd ask what is more passive, making art that is an attempt to get people to think about horrific situations, or using a tour guide's impromptu speech as the basis for a review?

Taking the high road and suggesting that Ms. Blain donate some cash to Oxfam is silliness at best. If Ms. Tousignant, was even slightly aware of how the museum works, she'd realize that the amount of money that Ms. Blain received for having an exhibition at the MACM would not even equal the amount of money that Ms. Tousignant spends on her dog. It would have been better if Ms. Tousignant had asked for the name of the tour guide and given her the money that she received for writing the article.

"Exponential irritation" is not a good state from which to write a review.

Then lastly, just so everybody can get back in a good mood, I wanna be Gerald Ferguson.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Lots and Lots of Stuff


First off; the Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts were announced yesterday. Iain Baxter, Eric Cameron, Istvan Kantor, Garry Neill Kennedy, John Oswald, Ian Wallace, and Tom Hill are all $15,000 richer and going to be in Ottawa on March 10. Perusing the headlines of the various Canadian on-line offerings is an exercise in what could be called "name the political leanings of the owner."

Calgary Herald: "Shocking artist wins $15,000 federal prize"
CBC: "'No-holds barred' artist among Governor General's award winners"
CTV: "Seven visual artists honoured by Canada Council"
Le Devoir: No Article:
The Globe & Mail: "Arts scene veterans finally get their due"
Journal de Montreal: No article
London Free Press: "Visual artists honoured"
National Post: "Artist who paints 'X' with his blood wins $15,000 award"
Ottawa Citizen 1: "Dangerous artistic ground"
Ottawa Citizen 2: "The 'artist' who has Rideau Hall on guard"
La Presse: No Article
Radio Canada: "Sept artistes visuels primes"
Toronto Star: "Blood-splashing artist among GG's laureates"
Vancouver Sun: "Controversial performance artist wins $15,000 government prize"

Now to be completely fair, Paul Gessell wrote one article for the Ottawa Sun that got picked up (duh!) by the Calgary Herald, the National Post and the Vancouver Sun. They are all owned by CanWest Global. CTV and the Globe and Mail are also owned by the same company, in this case Bell Globemedia Interactive. The CBC and Radio-Canada pretty much dance to their own tunes, As do the London Free Press (who are using the CP article) and the Toronto Star. The lack of coverage by the hometown press is in my opinion entirely due to the fact that the $105,000 the federal government is giving away is going to blokes from out-of-town.

Maybe tomorrow I'll write about the winners, but then again I also want to write about Michael Govan's talk at the MACM - so we'll see.

Then, speaking of out-of-towners, in La Presse, they have this little tidbit - "Du tourisme considere a la lumiere des beaux-arts" which on the face of it seems fairly innocuous. But in the subhead there is this bit of text: "Tous les directeurs de musee du monde vous le diront : ce sont les grandes expositions temporaires qui attirent le public." Or for the blokes - All the Museum directors worldwide say it is the really big temporary exhibits that get the fannies in the seats. My eye! John Porter goes on to say that Parisians don't go to the Louvre to see the permanent exhibition as his rational behind this particular piece of nonsense. Well, either Mr. Porter doesn't know what he is talking about, or the headline writer at La Presse didn't bother to read the article. Because, last I heard Parisians going to the Louvre ain't considered tourism, more like checking out the neighborhood, or a school outing. And while I grant that there are a number of people in the world who will design their vacation plans around the latest Eugene Delacroix exhibit, a larger number of people will say "I never knew the charm of spring, I never met it face to face, I never new my heart could sing, I never missed a warm embrace, Till April in Paris. Chestnuts in blossom, Holiday tables under the trees, April in Paris, this is a feeling, That no one can ever reprise... (Words & Music by EY Harburg & Vernon Duke, 1932)" And THEN say "hey! What's up at the Louvre, wanna go?" When I get my hands on a copy of the study that caused this article to be written I'll add it to my list of things to write about. OK?

Then lastly, Pierre Theberge, in what seems like a blatant attempt to curry favor with Cirque du Soleil founder and latest entry into Forbes' billionaires club, Guy Laliberte, is setting up the latest and greatest touring show from the National Gallery. Believe it or not, it is going to be a collection of clown paintings. I think he'd do better aiming to legitimize the Ripley's Believe of Not museums. (You know, something along the lines of a folk art, history smorgasbord of how civilized we've become in the past 50 years - the shock, the horror! that people would have subjected such indignities on people with disabilities, all the while re-showing the same stuff in a much more dignified and respectful manner.) Because Jim Pattison is four times wealthier than Mr. Laliberte.

But Jerome Delgado, in a rare display of emotion, says that "Jean Clair, du musee Picasso de Paris, agit encore comme commissaire, appuye par Constance Naubert-Riser, de l'Universite de Montreal, Didier Ottinger, de Georges-Pompidou, et Mayo Graham, du MBAC. Une equipe, doit-on, croire, gagnante, a qui s'est joint Ann Thomas, du MBAC aussi, pour le volet photographique, un art souvent neglige dans les expos historiques. (Although the Babelfish translation is hilarious: "Clear Jean, of the Picasso museum of Paris, still acts as police chief, supported by Constance Naubert-Riser, of the University of Montreal, Didier Ottinger, of George-Pompidou, and Mayo Graham, of the MBAC. A team, must one, to believe, gaining, with which joined Ann Thomas, of the MBAC also, for the photographic shutter, an art often neglected in the historical expos.")

No, I won't make a bad pun about baseball, I will restrain myself.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

It's a gray day


It's early, it's gray, it's raining, my brain has not quite made it into 2nd gear yet, so I'm going to follow up on some stuff. Nothing too new, nothing too wonky.

On today's Arts Report (with Joe Cummings) he mentioned that more than 5 million people in Canada watched the Oscars. I'd bet dollars to donuts that more than half of them were in Qu�bec.

Then, in the round up about the Hydro-Quebec Festival of Light [consumption] they (pretty much every damn news outlet in the city that I've seen or heard) talk about how it was an outstanding and incredible accomplishment. My eye! According to their figures they were successful in convincing 500,000 people to partake of something during the event. They also spent $6 million dollars. For those of you that are math challenged, that means that Andre Menard and Alain Simard spent $12 to drag each and every one of those people on site. And then in the fine print, they then mention how they might make a small profit. Personally, I'd prefer to pocket the money, thanks.

And, to continue, Le Devoir, or more specifically, Christopher Huss, got it dead-on-balls-accurate, Kent Nagano is going to replace Charles Dutoit in 2006. And I ask you in what other city in the world, would a conductor make the front page of The Newspaper of Record, above the cutline, and complete with full color picture twice in less than a week?

For those of you wanting more visual arts stuff, on Thursday get thee to the MACM, Michael Govan is going to be giving a talk at 6 pm. For those of you who insist on being provincial, he's the head honcho and big cheese of the Dia Art Foundation. I wonder if he has art in his office?

Now I gotta get back to work.

Monday, March 01, 2004

White night, my eye


First if you're an out-of-towner, you gotta understand that folk here go gaga over festivals, I could list 45 festivals that happen in Montr�al before I've had my first coffee, 85 or more, afterwards. One major problem with all the festivals is that they end up making like Wal-Mart for the very things that they are supposedly promoting. There are, what? Half-a-dozen jazz clubs in Montr�al?

All of this as a lead in to the "nuit blanche" which took place from Saturday until Sunday morning over the weekend. (for you out-of-towners, it translates into "all-nighter") It was part of the Hydro-Quebec Festival of Light [consumption]. Nothing like doing an all-nighter to promote the use of electricity, eh? And from a quick scan of the program, both Art Museums in town, and nine galleries in the Belgo building took part. In today's La Presse, Sylvain Poirier raves about the amount of people who straggled in to her gallery (she is quoted as saying "n'aurait jamais imagin� recevoir des dizaines de visiteurs dans sa galerie de l'�difice Belgo... en pleine nuit!" - from Babelfish: "would never have imagined to receive tens of visitors in her gallery of the Belgo Building... in middle of the night!") So one can reasonably imagine that there were more than 11, and less than 99 people who saw the paintings that she had on display by �ric Lamontagne and Mary Hayes. If there were an even 100, than that would translate into 12� per hour.

On a regular Saturday, I would imagine that every gallery in the Belgo does almost 10 times that amount. So why are they raving about the all-nighter? Well, could it be because suddenly the Art Galleries in the Belgo are getting wise to the idea of being open at times when regular people can actually go see the stuff on their walls? Or maybe Hydro-Quebec was throwing some cash their way. Whatever the reason was, I find it bizarre.

Wouldn't it be easier if say, galleries, and museums were regularly open until at least until 9 pm? Most people I know work in between 9 and 5, Monday through Friday. And I do get an awful lot of paperwork done during those hours. But invariably the people who walk in the door here come after 4 pm, and sometimes as late as 10 pm. Hence my vague and ill-defined opening hours. If somebody wants to see art at 10 pm why should I make it impossible for them?

If Mme. Poirier is raving about getting another 100 folk through the door, then perhaps she should think about opening when most people have the ability to go see art. If on the other hand, it is due the festival-itis that possessed the city over the weekend, then this is an even worse thing, because last I heard the budget for something like the Hydro-Qu�bec Festival of Light [consumption] was in the millions of dollars, if spending all that cash then only translates into about a hundred people going to see art, then Montrealer's behavior pretty much needs to be reprogrammed, and quickly. Or maybe they were all tourists and I'm barking up the wrong tree.