I ran into a friend who happens to be a relatively well-established painter as I made my way into the Humber Arts and Media Studios in Etobicoke where curator Scott Sawtell has attempted to capture something of the state of painting in this country at this moment in time through a collection of sixty painters in an exhibition called, unsurprisingly, 60 Painters. “Are you in there?” I said without thinking. “Why does everyone keep asking me that?” she snapped back. She clearly wasn’t. The greatest challenge Sawtell must have faced in assembling this ambitious endeavor wasn’t aesthetic but social. Who to include? And what to say to those who didn’t make the cut?
My friend joked that the next exhibition should be called 61 to 120 Painters. I’ll leave that up to Sawtell to consider. As for the present group, there’s only so much you can say about a show of this magnitude. Rather than fuss about the details of mounting canvas in the cavernous but unforgiving confines of the Humber Studios, and unwilling as I am to attempt the potentially Sisyphean task of identifying unifying themes, my only reaction is to mentally jot down the names of artists who I’d like to see more of (Melanie Authier, Stanzie Tooth, and Sasha Pierce are but three), refresh my memory of the senior standard bearers of the form (Monica Tap, John Kissick, Carol Wainio, etc.), and wonder why a downtown museum of sufficient size didn’t think to mount this themselves. As it is, there are only a couple more days before the big show in the suburbs closes so pencil it in this weekend and start organizing your car pool.
There is something instantly appealing about a miniature. That’s why we like finger food, dioramas, and dinky cars. As a model of what could be, miniatures capture our imagination and inspire storytelling. We buy our condos of the future based on pristine maquettes that tower just inches above our heads and promise a happy ever after. David Trautrimas’ exhibition at Le Gallery of mini-fishing huts in a wide variety of exceptionally well-wrought designs is, on the other hand, a model of what could have been. Taking a page from Kim Adams’ utopian toy-kit mash-ups and mixing it with Andrea Zittel’s proposals for modular housing, he adds a dash of Canadiana through the appropriation of discarded and otherwise failed past national treasures as design formulae. From repurposed DEW-line satellite stations through tributes to the old Brewer’s Retail logo and our long-lost paper dollar bill, his tiny fishing huts – like the life-size ones that inspired him – recycle the remnants of the recent past for present day pastimes. The danger for the artist with this sort of work is reducing your final product to the level of the delicate dinky: merely an expensive toy that must remain out of reach of children’s hands. Trautrimas’ dedication to craft (each hut is seamlessly assembled) wouldn’t have been enough to redeem his project; only when it plays into a particularly Canadian historical discourse of innovation and tragic-comic loss do these works become something more than playthings.
60 Painters: http://60painters.com/
60 Painters continues until June 9.
Le Gallery: http://le-gallery.ca/
David Trautrimas: One Empire Wide continues until July 1.