We can’t tell you what this year will bring — if it will be easier or harder than the last, if all of our problems will magically be solved, or if anyone will find love.
What we can do is show you a good place to start your year off with a new crop of Toronto art exhibitions. This month we have a variety of shows, rather a mixed-bag of mediums and artists, but all promising the peace and thoughtfulness that inherently come with time spent with art.
WAX & WANE (JANUARY 3RD — 27TH)
Painting with wax is an old technique, so old that the first example of it we can find is from the 1st century BCE. Since then, popularity with the art form has ebbed and flowed, with different interpretations popping up. It returns again in 2018 with a new crop of artists inspired by the medium’s capacity to create incredible colour and dimension. This group show at Twist Gallery has artists pushing boundaries with the medium and finding modernity in an old technique.
VARIATION AND AUTONOMY: THE PRINTS BY CONTEMPORARY JAPANESE PAINTERS (JANUARY 10TH — MARCH 29TH)
This show at the Japan Foundation is both an art exhibition and a history lesson. Here we see examples of printmaking by painters, which gained popularity among young Japanese artists in the 1970s and expanded on contemporary art. The exhibition looks at the history of the medium, back from its origins, post-WWII, and onwards. It also features works from what they consider to be “supporting players” in the movement as a way to showcase printmaking as an autonomous art form and re-examine its history.
Onsite Gallery’s newest exhibition brings more than a dozen artists together in an exploration of using nature to combat global crises. The show is about creating hope through plants, flowers, and trees, looking at old powers to find new meanings. Curated by Lisa Deanne Smith, the exhibition will include works by Nick Cave, Alanis Obomsawin, and Brian Jungen, to name a few. An exhibition like this is something everyone needs right now: a bit of positivity, a bit of nature.
The Christopher Cutts Gallery will be putting on this exhibition featuring work from the famous Japanese-Canadian artist known for his abstract paintings and sculptures. Nakamura’s paintings are simple in design but stunningly beautiful, often tied to Nakamura’s interest in science and mathematics. Overall, their effect is calming, the blues and greens he so often turns to creating a wave of quiet contemplation.
This year marks the 15th iteration of the Gladstone Hotel’s immersive art exhibition. Come Up to my Room will take over all four floors of the hotel during its limited run, offering a truly unique gallery experience. The exhibition itself acts as a conversation between artist, art, and viewers, and provides a challenge for the participating artists to produce works for such an unusual space. The list of participating artists this year is a hefty one, but curators Jana Macalik and Christophe Jivraj with Lukas Toane have put together a promising roster.
When December rolls around, the art exhibition circuit changes: markets, fairs, and flash sales open up throughout the month, giving attendees ample opportunities to purchase original artworks and artisanal crafts for themselves and their loved ones. And this is fantastic. After all, we love a good artisan fair. However, with this month’s guide, we want to keep the focus on the exhibits, on art that you can’t necessarily buy or touch, but that you can see, experience, and remember.
UNCERTAIN LANDSCAPES (NOVEMBER 3RD — JANUARY 5TH)
A good place to start this month is Montreal-based artist JG’s solo exhibition at Xpace Cultural Centre. Uncertain Landscapes delves into queerness: its appearance, fluidity, and inability to conform. JG combines imagery from drag culture and science fiction into their illustrations, demonstrating how aesthetics can empower and validate those who are perceived to be outside of the social norm.
Deanna Pizzitelli’s solo exhibition at the Stephen Bulger Gallery is a series of photographs from the artist’s travels over a period of three years. The photographs are intimate, revealing, and represent a wide emotional landscape that defines the human experience: from lust, to loss, to longing. Despite the photographs being of different people in different places, they weave a narrative of loneliness and hopefulness, of our eternal searches for meaning and connection.
Usually, our focus is on smaller, more independent galleries. The ROM gets enough publicity as it is, but special circumstances rise from time to time. And Christian Dior is definitely a special circumstance. Until March next year, some of Dior’s finest creations will be on display. The exhibition mainly features fashions from the first ten years of Dior’s house, following the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the “new look.”
MATERIAL MATTERS: INVESTIGATIONS INTO PLACE AND PLACEMENT (DECEMBER 1ST — JANUARY 27TH)
Jen Aitken and Margaret Priest are different artists: in their experiences, mediums, messages and theses. But in Georgia Scherman Projects’s joint exhibition, their combined works play off of one another in an examination of place and perspective. Priest’s drawings question and critique the physicality and ideology of modern architecture, while Aitken’s sculptures are a more abstract approach to the interaction of space and design.
SMALL SCULPTURES BY GREAT ARTISTS & ANTLER, BONE, STONE (DECEMBER 2ND — JANUARY 27TH)
Feheley’s newest exhibition is proof that great things come in small sculptures. The detail, the craftsmanship, the amount of love present in every etch and divot; this is what can be found at the two exhibitions this month. As is usual for the gallery, works by Inuit artist will feature in the shows, with Antler, Bone, Stone showing works specific to Igloolik. Little information is available on the specific artists, but Feheley Fine Arts already has a reputation for putting on wonderful exhibits — this will be no different.
At the height of summer, during the longest and hottest days, we need some stimuli for the eyes and the mind — something to take you away from the melting streets and into other worlds, those of minimalism and absurdism, of different identities and migration. All of this and more can be found in our art picks for the month of August.
MINIMAL(IST) EFFORTS (JULY 15TH—AUGUST 26TH)
Minimalism is an art form that is something that is both endlessly pleasing and frustrating.
Minimalism endlessly pleases and frustrates. It’s difficult for some to see minimalism as art — to see it as a response to outlandishness and as something complex in its simplicity. There should be no question as to why this is a movement that stuck around from the 1960s. The Angell Gallery aims to put a contemporary Canadian lens on the subject — their summer show features works by Simon Belleau, Neil Harrison, Jean-Francois Lauda and Robert Taite.
TAU LEWIS & CURTIS SANTIAGO (JULY 20TH—AUGUST 26TH)
Toronto-born artists Tau Lewis and Curtis Santiago’s joint show at the Cooper Cole this month is titled Through the People We Are Looking at Ourselves. The phrase is intriguing, and the exhibition it describes is even more so. The combination of Lewis’s incredible sculptures and Santiago’s evocative paintings is staggering, and with themes of identity and diaspora woven into the exhibition, it can be nothing less than a memorable and enriching experience.
The last installation in Roadside Attractions’s front window before the shop relocates to the east coast is a piece by Dan Nuttall that responds to the controversy facing the new proposed sex education curriculum in Ontario. Nuttall’s “Stilled Live With Curriculum” is a little disturbing, a little ridiculous, and very interesting. Since the installation will be in the front window, there’s no excuse not to pop by Roadside Attractions to check out Nuttall’s piece.
SEAN WAINSTEIM & LEJB PILANSKI (AUGUST 2ND—AUGUST 5TH)
Lejb Pilanski, a 97-year-old Jewish refugee, assembled a variety of objects he has repurposed as art pieces. Pilanski’s grandson Sean Wainsteim has curated his grandfather’s pieces to be placed alongside documents recounting Pilanski’s journey from Eastern Europe to Canada. Showing at the Red Head Gallery, ZEI GEZUNT // KEEP WELL is an exhibition filled with unique objects and artwork, but it also speaks to a greater experience of ingenuity and discovery shared by immigrants across time.
James Michael Yeboah’s When Black Boys Cry is an honest and open examination of stereotypes, toxic ideals of hyper masculinity and stoicism imposed on black men. Yeboah’s show at Magic Pony is meant “for black folx to come together and be unapolegetically vulnerable and, of course unapologetically black” in. Though the show has a focused audience in mind, the beauty and overall impact of the painting is something that can be appreciated by all.
As we move into another summer, this time a big one for Canada, we remember to think outside of the box — to delve deeper and consider perspectives outside of our own. Our picks for art exhibitions in the month of June bring you everything from Queer intersectionality to examining Canada’s honest history and considerations on what art can do for nations at war. We ask this month that you take some time from work, from planning vacations, and reading magazines to consider, to think, to engage.
SYRIAN SYMPHONY: NEW COMPOSITIONS IN SIGHT AND SOUND (May 20th — August 13th)
The newest exhibition at the Aga Khan Gallery combines music, paintings, and multimedia installations by prominent Syrian artists. Much like a symphony, the exhibition is divided into movements, each unique but linked by overarching themes on the presence and purpose of art in conflict. Together, these artists explore the difficulties in preserving their heritage and culture, and fortitude in the face of war. Artists showing include Ahmad Moualla, Malek Jandali, and Kevork Mourad.
THE BILL BURNS SHOW: PART 3 (May 27th — June 24th)
Prominent Canadian artist Bill Burns shows the third and final part in his series on truth and the art trade at MKG127 this month. In the show, Burns accompanies his watercolour paintings with goat’s milk and Gregorian Chant. Sounds intriguing, if a little confusing? Burns will also be reading from his new book on June 17th to help give insight into his career and perspective.
CONTESTED LANDS: CANADA AT 150 (May 28th — June 30th)
As we grow closer to the Canada 150 celebrations, celebratory Canadian propaganda is cropping up everywhere, boasting being a nice, multicultural, and inclusive nation. While Canada certainly has its good points, this exhibition at the MLC Gallery at Ryerson is looking at those silenced and ignored in the Canadian Confederation. The exhibition uses art and artifacts from the Ryerson Special Collection and MLC Research Archives to highlight the achievements of and horrors faced by Indigenous peoples and Canadian women.
QUEER LANDSCAPES, QUEER INTERSECTIONS (May 30th — June 23rd)
Just in time for Pride, the John B. Aird Gallery brings us an LGBTQ+ focused exhibition. Unlike many of the Pride parties, however, the real focus of this show is on intersectionality. Artists from across Ontario will show their works that engage with LGBTQ social issues and intersect with issues of race, class, religion, ability, and sexual and mental health. The purpose of the exhibition is to spark conversation and action that will build toward equality and diversity.
DIGITAL SPHERES: CLARA BACOU (June 8th — July 15th)
English artist Clara Bacou comes to the Robert Kananaj Gallery with an exploration of the boundaries between the real and virtual, the physical and digital. Bacou uses light projection to display her digital art in a 3D way, the exhibition itself representing her own questions on the way we present ourselves online versus the people we are in the real world. If you’ve ever embellished any truths about yourself to seem more desirable on a dating app, this is probably an exhibition you should see.
Next year, the world will finally have the opportunity to experience the full range of Rei Kawakubo’s astounding career as a designer under the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After years of being relatively unnoticed outside the high fashion world, this exhibit is truly the first time Kawakubo’s works beyond her commercial endeavors will be available on view for those outside the fashion world. However, some people feel that Kawakubo’s career has not produced enough influential moments to garner an event of such scale dedicated to her life’s work. This raises an important question: is there a more well known and successful designer out there who deserves a Met Gala exhibition more than Kawakubo does? The truth is that there aren’t many designers deserving of this more than she. Her career and influence — although sometimes looked over — are far more important than people realize. The time has come for her to tell her story as a designer, a woman, and an artist. Here is Novella’s list on why Rei Kawakubo is the most deserving a subject for next year’s Met Gala showcase.
Anti Fashion and Avant Gardism:
Kawakubo graduated with a degree in fine arts and literature from Tokyo’s Keio Univerity and worked in the advertising department of a textile company and as a fashion stylist before becoming a designer. Most people would have never guessed that someone with a degree in fine arts and literature would ever become one of fashion world’s most beloved and forward thinking avant gardists. But that’s the beauty of Kawakubo’s story: she came from a background that requires formal training and understanding rules for success. And with that, she became a world renowned fashion icon.
Her first collection, shown in Paris in 1981, set the wheel in motion for Kawakubo and Comme Des Garçons’s rise to the avant-garde throne. Incorporating knitwear, distressed finishes, holes, tattered garments, and unconventional shapes, Kawakubo was able to contrast her collection against the glitz and excesses of the 80’s; sequins and lycra were challenged by the image of a woman in tattered clothes and unkempt hair, clad in shades of black, white, and grey. This idea of destroyed and sombre clothing went against the grain of fashion trend at the time. It pushed against the status quo of fashion and told the world that fashion didn’t necessarily have to be what the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin deemed beautiful — fashion could be raw and unorthodox and still tell a story. Kawakubo’s contribution to the avant-garde design has inspired many of today’s most important avant-gardists, such as Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela who have taken inspiration from Comme Des Garçons’s early work in the 80’s.
She’s one of the Most Successful Female Designers in the history of Fashion:
It’s safe to say that Kawakubo has built a legacy that will withstand the test of time long after she’s passed, which, in an industry that’s been largely male driven and dominated for decades, is no small feat. Very little room has ever been left for women to achieve success in the fashion industry, so seeing a woman like Kawakubo dominate the fashion industry, while simultaneously creating garments that most would never expect a woman to create, is a call for celebration in itself.
In the light of the outcome of recent presidential election in the United States that left Hillary Clinton just short of becoming the nation’s first female president, the fact that Kawakubo is a successful woman in position of power is a significant reason for her place at the Met Gala. Conversations regarding gender equality and various forces that stymie its advance are not restricted to politics but rather implicit in all industries. It is important to showcase women who have achieved global success and reached the top of their professions as a way of inspiring and motivating other young women and men to pursue their passions without fear of failure due to their gender.
Furthermore, Kawakubo’s exhibit would also showcase how a Japanese woman’s contribution to the world of fashion largedly dominated by Western and European ideals of beauty. The Met Gala has a chance to allow people to understand and appreciate beauty as seen, voiced, and interpreted by a woman of color.
Kawakubo’s place in a Met Gala exhibit should be secure by the fact that she is one of the most successful contemporary designers in the fashion industry. Though she started as a virtually unheard of designer in the Western world in the 80’s, she has been able to build a brand that now pulls in over $220 million dollars in revenue each year. This impressive number shows that Kawakubo knows exactly what her current clientele wants from the brand and what the would-be buyers are looking for from brands like Comme Des Garcons. Kawakubo raised her brand into a global empire byincorporating and reinventing her brand through a handful of brand-off labels like Comme Des Garçons Shirt, Comme Des Garçons Homme Plus, Tricot Comme Des Garçons, and Comme Des Garçons Comme Des Garçons. This ability to expand her horizons and reinvent her brand has allowed Kawakubo to reach a wider audience of tastes and incomes.
Political Statements and Social Awareness:
Like many of her modern contemporaries, Kawakubo takes a lot of her inspiration from the world around her. Major political events, social justice movements, and global changes have been ingredients in her collections. Take her spring 2015 collection, for example. After a year of civil war and bloodshed in the Middle East, Kawakubo presented a collection dripping in the deepest shades of crimson imaginable. Another example is Spring 2012, wherein Kawakubo expressed her feelings on the tragedies in Japan by creating an uplifting show in all white that felt like a visualization of rebirth or a reversion to a state of purity and hope after the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake. It’s statements like these that solidify Kawakubo’s position not only as a designer of change, but also as a designer for the people — a designer who can voice a situation and amplify it through thought provoking clothing and design.
The Fashion Itself:
Now, there are many things that make Kawakubo the best choice for this year’s Met Gala, but there is still one other very important factor that sets her apart from other designers: the fashion! After three decades of being head designer at Comme Des Garçons, Kawakubo has proven herself time and time again that she is a driving force within the fashion industry. Known to never repeat herself, her evolution from monochrome black and white avant-garde to contemporary experimental fashion powerhouse is one for the history books. With countless collections being held in high regard and many of them ending on the “best of” lists around the world, Kawakubo has set the standard for what avant-garde truly is. Now this isn’t just a case of her designs being so wildly different that no one else can compete or compare. There are countless emerging avant-garde designers out there that have been inspired by her and present collections in a similar manner. This comes down to Kawakubo’s talent in interpreting and filtering the world around her to create storylines with depth. She isn’t just any old commercial designer who relies on shock value for a sale. Her clothing deeply mirrors the world it’s made in. It’s art in the purest form, a moment captured and preserved forever in every stitch and drape of fabric. Her understanding of the limits and borders that fashion has created for women and her undeniable aggression at breaking through those gender lines and restraints makes her one of the most talented and educated designers out there. It’s clear to see that fashion really isn’t an engine for profit for Kawakubo. It’s a way of using art to scream into the uncertainty of the world and make sense of it.