Ryan McGinness at Artcore/Fabrice Marcolini
$18,000-$180,000. Until Nov. 15,
55 Mill St., Building 62, Toronto; 416-920-3820
Ryan McGinness is an exuberant boundary-breaker. At the age of 36, the amiably hyperactive, hyperbolically productive, meteorically successful New York-based artist (who is represented in New York by both Deitch Projects and Pace Prints) is a maniacal eraser of the once-clear lines dividing, for example, work and play, business and pleasure, and the increasingly unreal line between high art and innovative design.
McGinness, who grew up in Virginia Beach, Va., came to art-making not from art history lectures (though he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Pittsburgh's Carnegie-Mellon University) or from life class, but from skateboarding. Having made his mark early as a designer of consequence (he was designing a line of skateboards for Supreme in 2000, and incarnated his design philosophy in a now-famous book called Flatnessisgod), McGinness seems to have come quickly to the decision to stop trying to produce art that was separate from his graphic design ideas, and hurl himself wholeheartedly into making whatever he felt like making, whether it was regarded as serious art or not.
As his New York dealer Jeffrey Deitch notes in an essay in McGinness's book Installationview (Rizzoli, 2005), McGinness rapidly expanded his artistic output "like a benign computer virus" during the last decade, generating paintings, sculptures, wall murals and books - while continuing to churn out, like a latter-day Andy Warhol or Keith Haring, T-shirts, soccer balls, skateboards and sneakers. ("Products," according to McGinness, "are the new art.").
McGinness's exhibition at Toronto's Artcore/Fabrice Marcolini, his first solo show in Canada, is titled Aesthetic Comfort. It features a couple of seductively writhing Plexiglas sculptures (like works by the Russian constructivist Naum Gabo, but forcefully yanked into the 21st century), and a hot selection of his teeming silk-screened paintings - a number of which are installed in a specially built black-light gallery. Here, the paintings are hung over zappy, eye-popping, wall-mounted, adhesive vinyl configurations - graphic "nests," onto which are fitted the paintings, many of them, like the one reproduced here, being tondos (the disk shape acting as the perfect support for McGinness's whirling, centrifugal cacophony of jangled images and shapes). When the fluorescent black-lighting is turned on, the paintings, which are already deep and dense with imagistic overlays, suddenly become almost three-dimensional. You almost feel you can walk into them.
The exhibition has been organized by Toronto-based critic and curator Randy Gladman, who got to know McGinness and his work during the years he was writing and curating in New York. In his essay "Art and Entertainment" in Installationview, Gladman provides a helpful chronological outline of the development of McGinness's hectic style, of how he began by making silk-screened paintings of iconic, clip-art images (the images invariably drawn from the everyday world of pop artifacts), and of how, "gorging on the icons and symbols of mass communication," McGinness proceeded to digest "chips of visual pop culture" and "regurgitate a rehydrated paste of common experience."
Look deeply and intensely enough into silk-screened paintings such as the massive landscape-like diptych The Free Will Illusion, for example, and you will find, within the painting's almost inexhaustible richness, hundreds of shards of identifiable pop culture moments ( Star Wars Storm Troopers, for example), tossed about on McGinness's graphic sea of surging icons and vignettes like bits of 20th-century wreckage, salvaged by the artist's canny defining of a new post-modern pastoralism.
By the way, lest anyone imagine that McGinness is long on flare and fizz and sketchy on profundity, take a look at the beautiful, black Big Bang Amnesia - which is darkly imbued with pop objects of oppression and curtailment (handcuffs, etc.), but which can take its place in the sublimity sweepstakes beside big, black, sepulchral paintings by Ad Reinhardt and Mark Rothko.
at the Leo Kamen Gallery
$13,500 each. Until Oct. 11,
80 Spadina Ave., Suite 406, Toronto; 416-504-9515
Like Ryan McGinness, Toronto-based artist Jeannie Thib is fascinated by pattern. But where McGinness first builds up and then defeats pattern by his gleeful recourse to overabundance, Thib has always remained a careful delineator and memorializer of pattern's long reach into design and architectural history. For this new exhibition, Schema, Thib has begun with three historical faience tiles she came upon in the collection of the Maison Patrimoniale de Barthète in Boussan, France, where she recently accepted a residency.
Put together in different ways, these remarkable tiles coalesce into extended patterns, a characteristic upon which Thib has drawn for her five dazzling, free extrapolations in this exhibition. In Thib's skillful hands, the original tile patterns now take the form of lace-delicate fields, manifested as laser-cut, baked enamel-on-aluminum "landscapes" mounted on the gallery walls. The fact that these metal landscapes are contrived to read as if they are being looked at in perspective, lends them a strange quality of spatial recession - which seems to point them back into the past where they began.
John Dickson at Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects
$1,500-$16,000. Until Oct. 18,
1080 Queen St. W., Toronto; 416-537-8827
The pleasure of the miniature lies mostly in claiming. You loom over a miniature anything like a giant, and what then lies so easily within your grasp is imaginatively yours - because you are there. Think of little boys stretched out on the floor with their toy cars and trains. What is circumscribed by the gaze belongs to the gazer.
John Dickson's exhibition of miniature things, Black and White, works that way too, but with an important and poignant difference: The objects Dickson presents as miniatures - a model Spitfire fighter plane, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Sears Tower, nuclear silos, and, as the exhibition's centrepiece, an entire miniaturized, derelict city spread out on a plane of what looks like white sand (but is really ground garlic skin) and contained in a mirror-walled box - are all burning (the Spitfire has been hit and is going down), smoking, steaming, or wrapped in cloud and fog (as with the Golden Gate). The cloud, fog, steam and smoke is miniaturized, too - modelled from wads of upholstery stuffing. These models - both the various structures and the smoke/steam/clouds rising around them - are no longer delectable miniaturized moments to be claimed, but rather cultural mishaps and political problems to be pondered, and probably rejected as painful. These cunningly made miniatures are moments of intimate immensity, and are just as likely to be feared as they are to be acquired and revered.
Dickson's tiny, distressed, black-and-white city - which looks like parts of downtown Detroit, or Berlin during the Allied airlift just after the Second World War, or a view from one of the B-25s in the film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) - is particularly disturbing. Does it represent some Indiana Jones-like mythic city, now risen from the depths of archaeological history? Or is it some bleak, ruined city of a yet-undreamt-of apocalypse?