Saturday, September 25, 2010

131 Opens at O'Born Contemporary Gallery, Toronto

131 opens at the O'Born Contemporary Gallery
131 Ossington St., Toronto
September 25 - October 23

Featuring works from Robert Canali, Liam Crockard, Alex Fischer, Rafael Goldchain, Kate McQuillen, John Monteith, Dominic Nahr, Ed Ou and Noel Rodo-Vankeulen.

I was lucky enough to catch this exhibition that inaugurates the O'Born's new digs on chic Ossington Avenue, with many of the pieces already sporting the red dots of acquisition even at the preview show on Friday. With their focus as photography, the show puts together a wide variety of approaches to image making in an artistic vein, with some impressive inclusions. Here are some of my notes.

Ed Ou
Striking in their clear sightedness, his images depict Somali child soldiers like 12 year old Mohamed Adan Ugas, a member of the Transitional Federal Government's forces in Mogadishu, in an image of him assembling a gun. What they capture - heartbreak- ingly - is their very childishness even in the harsh realities they occupy.
Canadian photojournalist Ed Ou is currently based in Nairobi. His photographs of child soldiers made the front pages of the New York Times, and were used as evidence in an US congressional hearing on whether or not the American government was violating international law by supporting a government that uses child soldiers. His work has been recognized internationally.

Liam Crockard
Herators are a series of three dimensional works, based on photographic prints in sepia tones and images that include Greco-Roman statuary. The Kitchener native's work is quite atmospheric, creating a nostalgic and somehow secretive effect.

John Monteith
Archival prints of books are given a spatial, ethereal treatment that imparts a kind of spiritual glow. A native of Newmarket, he graduated from the MFA programme at Parsons the New School for Design, and his work has been shown all over North America and Europe.

Noel Rodo-Venkeulen
I was intrigued by his stark black and white prints of a variety of objects from a house to a hoodie - mundane subjects given an expressive treatment that finds the drama in the ordinary. Noel lives and works in Brampton, his pieces shown all over the place.

Dominic Nahr
Dramatically lit portraits of people with children awaiting treatment for malaria in Uganda. While it's easy to turn them into yet another story about human misery, the image of a woman breastfeeding her child has a quiet sort of dignity, even an angelic quality. I wonder how they'd compare to pictures of, say, St. Michael's ER in Toronto? His artist's statement talks about the proliferation of deadly malaria in Uganda, and efforts to control the disease.
Born in Switzerland and raised in Hong Kong, it was while Dominic was attending university in Toronto that he became a photojournalist, with a portfolio that nowadays includes National Geographic Magazine, Time, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde 2 and many more.

Alex Fischer
His abstracted giclée prints assemble figures and landscapes from a variety of sources, including a neat sculpture on spindly legs (you'll know what I mean if you go). The work comes in advance of his first solo show at the O'Born that opens October 28.

Robert Canali
His handmade fold out book of prints range from mundane family type shots, vintage portraits and scenery to weirdly staged doll rituals and more. In his artist's statement, he likens the format to a kind of sculpture of photographs.

Rafael Goldchain
These large scale black and white prints find the extraordinary in the ordinary. They depict a series of concrete posts, their linear and smoothed forms contrasted by natural forms. Often, the concrete crumbles, and in one roots wrap themselves around it with sinewy strength. They're a fascinating contrast in textures and shades.
Internationally shown and represented, Rafael is a Professor and Coordinator in Sheridan College's Applied Photography Programme. He's received awards from the Canada Council for the Arts and accompanied the Governor General on trips to Chile and Argentina in 2001.

Kate McQuillen
With much of her recent work focused on the moon and lunar landings, the piece in this show is a unique print of pigment on handmade paper with a large and haunted full moon who looks back at the viewer.
Chicago based, Kate works largely in print and installation.

While I'm including some of these striking images, it really doesn't compare to viewing them in full size in a gallery setting.

About O'Born Gallery:
O'Born Contemporary was established as a gallery, exhibiting contemporary photographic and lens-based works by living artists. This shall be maintained in our new space with the addition of works of all mediums, conceptually or practically linked to photography or its history.

The artists that represent us are photographers, journalists, documentarians, painters, sculptors, builders and thinkers; they do not necessarily commit themselves to a single mode of expression but all contribute to the ongoing dialogue of photography's place in contemporary art practices.

Images:
Ed Ou | Untitled of Children of Men, 2010
Noel Rodo-VanKeulen | Untitled, 2009
Dominic Nahr | Grace Akullu and her Daughter
Rafael Goldchain, 2010

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