Category Archives: Art

Art for bookworms

Spanish installation artist Alicia Martin turns books into art. I love when public art/sculpture uses everyday objects in such an arresting but playful way.



And my favourite.


via designmilk


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Forward thinking

Griffe Quebeccomplex

Last week I checked out Griffé Québec a new exhibit that looks at the evolution of Quebec fashion. It’s a small show, divided in to two different locations, one in the city, the other in St-Lambert. Suzanne Chabot, the curator of both the exhibit and the Musée du costume et du textile du Québec, who produced the show told me they had a tough time finding pieces to add to the exhibit. “A lot of this work wasn’t preserved,” she said, “and what we do have, is mostly from private collections.”

The work on view (at least at the Écomusée in downtown Montreal) isn’t mindblowing, you’re not going to find anything here that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the Western world (unsurprisingly a good deal of Quebec designers studied in France). But what I think is interesting and worthwhile about the exhibit are the questions it raises.

Quebec fashion (and by Quebec, I pretty much just mean Montreal) has become a paradox. Once seen as the most stylish city in Canada, it’s now known for its own brand of bizarre quirkiness, one that involves multiple patterned fabrics, unnecessary layering and asymmetric cuts. It goes without saying that there’s some great stuff coming out of Montreal, complexgeometries and Rad Hourani are two excellent examples, but when it comes to the majority, it’s more about quirk than class. Montreal continues to have a thriving, creative center so why is fashion outside of this? This exhibit reminds us of a distinctly stylish past and serves as a road map of where we should head next.

Above right a wedding dress by Colpron D’Anjou (at back) and an evening gown by Renee Chaumont.

Above left, a look from complexgeometries a/w 09 collection.

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Build it up. Let it rot. Tear it down.

6a00d8341c013b53ef00e5517d82b18834-800wiLightning Bolt

Two of my favourite Montreal artists come as a pair, Chloe Lum and Yannick Desranleau, better known as design duo Seripop. They’ve created gig posters for just about everyone from Slayer to the Rapture, won a Juno (the Canadian equivalent of Grammy) for their artwork for MSTRKRFT’s album The Looks and contributed a t-shirt design to TopShop. Their work is both psychedelic and raw but somehow manages to reference so many art history movements and subcultures it hurts your head to think about.

Two years ago they branched out into installations, taking their existing print work and turning it 3D. Their upcoming show No Henge at The Emporium Gallery opens next week, July 2, and is their first solo show in Montreal and the first time they’ve exhibited on Canadian soil for two years. It’s based around the idea of “disposable landscapes” and in that vein the show will only be up for a week.

When I spoke to Chloe about the show she told me that Montreal was a big inspiration. “It seems as though everything in this city is built with the idea that it’s going to become obsolete. Build it up. Let it rot. Tear it down. So we got this idea of abstracted cityscapes and of getting rid of it all in the end.”

Above  left is a taste of what the show will look like. They never do the same thing twice. Above right is a Lightning Bolt poster from 2003, it’s been hanging on my wall for nearly as long.

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Back to the Bed-in

What I Missed: Yoko at the MMFA photo by Ian Barrett

What I Missed: Yoko at the MMFA photo by Ian Barrett

The Ballad of John and Yoko opened at the MMFA on Tuesday to media fanfare and huge crowds. In fact it was so crowded I barely made it in to the exhibition. Billed as a VIP event, in a brilliant turn of pr, half of Montreal turned out to the opening waiving their exclusive invites only to be left standing in the foyer while Yoko’s image was beamed onto a giant hovering TV screen like something out of The Prisoner.

From where I was standing she wasn’t seen and was barely heard (judging by news reports she talked peace, Lennon and giggled a lot), though a children’s choir singing “Imagine” came through a-okay. When we—my friend and Pin Pal, Sara, and I were dates—finally made it to the second floor we headed straight to the drinks and for one not-so-obvious reason.

While we waited patiently for over an hour to get into the exhibit, quite a few people who’d already viewed the show were leaving. One woman in particular took it upon herself to put us all out of our misery by shouting her thoughts to a friend in the waiting crowd. “It’s NOT that good,” she said with an exaggerated frown.  Definitely not worth the wait.” So wine in hand, we hunkered down and waited for the crowds to thin out before braving what we expected would be a disappointing exhibition. Contrary to the killjoy, and to the museum’s credit, it was worth the wait.

Curators Emma Lavigne and Thierry Planelle have succeeded in turning an overexposed, dated, baby-boomers-bathing-in-the-glory-of-their-youth subject, it into something genuinely clever, modern and interesting.

Part of what makes this exhibit particularly engaging and different, especially for the MMFA—a museum known for its look, don’t touch policy—is the inclusion of the viewer as participant. Audience interaction has always been a part of Ono’s work and here it’s invoked in just the right amount and in the right way.

The show opens with the piece “Hammer in Nail,” which was included in Ono’s show at the Indica Gallery in 1966 and as the title suggests involves you, the audience, banging a nail into a piece of wood. It’s a tactile way to draw attention to her as an artist, not as the woman who broke up the Beatles. Even if you ignore the piece, the sound of others hammering a way will call your attention back to it.  

What I Saw: The Yoko Phone

What I Saw: The Yoko Phone

Newer works, like “Wish Tree,” which asks that you tie your thoughts to a number of potted plants in the room and “Play It by Trust,” a banquet sized table of 15 chess boards awaiting your next move, continue with the interactive theme. Ono too remains part of this interaction with “Yoko phone” and old rotary that, when dialed, will put you in direct contact with the artist once a day at an unspecified time. At the time of my call, however, I reached security.

The exhibit also includes album art from Lennon and Ono’s work together, as well as a replica of the white piano Lennon played in the “Imagine” video, all of which leads up to the Bed-in exhibit featuring posters, sketches and photos of the couples honeymoon-protest all surrounding a king sized bed (not the actual bed, mercifully, but a stand-in). Which brings us back to the centre of the exhibit, this high-profile relationship.

At its core the exhibition is about Lennon and Ono, the couple. Though it gives ample and deserved space their anti-war protests and Ono the artist, the exhibit is a meditation on their work together and apart and the influences they had on each other. Ono’s conceptual work is what makes this exhibit something more modern and contemporary, even if much of it was created in the ’60s and ’70s, it’s her creations that add the much needed element of the outsider, of an audience. Without it, it’s a look at a celebrity relationship with political leanings. But with it, a historical protest becomes contemporary art.





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Ono meets Montreal

Ono with apple

Ono with apple

Tonight marks the opening of The Peace Ballad of John and Yoko at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, an exhibition honouring and dedicated to their peace protest and Bed-in, which took place 40 years ago at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. An event that toured part-way-around the world and yielded iconic photographs of the long-haired couple and permitted the hotel to charge the stunning price of $900 a night for the same room.
Now, before you start thinking I’m some sort of Lennon-crazy I’m just going to come out and say it—I’ve never cared that much for the Beatles (I’m a Rolling Stones fan). And I care even less about Yoko’s comments about Lennon’s brilliance and talent but I am excited about the possibility of even catching a glimpse of Ms. “Yes, I’m a Witch” Ono at what is bound to be a very packed opening.
Because what I find most interesting about her—and this can be lonely territory—is her work as an artist, both visual and musical.  Her piece involving the ladder and the magnifying glass and the tiny decal of the word Yes, which brought the couple together in 1966, is one of the more interesting and fun installation pieces to come out of the ’60s. All at once it invited audience participation and encapsulated the exuberant, unrestrained perspective of the time. Also, Sean Lennon’s late-90s record Into the Sun kind of killed me when it came out.

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Virtually Bound

p2190705I love a good book. A book with a great cover I love even more. Shallow as that sounds, it’s the truth. Covers are like clothes (they call it a dust jacket for a reason) it’s the first thing you notice.  And just as clothes help to shape our immediate impressions of the person wearing them, so does a cover shape our immediate impressions of a book.

Had I not become a writer, I like to think I could’ve turned to designing things that contain writing (despite being incapable of drawing hands—even my life drawing subjects wore mittens, albeit nude mittens—and just about everything else, I was accepted to art school) things like books, magazines, health pamphlets.

Book Cover Archive, is a new site dedicated to book covers and the designers who make them. Clicking on any cover will take you to info about the author, publisher and designer. Some even have notes on the typeface (!) Run by two design dudes out of the States, the focus in strictly on new design and contemporary covers, few titles on the site were designed before 1995.

Flipping through the collection it’s funny to look at the similarities in the titles you’re drawn to. I found myself thinking of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a book I was lukewarm about, looked a hell of a lot more interesting given a more updated cover (though, I’m guessing the contents are still original). 

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Amber Albrecht

Albrecht Last Saturday was Nuit Blanche here in Montreal, which is basically all about drinking too much, staying up too late and gallery hopping. This was my third year going out and it can be a real hit or miss, it all depends on timing, what you decide to see, how much free alcohol you find and how crowded things get. Last year we hit up the Centre for Canadian Architecture, discovered they were giving out free booze and pretty much stayed put. This year their party was a little weak (though they did have a giant pink blow-up doughnut that you crawled into and made roll forward by shifting your weight. We were having a pretty amazing time with that until the security guard kicked us out by saying it,  “wasn’t for everybody,” which basically just meant us and our somersaulting) so we stayed just long enough to check out the exhibit then headed home. By that point it was already 2 am and my night had started early.

It all kicked off in the afternoon at a vernissage for Demarcations, a solo show by Amber Albrecht. I’ve been a fan of Amber’s work for a long time, even before I got to know her, and have always found her style and narrative voice to be haunting in the most beautiful way possible. I stopped into a lot of galleries that night but her show was by far my favourite, in fact I even popped in for a second time, shortly before midnight and found myself again pulled into her delicate and dreamy world. Amber and I’d spoken about her work (which I wrote about in this weeks issue of the Mirrorthe day before and speaking to her about it added a layer of clarity that I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. Finding out she loves patterns and math has totally made me look at her work in a completely different way, and I find myself looking at her pieces as though they’re one giant maze and there’s only a single way out. 

The show runs until April 04 at Division Gallery 373 Ste-Catherine W., #311.

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