Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CONTACT Festival on a rainy day!

So… it’s been a cold, soggy spring. If you’re feeling a bit down due to the Vancouver-like rain and the lack of Vitamin D (I know I am), great art is always a sure bet to drive the grey-weather blahs away. The Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival – the world’s largest photography festival – continues all around the GTA until May 31. There are SO many great installations to check out, both inside and out, so rain or shine you’ve got no excuse not to check out the best photography the world has to offer in our own backyard.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Ed Burtynsky: Oil at the Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) at the ROM – features over 50 large-format photographs by the Canadian superstar artist. Images of oil extraction and refinement, its architecture and associated environmental destruction are simultaneously gorgeous and disturbing – Burtynsky captures the apocalyptic beauty of humanity’s industrial influence on the landscape.

Fred Herzog: Vancouver at MOCCA. I can’t get enough of Herzog’s gorgeous, colourful, sometimes bleak but incredibly human photos of Vancouver and its downtown (particularly the downtown eastside and Main Street areas) taken in the 1950’s and 60’s. He really captures Vancouver at a turning point in its cultural transformation – if you’ve spent time in Vancouver you realize how he’s captured the essence of the city: the colour, the grime, the streetscapes, the neon, the light (when the sun shines in Vancouver the light is like nowhere else), and the working class people who lived on its urban streets in the post-war period.

Also at MOCCA – Dynamic Landscape, a group show featuring a jam-packed gallery of stunning photographs by Olga Chagaoutdinova, Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Viviane Sassen, Dayanita Singh. This year, the large outdoor wall work that MOCCA commissions in its courtyard for CONTACT is What Isn’t There by Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzy.

Suzy Lake: Political Poetics at the U of T Arts Centre features recent time-based work by the seminal Canadian artist, who has made an impressive career out of her conceptual film, video, performance and photography works focused on the body and identity (Suzy was also one of our T-shirt models at the Koffler Gallery’s MIXEDFIT exhibition last fall).

Men in the Cities by American artist Robert Longo is a great outdoor installation at Metro Hall probably best viewed while on the King streetcar overcrowded with office workers… huge format photos of office workers jumping, dancing, posing, being generally un-office-worker-like.

And of course, there is the Koffler Gallery’s very own Share the Moment at the Sheppard Plaza – where artist Stephen Cruise has turned the old Kodak Fotomat into a tree-of-life with images collected from the community screened on the windows. Check out images from the opening on the Koffler's Flickr site.

There are literally hundreds of other CONTACT exhibitions and associated shows all over the city – check out their website and beat the rainy day blues with great art!

(Images from top: Edward Burtynsky, SOCAR Oil Fields #9, Baku, Azerbaijan, 2006, photo © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier, Toronto; Fred Herzog, Man With Bandage, 1968, Courtesy of Equinox Gallery, Vancouver and Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa; Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Lemonade Igloo, 2007, Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery, London; Suzy Lake, Extended Breathing in Dappled Light, Performance/ photography, 2009, Courtesy of Paul Petro Contemporary Art; Robert Longo, Untitled (06), 2005, Courtesy of the artist and Adamson Gallery, Washington, DC; Stephen Cruise: Share the Moment, 2010.)      

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