Collection Spotlight: Bridget Moser

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After acquiring Bridget Moser’s terrific video Asking for a friend (2013) for our collection back in 2015, we’re delighted to finally have an opportunity to exhibit it in this summer’s group exhibition Propped, curated by art historian (and sister of Bridget) Gabrielle Moser. As Gabrielle writes of the work, Bridget “blend[s] prop comedy, existential prose, self-help television scripts, and choreography, put[ting] everyday objects to unexpected and ridiculous uses.” A canny reflection on our current culture of self-improvement, Asking for a friend poses a series of questions, both introspective and acerbic, about the nature of creative expression and measures for personal success—and doesn’t produce a single answer. Along with fellow Propped artist Divya Mehra, Bridget has been shortlisted for this year’s Sobey Art Award, timely recognition on both counts for two of Canada’s sharpest artists.

What we’re reading

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This month the curatorial office at Oakville Galleries has been reading Jane Urquhart’s A Number of Things, a series of meditations on fifty objects, each offering a glimpse into the complex history of Canada’s nationhood.

Art, by its very nature, has always been concerned with objects. Our current exhibition, Propped, thinks about how objects take on new meanings when they are used or activated in certain ways. The opposite might also be true: surely we are changed by our interactions with objects; the stories they tell about us, the influence they have on our lives.

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In the inaugural talk for our new Authors on Art series last week, Urquhart spoke beautifully to these ties, describing how her own life has been enmeshed with and gained meaning from certain objects—from crockery and a pair of slippers to photographs, homes and memorial stones.

Image: Visitor with Abbas Akhavan’s work. Photo: Mike Dopsa.

Current¢y

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Pop up art shop.
Youth made and up for trade.
Something for nothing. Nothing for something.
Your soul for a button.

Oakville Galleries’ Youth Council started up in late February and we’ve been meeting weekly in the Gairloch Gardens studios ever since. We meet to talk about art, make things and, well, eat pizza. The Youth Council has been collaborating on a series of artworks culminating in a final project called Current¢y, to be presented this weekend at the Oakville Farmers’ Market. Not so much a traditional exhibition, Current¢y takes the form of a pop-up art shop that offers items made by the Youth Council that will be available for trade. This collaborative project evolved out of conversations about money, exchange and value. We have been talking about what it means to sell work, how we value art and how objects come to be priced.

We have been busy making things—tote bags, buttons, prints. We started to talk about what we would ask people for in exchange for the things we have made and what we could ask for other than money. We jokingly started with “first born” or “lock of hair,” but pursued this idea further and developed a whole system for exchange, our own form of currency. These objects and works of art will be available at the market, but we are not asking you for cash: we are asking you for your time, your fears, your ideas, and possibly your soul.

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There will be a menu of items we have made which are available to trade and a menu of the forms of currency or the actions you can do to get these items. We may ask you to share with us your most awkward teen photo, write down your biggest fear, or draw a self-portrait from memory. As one of the members put it, we are “asking you for vulnerability”. Please come and trade with us. Talk to us about value, about exchange, and about art.

Find us this Saturday at the Oakville Farmers’ Market (on George Street between Lakeshore Road and Church Street) from 9:00 am–2:00 pm.

Oakville Galleries’ Youth Council is presented in partnership with ArtHouse.

Video: Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea?

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Curator Frances Loeffler discusses Cosima von Bonin’s solo exhibition Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea? at Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens.

The exhibition is co-curated by SculptureCenter Curator Ruba Katrib and Glasgow International Director Sarah McCrory. Organized by Glasgow International and SculptureCenter, New York. This exhibition is part of Germany @ Canada 2017, Partners from Immigration to Innovation. Cosima von Bonin is a guest of the Goethe-Institut. Video by Mike Dopsa.

My Kid Could Do That

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“My kid could do that.” It’s a comment we hear from time to time at the Galleries, especially when we’re showing artwork that might, at first glance, seem deceptively simple to produce. More often than not, these remarks lead us to the best kinds of conversations with our visitors, about how and why contemporary artists do what they do, about what we want from art and about why we value some kinds of aesthetics over others.

But what’s so bad about kid’s art anyway? Anyone who’s stepped foot in a primary school classroom knows there’s some pretty genius stuff going on in there. A couple of years ago, an unnamed first grader from New York City got more than a bit of attention in literary circles for a poem they wrote during National Poetry Month:

We did the soft wind.
We danst slowly. We swrld
Aroned. We danst soft.
We lisin to the mozik.
We danst to the mozik.
We made personal space.

It was Sojourner Truth Parsons, one of the artists currently on view at the Galleries, that sent this poem our way, proof positive that kids have moments of brilliance that rival their adult peers.

Parsons’ own works are often lauded for their wonderfully ingenuous point of view. With their poppy colours, sparkling glitter and deliciously loose brushwork, these pieces are a delight for the eyes, and make for especially great viewing for our youngest audience members. That was confirmed this morning when we opened our doors before regular hours so that families and babies could enjoy an exhibition tour, story and song time, and a craft inspired by Parsons’ work. Hosted in partnership with the Oakville Public Library, the program saw moms, grandmas, aunties, and babies come with open eyes and open minds to turn out some lovely little artworks.

Collection Spotlight: Valérie Blass

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With Cosima von Bonin’s sea creatures all around us this past month, we’re seeing underwater life everywhere we look these days. Gairloch Gardens has flooded repeatedly over the past week, as the stormy waters of Lake Ontario breach the lake wall and spill into the park. As bulldozers tried to get the lake water back where it belongs, we half-expected to see something akin to Valérie Blass’ Presque Plus emerge. This sculpture, held in the Galleries’ collection, sees Blass erect a beguiling pair of swamp-like creatures from just a ghillie suit (a camouflaging costume used by hunters and military snipers) and a found metal armature. Much like von Bonin’s works, this clever combination of objects carries a dark humour, an erotic undertone and an uncanny familiarity.

What we’re reading

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This month the curatorial office at Oakville Galleries is reading Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life. For a long time, humans have thought themselves to be exceptionally clever, more so than other species. Philosopher Godfrey-Smith suggests that this is not so. We are not superior to the other animals with which we share a planet; we are just differently intelligent. One certainly gets that sense with the creatures that populate Cosima von Bonin’s current exhibition in Gairloch Gardens. They are mysterious and yet also a bit human-like, misbehaving—a shark at a school desk is not acting as most sharks do!—and crafty, not only because they are (for the most part) hand-stitched, but also because they are surely “up to something.”

5_TH_0488Staying on theme, next on our reading list is Fifteen Dogs, a novel by André Alexis about a pack of dogs that the gods Apollo and Hermes have imbued with human consciousness and language. A perfect accompaniment to Sojourner Truth Parsons’ exhibition down the road at Centennial Square.

Image: Installation view of Cosima von Bonin, HAI AM TISCH 1, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Neu, Berlin. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.