Etel Adnan: Sea and Fog

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Oakville Galleries’ current exhibition takes its title, Sea and Fog, from a 2012 publication by Etel Adnan. As with many of Adnan’s written works, weather phenomena and motifs from the natural world—the sea, the sun, fog, fires, deserts and storms—form a continuous backdrop to a series of prose-poetry meditations on time, place, poetry, war, love and loss.

She writes, for example: The sky fell and storms blew on its face. It sank deeper; in that maelstrom humans lost balance. There were fires on earth and questioning in the waters.

Despite the dark charge of such passages, however, the sea, as ever, is a restorative force: We fear violence, but more feared is its absence. So heavy is the world becoming. Heavy in the soul. A few laps in the ocean will bring rest.

And later in the book she urges her readers to: Look well at the Pacific before you die. The best of the promised paradises have neither its hues nor its splendor.

With this book, Adnan continues to eloquently give voice to the trauma of an increasingly unsettled world, and to remind us that art, poetry, and the natural world may offer much-needed moments of liberation, resistance and respite.

Etel-Adnan-4Images (top to bottom): Selected poetry and prose by Etel Adnan; Installation view of Etel Adnan: Sea and Fog at Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens. Left: Montagnes 4, 2015, india ink on paper. Centre: Forêt automnale, 2015, wool tapestry. Courtesy of Galerie Lelong. Photos: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Levine’s Restaurant: You Get More With Les!

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On St. Patrick’s Day in 1969, Les Levine opened New York’s first Irish-Jewish-Canadian Restaurant in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park. Levine’s Restaurant drew on the artist’s simultaneous interests in mediated environments—utilizing feedback mechanisms such as closed-circuit televisions—and social frameworks, such as those dictated by dining out. New York magazine would announce the opening in its weekly restaurant column: “Artist Les Levine has […] opened a restaurant. Well, not quite a restaurant, but an ‘autobiographical culinary environment.’ … The food, like Levine, is Irish-Jewish-Canadian; the menu includes Mama Levine’s Special Entrees and Her Son’s Favorites, all served with rye bread, salad and potato latkas [sic]. All this begins at lunch and continues to 3am and there is a special discount of 20% if you are a Levine namesake. Levine has provided the electrically inspired stroke of placing five television cameras and eight monitors right in the center of all the Irish green and Israeli pale blue of the décor. This ploy makes everyone aware of everyone else, which is why a lot of people go to restaurants in the first place.”

Join us tonight at 7:00 pm for a free guided tour of Les Levine: Transmedia at Oakville Galleries at Centennial Square.

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Images: Levine’s Restaurant, 1969. Collection of the Museum of Mott Art, Inc. © Les Levine

The visual poetry of Jim Andrews

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bpNichol’s animated computer poem 
First Screening is one of the centre-points of our current exhibition, Down To Write You This Poem Sat. Originally developed for the Apple IIe computer and made available on floppy disc, the poems were nearly rendered inaccessible when that technology became obsolete. It’s thanks to Jim Andrews and the visual poets at vispo.com that we’re able to experience them today. Andrews and his team have carefully restored and preserved the work, migrating it to a series of contemporary formats.

From Victoria, BC, Andrews has been publishing vispo.com since 1996. Before that he produced a literary radio show called Fine Lines and later ?FRAME?. Of bpNichol, Andrews says: “I met bpNichol when I was producing the radio show. His parents lived in Victoria; he’d visit occasionally. He kindly appeared on the show a couple of times. I gave him a ride to the station once in my little yellow Honda. He told me about having recently ‘discovered writing for television.’ He wrote for Fraggle Rock, a much beloved Muppets spin-off.”

Of his own work, he says: “I thought of myself as a poet but was not interested in the usual modus operandi of publishing poemy poems in the little magazines. Radio was an interesting exploration of the literary for me, and then when the web came along, I fell hard for its multi-medial and potentially intermedial possibilities, and also its ability to reach an international audience in ways that I couldn’t otherwise.”

To experience some of our favourite visual poems by Jim Andrews, click on the following links and (as Andrews advises): “Turn out the lights! Turn up the sound! Throw away your preconceptions about poetry!”

Man of Letters (1996)
The Pop Up Poems (1996-98)
Seattle Drift (1997)
Enigma (1998)
Stir Fry Texts (ongoing)
Nio (2001)
A Pen (2007)
Langrid (2014)

Image: Installation view (detail) of bpNichol, First Screening, 1983-1984. Courtesy of the estate of bpNichol. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Video: Down To Write You This Poem Sat

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Curator Frances Loeffler discusses the exhibition Down To Write You This Poem Sat on now at Oakville Galleries. Video by Mike Dopsa.

Collection Spotlight: Colette Whiten

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Toronto sculptor Colette Whiten has long been committed to exploring power and political relationships. For several years in the 1990s, much of Whiten’s work focused on the representation of anonymous women in the media—women seen waiting to vote, protesting in the streets or bearing arms against oppressors. Vows Vengeance (1993–1995) derives its imagery from a news story about Abkhazian women mourning their partners, soldiers killed at war. In carefully translating an otherwise fleeting news photograph into a concrete object—here, a meticulous beaded curtain—Whiten changes the terms on which we consider the image. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Collection Spotlight: Peter MacCallum

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One of the earliest photographs in Oakville Galleries’ collection is this work by Peter MacCallum, who has spent more than forty years meticulously documenting Toronto’s architecture, industry and urban spaces. A slice of vintage Hogtown, Spadina Hotel at Night (1979) captures a bygone era at the corner of King and Spadina, with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce on one corner and the legendary Spadina Hotel—whose Cabana Room was then home to a raucous underground art and music scene—on the other. Like many of MacCallum’s early photographs, this work alludes to the vibrancy taking shape in Toronto at the time, even as the city maintained a reputation for being staid and buttoned up.