New Art (“New”? “Art”?)

25 October 2015 – Title like that demands a choice. Either I furrow my little brow & go all polysyllabic-abstract-noun-Artspeak on you, or I smooth my little brow & have fun.

Chloe & I opt for fun.

Which is why we rendezvous at Mercer Union out Bloor St. West, to take in a show by a young contemporary artist she follows, Abbas Akhavan. Chloe — a friend & volunteer shift colleague at the AGO — is shaping up to be my mentor in contemporary art. She is pursuing a post-grad arts degree, so she knows this stuff intellectually as well as by instinct.

But she wears her enthusiasm with gusto, and her knowledge lightly. You can see why we’re friends.

In my two recent “Dance with …” posts, I told you about my new attitude: the art of this art isn’t what sits there in front of you, it is what it provokes in you. It is the dance between the artist’s expression, and you.

So in I prance, with deliberately slight background for the show. It is called “Variations on a Garden,” and if you want to see & read a lot about it, visit Akhavan’s website, & click on “Study for a Monument.”

 

Akhavan, "Variations on a Garden"

Tehran-born, Toronto-based Akhavan has researched indigenous plants of the Tigris & Euphrates rivers (thus, perhaps, linkage to the legendary gardens of Babylon), traced species through such sources as the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, then sculpted them, cast them in bronze, and arranged them on white sheets on the floor. Many of these species have suffered great loss of habitat through warfare in the region.

So my personal dance with the installation includes its in memoriam aspect: roots, leaves, flowers & stems laid out as in a forensic lab or archaeological dig. It includes the scientific: the artist’s scholarly respect for accuracy. It includes human interaction: my thoughts spiral away to my ethnobotanist friend Danna, her professional work around the globe & her personal commitment, literally in her own neighbourhood.

And it includes visual pleasure: the beauty of the pieces, the delicacy of their placement.

detail, "Variations on a Garden", Akhavan

Chloe & I leave the show full of energy, chattering first about Akhavan, then about street art — another shared interest. We indulge in a moan. Well, Chloe gurgles sympathetically while I do the moaning.

“Where is the new street art?” I wail. “I don’t just mean new-recent, though I’m not even seeing much of that. I really mean, new-innovative.” Whine, sulk. (At least I have the grace to add that such art may be all around me, and I just don’t know where to look.)

Back out on the street, I’m about to start walkin & Chloe has to head for another appointment.

But before taking off, she discovers some innovative street art for me.

My "Mondrian Daisy" on Bloor West near Brock

Such fun — a metal daisy, embedded in the sidewalk. My own further fun is to sway back & forth, lining up some paving-stone edges in the shot & triumphantly announcing I’ve just created a Daisy Mondrian.

Then bye-bye Chloe, and I cross Bloor West at Brock, to explore the big bold word on the N/E corner.

N/E corner Brock & Bloor West

Frankly, I’m underwhelmed.

A word. That’s it? I’m more taken with the word-in-context — as one element in a larger streetscape “installation” — than with the word itself.

Then I move in closer. Lots of little surprises! Buttons among the geese …

detail, "Haven"

and critters forming the intricate patterns in the “N” …

detail in lettr "N", "Haven"

and a slam-bang big mural, clearly related, on the alley wall immediately to the north.

"Hven" mural in alley n. of Bloor W. off Brock

All this is to either side of the club with the best name in the whole province: “The Ontario Giant Runt Club.” Giant runt? The oxymoron is alive & well & living on Brock St. I explained the name in a post, long ago — but not this time. Look it up for yourself …

By now I’m less sulky about the dearth of interesting new street art. I’m ready to define almost anything on the street that appeals to me as “street art” and despite the drizzle I am having a perfectly fine time.

So of course I cross Brock to get a closer look at the balloons in Susan Tibaldi Park.

in Susan Tibaldi Park, Brock & Bloor West

I don’t know why they are tied to the tree. Doesn’t matter; I take them as a gift from the visual gods, and I am charmed.

Then I see the Toucan nodding his beak at me from the end wall of the garage bordering this end of the park …

end wall, garage bordering Susan Tibaldi Park

and I go look at the door on that same garage …

door of the "Toucan" garage

and I look south across the park to the alley bordering its south side …

in alley to south of Susan Tibaldi Park

and it is full, chock-a-block full, of street art. Everywhere I look. My boots follow my eyes.

Art across three garage doors …

alley n. of Bloor nr Lansdowne

art behind a parked car …

same alley!

art across a single-car garage, and check the motif running across the top. Very classy.

same alley, farther east

I move in close, captivated by Little Green Guy.

detail, same garage mural

Somewhere in there, butterfly art.

Big, weathered wooden utility pole. Small, sparkly butterfly …

pinned to alley utility pole

pinned over a bleached call-before-you-dig notice from Ma Bell, and between ads for some Vintage Crawl tour that’s on offer.

Yes!

I am surrounded — not just in Mercer Union, but out here on the street — with new art. It is new, it is art, it is jumping all around me.

And I have hardly started my zigzag, south-ish / east-ish walk toward home.

(That’s the promo for my next post.)

 

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