"Group Show has Fine Moments" by Scott Barham in the Winnipeg
review of the exhibition "Draw, Stranger" at Plug In Gallery, Winnipeg
Group has some fine moments
The good thing about group shows is that the “20 people tell 20 people dynamic” nets you an impressive opening and record beer sales.
Usually the denizens of contemporary issue art are serious and self-absorbed with a singular point of view; funny in the manner of the National rifle Association. While this show is not completely free of this there are some fine moments.
Another moment of Art espionage is more historic. Jeff Funnell , While in Cincinnati in 1969 and feeling the full bloom of his youth bought a cheap copy of Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy at Walgreen’s drug store – clearly no good was to come of this. Jeff, matching the master stroke for stroke produced a car in the background and Blue Boy looked so happy with the new wheels that after Funnell returned the painting, Walgreen’s had no problem selling it.
Shawna Dempsey and Lori Millan launched the ex urban myth of the Lesbian National Parks and Services – this is rich territory. In addition to a performance piece installed in the gallery, we find a tidy kiosk complete with lesbian ranger outfits and pamphlets. The humour of this piece occurs somewhere in that far off part of the mind where fearful citizens huddle inside their airstream trailers uncertain of a new Banff where behind every bush waits a Lesbian National Parks Officer proud of her crisp uniform and Butch boots.
Let’s leave the great outdoors for someplace safe and warm; say the bathroom. Simon Hughes has mined two of our earliest memories by the crafty insertion of a video monitor into a toilet bowl. Playing on the monitor are video montages of ships, castles and more spiraling down to a canyon floor you will recognize from road Runner cartoons. These objects thusly framed in porcelain neatly create an impression of dizzying height accented by the technical finale. Flushing the toilet produces the long whistle of falling ordinance and canyon rocking explosion. Reports that Simon will be doing the digital effects on the Titanic sequel are unsubstantiated.
Lastly there is the interesting phenomenon of Marcel Dzama. Dzama is encountering significant success in the U.S. and his work stands out for its competence and sensitivity of line. The small gray and burnt sienna drawings are tightly finished and have a quality so common in good art and so missing in the rest of this show. Nothing could be added or removed from these drawings except by Dzama. It is interesting that despite contrary opinions of the alternative environment in which he shows, his drawings succeed for painfully out-of-fashion reasons. Proving once again: Good ideas are a dime a dozen: it’s the execution that counts.
Editor’s Note: Due to the controversial nature of Les Newman’s piece, and the threat of a lawsuit, the gallery removed his work earlier this week.