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Reviews

M. Lamar Brings Down the House at Abrons

by Paddy Johnson on January 15, 2016
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There are times when the apocalypse may be warranted. That’s a statement I never thought I’d even consider making, but after seeing M. Lamar’s stunning operatic masterpiece, “Destruction” at Abrons Art Center, I’ve come around on it. (The show runs tomorrow at 10 pm and is part of the American Realness Festival.) The libretto (co-written by Lamar and Tucker Culbertson) tells a retribution story from the perspective of a black descendent of slaves. Distraught over the loss of life that occurred during times of slavery, segregation and neo-segregation, he calls the dead back to life. When they wake, they are very, very unhappy.

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Just the Right Amount of Reverence: Culture Administration & Trembling at Abrons

by Paddy Johnson on January 12, 2016
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Before entering Culture Administration & Trembling at the Abrons Arts Center last Thursday night I had to take off my shoes. Reverence for Dominique Pétrin’s handcrafted stage, and pretty much everything else that took place that night, was part of the social contract performers Jennifer Lacey, Antonija Livingstone, Dominique Pétrin and Stephen Thompson put forth.

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The Best of the Web, 2015

by The AFC Staff on December 23, 2015
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Millions of years from now, aliens and artificial intelligence will be confounded by the follies, foibles and idiosyncrasies of the human race. Henceforth, the 2015.

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Childhood Conditioning Crisis: Liz Magic Laser at Mercer Union

by Rea McNamara on December 17, 2015
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I’ve always been wary of blonde children. Maybe this stems from having grown up in a mostly white Canadian small town, where civic pride swelled for the farmer boys with hair the yellow of corn who became NHL players, or the figure skating girls able to lutz and flip jump in their sparkling spandex.

In Liz Magic Laser’s Kiss and Cry at Mercer Union, the chilling universalism of the sacred, blonde prodigy is affirmed. Commissioned by the artist-run center, the video follows figure skating coach Marie Jonsson MacKenzie conditioning her blonde blue-eyed children, seven year old Anna and eleven year old Axel, from training practice to spot-lit performance. It’s a straight-forward and minimal video work install: a blacked-out gallery, a large-scale projection, and not much else. Their dialogue with each other is stiff and unsettling—at one point after a performance in a darkened, empty North Toronto arena, young Axel says in a robotic-sounding voice-over “fuck the child … fuck the future”.

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Vahap Avşar at P! and Protocinema: That Strange Man is Not Your Friend

by Paddy Johnson on December 9, 2015
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Vahap Avşar selects images from the vast archive of Turkey’s AND Postcard Company. They are creepy.

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Art Basel Feels Like Last Season’s Trunk Sale

by Paddy Johnson on December 3, 2015
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My Art Basel experience will sound familiar to almost everyone following the fair. After a day at Art Basel Miami, most dealers I spoke to still had work available. That’s not to say that sales were slow— just slower than the usual mad rush we’ve become accustomed to over the last few years. According to art consultant Josh Baer, that’s not because the art was bad, but because collectors have become more thoughtful.

Yeah right. Collectors have not suddenly transformed into more curious and discerning people. They’re just not oblivious to the obvious: most of the art on view looked like B-rate work we’d seen a hundred times already. Even people who have nothing to do all day but buy things will eventually get bored of that.

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Another Failed Exhibition at TIFF: “Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen”

by Rea McNamara on November 25, 2015
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It’s hard to count all the ways the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) exhibition “Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen” fails. Lame gallery space, obvious exhibition design, poor exhibition maintenance all contribute to a terrible viewing experience. And it’s not the first time. The show is the latest in a string of underwhelming shows suggesting that the film centre and headquarters for TIFF might not be equipped to handle the major touring exhibitions it earnestly seeks to attract. In the five years since TIFF moved into the TIFF Bell Lightbox, a five-story glass-paneled complex in the heart of city’s entertainment district, its exhibition programming has struggled in going year-round.

Blame the HSBC Gallery, its main exhibition space. Despite state-of-the-art cinemas on upper levels gently twisting above an airy street level public atrium, it’s always struck me as an architectural afterthought. Any exhibitions I’ve seen — from a revamped version of MoMA’s Tim Burton exhibition to the TIFF-organized David Cronenberg retrospective survey — have felt cramped, and marred by exhibition design lacking any sort of intuitive flow or sense of movement for visitors.

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Inside Paris Photo: The Art Fair Almost No One Saw

by Michael Anthony Farley on November 19, 2015
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Following last week’s terrorist attacks, the art fair Paris Photo was forced to close. This week, the organizers launched an online simulacrum of the exhibition. Exploring the largely-empty fair is eerie, awkward, and uncannily poignant.

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An Artist-in-Residence at a 19th Century Library: Lu Zhang

by Michael Anthony Farley on November 17, 2015
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Lu Zhang has spent the past year as the artist-in-residence at the George Peabody Library, a massive, beautiful “cathedral of books” from 1878. Her year of non-objective research and wandering has resulted in a surprisingly logical (but playful) series of artworks.

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The Wrong Biennale: First Impressions

by Michael Anthony Farley on November 11, 2015
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Online art exhibition The Wrong Biennale’s second iteration has been live for over a week now. Much like the internet itself, The Wrong is huge and unwieldy and generated by so many authors that it’s thematically and qualitatively inconsistent beyond recapitulation or even judgement, really. That being said, The Wrong’s greatest utility might be its capacity to lay bare all the strengths, challenges, and glorious failures of displaying and viewing digital art online.

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