Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Big Picture 46

By the time you read this, Zsa Zsa will be on her last legs. But don’t call Ben Mulroney yet – I’m not talking about the much-married, police-slapping B-movie actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, but about Zsa Zsa Gallery, a landmark on the West Queen West art strip.

Started eight years ago by Toronto multimedia artist Andrew Harwood, Zsa Zsa was the first gallery to break the Yorkville stranglehold of the mid-90’s and bring art to the strip surrounding the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health - an area once considered a no-go space for us delicate artistic types. By providing cheap rental space to emerging artists, Zsa Zsa also took up the slack created by the decline of artist-run centres, which were becoming stale, governmental and elitist.

With Zsa Zsa gone, curators and gallery owners looking for the next hot young things will have to find new poaching grounds.

Given its namesake, it’s not surprising that Harwood’s gallery gave its artists about as much attention and care as Gabor gives her chambermaids. But that was the genius of Harwood’s management style – don’t interfere, don’t bother, and let the artists make their own mistakes. As Harwood once put it, “I do nothing for my artists and they love me all the more.”

Subsequently, Zsa Zsa became something of a playground for local talent, hosting everything from stuffy figurative painting exhibitions to riotous Groundhog Day parties. Other memorable events include a zany “witch hairdressing salon”, a tortuous performance featuring buckets of glitter and molasses, sauna parties, fake snow falls, a 24 hour meditation enacted in the window, found clothing dress up parties, and a putrid installation featuring a desiccated, flattened cat corpse and a smouldering cauldron.

A natural ring leader, Harwood staged madcap seasonal group shows with contributions from dozens and dozens of artists, cramming all the mismatched art onto Zsa Zsa’s three small walls. His curatorial practice was anti-academic, to say the least – if he bumped into you, he’d ask you to be in the show. Nobody (well, nobody smart) ever said no.

Of course, I’m implicated in much of this foolishness. I had the privilege of participating in a handful of Zsa Zsa shows, and never felt as simultaneously appreciated and under-loved as I did during the many times I tried in vain to install my work while Harwood sat in a corner smoking and laughing at my inability to hammer a nail or plug in a monitor. Harwood was not a typically passive-aggressive gallerist, he was passive-passive.

Harwood’s reasons for closing Zsa Zsa are entirely personal – his own art is too much in demand for him to continue to run a gallery and make new work. He is also the co-founder and co-curator of the Toronto Alternative Art Fair International, which begins its second season in November.

“People keep asking me if I’m sad,” Harwood tells me, “with that overly concerned, fake simpering tone - ‘Are you sad? You must be so sad?’ - which actually makes me laugh. I couldn’t be happier. And it’s mostly people who completely ignored the gallery when it was running who are suddenly so concerned about my well being. Now they all want in for the last hurrah.”

Harwood takes a long, stately haul off a cigarette and zeroes in on my inquisitive journalist face.

“The next person who asks me if I’m sad is gonna get kicked right in the crotch.”


Unless you follow the Harwood group show method described above (ask everyone, put art on wall), making art fit together is a difficult task. Somebody always ends up looking like the odd man out, the monkey in the middle.

A new group show at Xpace proves, however, that one way to solve this dilemma is to make everyone the monkey, so to speak. FOUR, a self-explanatory exhibition featuring new work by four young artists, appears to have no curatorial impulse whatsoever, except to highlight the various (and varied) contributions. Oddly enough, FOUR works, because once you give up on the idea that the art is in any way inter-related, you’re left with some fascinating examples of young creativity in all its charming excess.

Dave Buschemeyer wins the prize for silliest contribution with his series of doll head liturgical sculptures. Doll heads are the art world equivalent of overplayed hip hop phrases like “holla” or “bling”. At some point in every artist’s career, there’s a doll head phase – and who can blame the young artist? Doll heads are creepy and instantly signify thwarted innocence.

Thus, it would be too easy to dismiss Buschemeyer’s overstated sculptures. I’d rather recount how, despite the omnipresence of doll skulls, the sculptures are beautifully crafted and do carry the same fetishistic menace as the Voodoo and animist talismans they are meant to mimic. I wouldn’t want one in my house, but if you’re going to use doll heads, you might as well, ahem, bling them up.

In its denunciation/glamourisation of gun violence, David Yu’s photo-based installation is as earnest as Buschemeyer’s spooky religious sculptures, but, thankfully, contains no plastic heads. Comprised of a suspended line up of photos depicting a young man aiming a rifle, Yu’s pictures are displayed like target sheets. Each photo is also poked with holes that look like bullet wounds. Get it?

Sometimes, beating a metaphor to death is actually a good idea. We are in the middle of a gang war in this city and a little overtly preachy artwork is more than welcome. And the guy in the photo is heartbreakingly cute.

I thought I saw a connection between Tessa Angus’s low-to-the-ground sculpture and Yu’s installation, if only because Angus’s sculpture features large dark blobs that look like pools of blood – but that just betrays my need to connect all the dots.

Mounted on sheets of transparent plastic and set under bright lamps, Angus’s black holes are the most minimal and unobtrusive works in FOUR – perhaps to their detriment in such a loud show. But the blobs are rather soothing to look at, and will make you think of Rorschach tests, which will make you think of sex, and then you’ll be afraid to look at the doll heads again.

The best works in this show are the two photo series by Davida Nemerof – works so different I couldn’t believe they were by the same artist.

The first series is a haunting, bronze-tinted collection of images of museum taxidermy. Taxidermy is, of course, right up there with doll heads in the obvious metaphor department, but Nemerof’s photos are deliciously cramped and chaotic, looking more like accidental side swipes than overly studied meditations. By keeping her images busy, Nemerof avoids the cliché. The second series is a happy suite of portraits of friends dressed up as glaring pirates. The combination of goofy and sincere reminded me of David Rasmus’s seminal portraits of men in wigs, from back before Nemerof was born.

Flawed and freaky, FOUR is easily the most lively show in town. The only thing missing from this carnival are the butter sculptures and the two headed chickens.


Don’t tell that bumbling Bill Graham, but Toronto painter Matt Crookshank is busy negotiating a Hans Island settlement with Greenland – and it won’t cost us taxpayers a cent, or a submarine.

Deciding to treat the whole squabble-over-a-pebble with the same idiocy as the respective governments, Crookshank mailed a plan for the island’s development to Greenland’s foreign minister Josef Motzfeldt. Mr. Motzfeldt was not amused.

To Crookshank’s proposal to install an ice rink on the island for friendly Canada-Greenland hockey games, Motzfeldt responded, with typical Nordic ill humour, by calling Crookshank “Mr. Matt Coward”, and then asked him “Who are you? What is your background?”

As Crookshank kept the farce up, Motzfeldt became increasingly insulting, calling Crookshank “Mr. No One”, and signing off with a curt “Good night for hundreds of years.”

Touchy, touchy. Crookshank’s last letter, in which he graciously shares the lyrics to a cheesy Iron Maiden song about Vikings, has yet to receive a response.

Zsa Zsa Gallery
962 Queen West Final show: Bed knobs and Broomsticks Until August 30

Xpace 303 Augusta Avenue Until August 28

Matt Crookshank’s complete Greenland correspondence can be found on his website, www.mattcrookshank.com

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Big Picture 45

My 80 year old mother spent her childhood in a rural village in New Brunswick during the Great Depression, and she has not thrown out anything since. Her basement cupboards are packed with used (and mercilessly bleached) margarine tubs, jars of all sizes and girths, paper shopping bags, egg crates and enough Styrofoam trays to insulate a two family log cabin.

Mum has no plans to make clever mobiles, decorative waste baskets or bird feeders with all this crap, but there’s no telling her to get rid of it either. Only very recently have I convinced her to recycle old magazines and newspapers, an activity she engages with much suspicion.

“What exactly,” she asks every other month, when the paper products begin to resemble a child’s fort, “does the government want to do with my trash?”
They give it to the poor Acadians, I tease her. “Both of them?”, she invariably cracks.

I used to think Mum’s hoarding was some sort of psychological disorder, an habitual, anxiety-driven response to the traumas of the Dirty 30’s. But now I realize, after seeing Re:Imagine, the Eastern Front Gallery’s new exhibition of art made from refuse and trash, that dear old mother has actually been engaged in an un-credited, decades-long performance art experiment. Can she apply for retroactive funding?

Re:Imagine’s premise is simple enough: round up a bunch of artists and ask them to make something lovely, or at least amusing, from whatever disposable or disposed of materials they can find. The results of this open-ended experiment are, as might be expected from such a generalized scheme, decidedly mixed. Some artists are lazier than others, and nothing better proves this maxim than a room full of tired updates on the good old Cornell box. What could be less mentally taxing than collecting some broken knick-knacks and pop culture scraps and gluing them into a shadow box? Even I am industrious enough to do that, and I’m practically too lazy to sleep.

What excited me in Re:Imagine were those works that took discarded materials and transformed the flotsam into objects that both illuminate and rise above their mundane origins - art that truly re-imagined the junk, not just re-assembled it. To wit, two artists truly stand out in the scrap heap, no offence intended.

Daniel Megill’s tiny sculptures are easy to overlook amongst the exhibition’s louder and more didactic works, but bend down and pick them out of the pile. Inspired by those diminutive but very brainy little black cartridges that make your computer work (and that’s as deep into the technology as I go), Megill has crafted a swarm of adorable, thumb-sized metallic insects.

Like their microchip cousins, insects are miniscule information machines, fragile bodies wired to receive and convey complex systems of responses. The metaphor is plain to the point of obviousness, but Megill’s lively robo-bugs are a perfect example of the kind of work Re:Imagine should be full of – art that imaginatively re-casts found materials while asking the viewer to consider the similarities between the source object and the new creation.

Emily Rosamond’s two sculptures are less driven by this manufactured/natural dynamic, but are so gorgeous that I hardly cared about their metaphoric potential.

As you walk into the gallery, it’s hard to miss Rosamond’s enormous sculpture of a fish head, made from plastic pop bottles and thread. The light-catching shreds of blue, green and clear plastic are as pretty as a clean lake at high noon; and when the sunlight hits the fish, it appears to gently sway, the way my goldfish do when they’re too fat to swim to the top of the tank. Rosamond’s other work, a wind sock made from the soft pink plastic netting used to protect mangoes, is a subtler but no less delightful work. The long tube of netting reminded me of those slinky rice paper lamps Ikea sells, the kind meant to fill your bedroom with muted Zen mystery.

With a bit of editing, and more from Rosamond and Megill, Re:Imagine could have been a seductive combination of trash and transcendence. As it stands, it’s still got enough quirky fun to be worth the visit. And if anybody at Eastern Front needs a few hundred margarine tubs, I know just where to find them.


Being terminally un-cool, I had no idea what the press release advertising Toronto video collective FAMEFAME’s upcoming evening of “scratch video”, “orchestrated signal and noise”, and “rhythmic edits” was on about.

I suspect the event will be a happy mess of cacophonic sound art (what a friend calls “Nazi disco”), ironically culled film clips from B movies, and a lot of artists standing around computers trying to play the mouse like it’s a bitchin’ axe. According to FAMEFAME co-founder and video artist Jubal Brown, I’m only half right (a personal best!).

“The show’s not really about chaos, its about the dislocated position of the audience – they won’t know whether it’s art or a party, whether they are participating or having something done to them.”

“In scratch video, the visuals are not chaotic, they’re very rhythmic and precise, but they create a sense of chaos. It’s all very carefully planned. The application is not chaotic, but it induces a sense of chaos, because the results are ultimately unpredictable.”

But how does it work?

“Scratching video is like the scratching and mixing a DJ does – it’s editing and chopping up simultaneous signals of audio and video, so that there’s a syncopated link of visuals and sound. We treat the video editing software the same way a musician uses a sampler, creating a techno music that also exits in a visual realm.”

Structured as a battle-of-the-video-bands competition between FAMEFAME and the Paris-based collective V-ATAK, who mine a similar video/sound mix and match terrain, the evening will conclude with an audience choice prize for best (most irritating? least coherent?) team.

And who will win?

“We expect to win,” Brown says with a snicker, “because, to quote the band Jesus and Mary Chain, ‘we’re so f-ing good’. But I really don’t care about getting the most claps from the applause-o-meter.”

Ah-huh. We’ll see who’s left crying on the podium with his runner up bouquet.


Those of you who enjoyed the Power Plant’s Images of Justice show will want to catch the Market Gallery’s Heart-Shaped Box - another wonderful historical exhibition that weirdly combines violent historical events with lovingly made outsider art.

Following the failed 1837 Rebellion – an uprising in Toronto that ended in several deaths, including two executions for treason – the imprisoned rebels whittled away their days in stir by carving beautiful gift boxes. Many of the plain but meticulously made boxes carry heart breaking inscriptions to family members or sweethearts, and a few are decorated with political poems. My favourite inscription, by John Gibson, reads “Prity (sic) maidens shun each Tory” - advice I will live by with Belinda Stronach-like determination.

By focusing on these incidental but deeply personal side products of the rebellion, Heart-Shaped Box brings the events into a new and poignant light. The simple and still- relevant aspirations of the rebels – prosperity and fair government – resonate loudly from these rough souvenirs, and reading the hopeful inscriptions is as satisfying as stumbling on a cache of old letters.

Eastern Front Gallery 750A Queen Street East Until August 28.

Videodrome: Experimental scratch video art tournament
August 27, 10pm MOCCA, 952 Queen Street West $5 entry

Heart-Shaped Box
The Market Gallery South St. Lawrence Market, 2nd Floor 95 Front Street East
Until October 2

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Big Picture 44

Oscar Wilde once claimed that nothing succeeds like excess, but then he didn’t live to see AWOL Gallery’s Square Foot – an exhibition so packed it would send the poor old libertine screaming for a bare room and a lukewarm cup of milky tea.

Featuring over 500 artists from eight countries and more than 800 pieces of art (who knew there were more than 500 artists showing in Toronto? Where are they hiding?), Square Foot is nothing if not good value for your viewing time - and a critic’s completion-anxiety nightmare. With each 12 inch by 12 inch work priced at a mere $200, Square Foot is also the bargain of the month. Think of it as a giant end-of-summer overstock sale, minus the lime green flip flops.

Obviously, there is too much work here for me to attempt to describe in any comprehensive fashion, and it goes without saying that not all the works were created equally. There are duds, there are near misses, and there are some wonderful scores. I will accentuate the positive, with the shameless admission that the pieces listed below are those that caught my eye first. Call me lazy, but AWOL ain’t exactly the Louvre.

Where to begin? Why not with Cathie Pak’s creepy-cute amoeboid dolls? Looking like the love children of a Teletubbie and a squid, Pak’s goofy creatures jump out of their frame, all pink tentacles and knowing smiles, begging to be purchased for the nursery, or to accompany your Barbapapa figurine collection. On the other side of the creepy-cute spectrum sits Andrew Pommier’s sinister drawing of a slouchy young man scowling underneath a heavy hoody. As disaffected and pissed as a run-off-the-parking-lot skateboarder, the boy would be the poster child of cranky, maladjusted youth if his hoody wasn’t topped off with a babyish pair of rabbit ears. Kids today – all they need is love, understanding, and a bit of downtime yoked up in the Revlon factory.

For fans of pretty colours and indeterminate shapes, there’s Lola Landekic’s delicious collage and paint flourish, a quiet work that resembles a smoke curl frozen in ice, or Dorian Fitzgerald’s poop brown dollop paintings, a joyous calamity of broken chains of dung heap colours linked by gooey ridges of flat black paint. Remember those swag lamps from the 70’s, the brightly coloured hornet’s nests made from spun plastic? Fitzgerald must have had one hanging over his crib. For more neo-psychedelia, hunt down Erin Finley’s ink-on-mirror image of a sexy boy dreaming face down in bed and admire her acid-head renderings of the boy’s dream world – a naughty subconscious landscape dappled with floating cheerleaders, semen white clouds, and, ahem, a squadron of plump and bulbous lizards carrying balloons. I remember those dreams, except I was the cheerleader.

Shoppers searching for something more pensive will be drawn to Patrick Staheli’s lush and brooding portrait of two aging, dark suited businessmen enjoying a drink, slumped in their seats as if crushed by decades of deals and haggling, or his lime-tinted, eerie painting of a Soviet cosmonaut, a man surrounded by the colour of his own fear and anxious excitement. Cameron Stott’s menacing, under-focused painting of a rocket launch would make a perfect companion piece to Staheli’s cosmonaut, and Amy Spalding’s blinking, night image of a double-decker bus rounding a corner surrounded by bruised purple lights carries a more timely message of fragility and transience than I suspect was originally intended.

Finally, there’s the odd little works that defy easy categorization – works that are well made but silly, handsomely crafted yet gleefully dumb. These charming runts of the litter include James Gardner’s daffy painting of a big-eyed tweety bird trying to lift a dumbbell, Magda Trzaski’s delightful, grinning black wire goblin dolls, or Dale Ronson’s stoner-art mirror painting of a glowing, hot pink skull (sure to be a hit with fans of black light posters).

I could go on - and on, and then some - with more of my picks, but that would be unfair to other shows in town (actually, with this much work, it would be unfair to all the other shows in town). If you’ve spent the summer avoiding the gallery circuit, Square Foot is a great way to relieve your guilt and stay satiated until at least early October. Galleries within a square mile of AWOL might as well paper over their windows.


Photographer Andre Kertesz (1894-1985) is not a household name, probably because his quiet works are not as showy or easily appreciated as those of his contemporaries, such as Man Ray, Brassai, or Cartier-Bresson - and nobody’s turning them into napkins and placemats, yet. But a new mini-retrospective at Stephen Bulger Gallery is a great introduction to Kertesz’s work, and also indirectly explains why the artist never enjoyed brand-name status.

Kertesz was, above all, a master of the intimate moment. While the majority of photographers of his generation busied themselves investigating movement, cinematic techniques and the relentless bustle of the modern age, Kertesz turned inward, aiming his camera at table tops, smoke trails, parks submerged in new snow, unremarkable clusters of buildings, and portraits of humble people. He dipped into the bubbling well of surrealism now and then - best evidenced in his wavy photos of female nudes - but seemed uncomfortable with subjects not rooted in the everyday, the real.

This is not to say that Kertesz’s work is dull or lifeless, but rather that it acts as a meditative counterpoint to the Klieg-lit flashiness and glorification of the new that is the hallmark of popular modernism. Take your time with these gentle works, as they reward the patient and attentive watcher, people drawn to the skittering clouds above the neon.


Those darling brats at Year Zero One, a loose collective of Toronto and international new media artists, are at it again – this time at the corner of Yonge and Dundas, an unfriendly, urban planning misstep desperately in need of some artistic intervention.

Deciding that if you can’t beat ‘em, you join ‘em (and who, besides Godzilla, could overwhelm the vulgar commercialism of Times Square Junior?), Year Zero One has commissioned a collection of short art films about film culture, and will run them continuously for the next year on one of the square’s pedestrian level video billboards. Screening every half hour on the 29th and 59th minute, the films play clever games with the self-aggrandizement of the entertainment industry.

In the first round, Jillian MacDonald and Manu Luksch poke gentle fun at Hollywood’s romantic and technical bombast.

McDonald digitally inserts her pale face into kissing scenes with top stars, such as Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, and she is often more convincing than the paid talent. As a no-tech response to Hollywood’s digital obsession, Luksch arranged a school of starfish to spell out “The End” and then filmed the creatures slowly making their way back to the brine. Played backwards, the starfish appear to be coming together, like chorus girls, to signal the end of a movie.

Running alongside legitimate Hollywood ads for upcoming spectacles, these films look only a little less plausible than the movies being sold - and won’t cost you a cent to watch. If the notoriously fun-hating Dundas Square security doesn’t catch you, you might even indulge in a verboten smile.

Square Foot
AWOL Gallery 76-78 Ossington Avenue Until August 28

Andre Kertesz
1920s – 1980s
Stephen Bulger Gallery 1026 Queen St. West Until August 27

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Big Picture 43

A funny thing happened on the way to the Power Plant - and, no, there’s no punch line at the end of this paragraph involving an agile farm hand and a rabbi’s daughter. I discovered that I’m a cultural nationalist. Ok, re-discovered.

Currently playing in the big rooms at the Power Plant is an exhibition by the American art star Glenn Ligon, whose work focuses on African-American identity and the iconography of the US civil rights movement. I loved this work, even if I had some qualms about its polemical simplicity, because Ligon is first and foremost a very playful artist engaged in some very serious explorations. What relevance Ligon’s work has to our own African and Caribbean communities I’ll leave for those communities to address, being a member of neither.

What triggered my uppity Canuckness was not a question of Ligon’s relevance or irrelevance to our particular national experience (after all, we invite artists from other cultures to come here so that we can learn both about them and about ourselves), but a question pertaining to what might be described as the ideology of presentation. Or, to be less fat-assed about it all, the politics of who gets to play the grand salon and who gets to play the lounge - because upstairs from Ligon’s exhibition, in a far from perfect exhibition space that resembles a board room more than a gallery, sits a brilliant, eye-opening exhibition of important Canadian historical work that is, to be blunt, too good for the Power Plant’s often overlooked attic gallery.

The not very subtle implication lurking in this upstairs/downstairs dynamic is that American art stars trump all, and that their works are more vital (and box office bankable) than art that contributes to and showcases our national legacy. But I’m a pot-stirring, touchy sort, as one suspicious Power Plant employee enjoyed reminding me.

The politics of headliners and opening acts aside, please haul yourself upstairs and see the gripping Images of Justice: Sissons/Morrow Collection, an exhibition of Inuit sculpture on loan from the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories. Don’t just do it for yourself, do it for your country (there, I’ll stop with the flag waving now).

Let’s face it, the words “Inuit sculpture” are unlikely to ignite passion in most gallery goers. Every airport gift shop in Canada keeps a tray by the cash register full of the genre’s worst examples. The discipline has been greatly cheapened by dollar store knock offs and lost much of its uniqueness due to the Inuit community’s own semi-industrialization of sculpture production. To too many Canadians, Inuit sculpture is doctor’s office decoration, or Prime Ministerial weaponry – lumpy grey stones shaped like bears, owls, or seals. Nice, but about as artistically vital as a house plant.

Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The works in Images of Justice have as much in common with mainstream, commercial Inuit sculpture as the films of David Cronenberg have with Porky’s. In fact, there’s enough violence, mayhem and brutal behaviour on display in this exhibition to fuel a half dozen Cronenberg movies. Don’t tell anyone at the CBC, but Inuit life is apparently not all beadwork and throat singing.

A bit of backstory is necessary at this point: Between 1955 and 1976, the Northwest Territories Supreme Court was headed by Mr. Justice J.H. Sissons and his successor Mr. Justice William G. Morrow, two men thrust into positions of authority during a time when the Inuit community was facing both massive re- (and dis)location and dealing with the increased presence, and imposition, of non-Inuit people in the north. Naturally, things got a bit rough as traditional ways of life collided with southern white values and laws.

Justice Sissons initiated the practice of commissioning sculptures by local artists to commemorate legal cases that involved this clash of traditions and/or cases that resonated emotionally within the community – creating, in essence, an oral history in stone.

The result is a collection of sculptures unlike any I’ve seen before from the Inuit world – sculptures that combine the traditional forms and style of ancient carving practices with a bizarre, at times shocking, journalistic impulse to record murders, abductions, rapes, and family abuse.

Apart from the obvious socio-historical importance of the works (a number of the sculptures depict pivotal aboriginal hunting rights test cases), there is nothing weirder than looking at these soft, rounded figures - the comfy and cuddly, baby-fat jolly men and women who are a standard of Inuit sculpture - engaged in decidedly malignant activities. This work is gruesome and unblinking, a testimony to the horrific violence and communal disorder that plagued (and continues to worry) the upended Inuit world. This is not an exhibition for the faint hearted or for those who romanticize aboriginal culture.

I don’t scare easy, but sculptures such as Agnes Topiak’s R. v. Kaotak (the Crown versus Kaotak), stopped me in my tracks. The tiny stone carving, not much bigger than a bread plate, depicts a father kneeling with a shot gun to the back of his head while his child stands to the side, waiting for the gun to go off. The fact that the tiny gun looks like a prop from a dollhouse only makes the sculpture more sinister.

Similar homespun horrors are found in Bob Ekalopialok’s R. v. Mingeriak, which recreates a double homicide and uses bright red knitting wool to portray gushers of blood, and Sam Anavilok’s R. v. Amak, Avinga and Nangmalik, a retelling of the assisted suicide of an elder. The elder in Anavilok’s sculpture is shown standing inside an ice house, behind a peek-a-boo cut out, looking just like a mischievous garden gnome - except for the miniature wooden rifle tucked under his chin.

My favourite sculpture, if that happy word can be applied to such dark work, is Bernard Ekutartuq’s R. v. Shooyook and Aiyoot, an interpretation of the shocking murder of a mother by her child and his friend. What makes this work so unnerving is that the awful event is memorialized in gorgeous ivory carvings set on a lovingly polished antler. The fluid, glowing white ivory figures appear to be made from buttery ice cream - a surprisingly calm and delicate look, given that the sculpture re-enacts the cruel execution of a young woman by two rifle-toting boys.

Phew … that’s four out of twenty five gasp-inducing works. Everywhere you turn in Images of Justice, the beautiful and the terrible meet. The art in this moving, very emotional exhibition, a strange brew of solemn facts and lurid dramatization, abstracted forms and unflinchingly realistic portrayals - dualities spawned by and befitting a culture in profound transition – will challenge even the most hardened viewer.

Images of Justice is a stellar exhibition that deserves a national audience (and, please, a less cramped showcase).

Images of Justice: Sissons/Morrow Collection
The Power Plant 231 Queens Quay West Until September 5