Paul Bright Gallery
What's one of the best things to do during a nasty snowstorm in Toronto? Why checking out art galleries, of course. Not only are they generally dry and warm, they often have rather engaging stuff on the walls. And what better way to wage war against that old ideology that art is pure frivolity than by embracing it and ignoring common sense and practicality all together.
Forget that your car doesn't have snow tires, forget that it may very well be stuck when you return to it, forget that the buses seem to be hours behind, forget that your shoes have soaked through, and most of all, forget that little voice in your head that says "this isn't worth the bother." If you can manage this, you may just become something of an artist yourself: someone whose primary purpose (if only temporarily) is the stimulation of the senses.
Well, at least this is what I told myself on the way over to the Paul Bright Gallery yesterday.
Perhaps it's true, or perhaps my definition of what constitutes an artist more closely resembles that of a drug addict. Who knows? What is certain is that I made it to the gallery a little worse for wear, and that I'm a typical Torontonian in my propensity to overstate the hassle and weightiness of a little snow.
But, it's fortuitous that the snow had me thinking off-kilter thoughts about art and artists because this put me in a great state of mind to chat with Paul, the owner of the gallery. A passionate art dealer who's been in the business since the early nineties, he is at once insightful and opinionated. Despite my best journalistic intentions, our conversation tended to bounce around from topic to topic without settling on some of the questions I wanted to ask. And yet, this worked really well because it gave me an even better sense of his gallery's philosophy.
One of the key things to know about the Paul Bright Gallery is that it displays primarily contemporary American and International artists rather than those from Toronto. This, according to Paul, isn't anti-localism at work, but a manifestation of his desire to exhibit the artists he's met and collected over the years, most of whom he met while living stateside. Not only that, with so many galleries in the city, he thinks that there might be a niche for a small independent gallery that displays artists outside the Toronto scene, especially considering many of them are well established in their own cities.
And even if Paul's isn't the only gallery to focus on artists from outside our city and country, this niche isn't based solely on the locality of the featured artists. Paul has three key rules that determine who and what gets displayed at his gallery: he has to understand the artist and his/her work, the work has to be something he'd put on a wall in his home, and most important of all, "no assholes." It'd be easy to think that these rules are a troubling mix of idealism and indie elitism, but that's not the case here. Paul's not a pretentious guy. He likes accessible art, and isn't afraid of artists who privilege fun over intellectualism.
Take, for instance, his response to my question about the locale of the gallery, Bloor and Lansdowne. Although I thought he might have set up shop here because it's quickly becoming a gallery hub, the real reason was economics: this is what he could afford. Sure it helps that The Mercer Union is across the street and that Funktion and the Toronto Free Gallery are close by, but these were secondary considerations.
The gallery opened in October last year, and thus far has had two shows. Starting today is the third, featuring work by Rich Jacobs. Jacobs is known more for his curatorial work - notably his founding of a series of exhibitions titled "Move" - but is an artist in his own right working primarily on paper. Of particular interest is the full-size billboard on the east wall of the gallery that documents the history of the punk band, Minor Threat. You don't often see billboards in galleries, and it's cool to compare the full size work with its smaller incarnations on the opposite walls. The opening reception for the show is tonight from 7pm to 10pm.