(Miss)Adventures in Gal-hopping: Detours and Dogs

I would have liked to have shown you a picture of the installation of Dana Holst's miniature portraits of wounded and discarded pets in Woebegone, which opened last night at Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects, 1086 Queen St. W, and runs until the 25th.

But I can't. Because the batteries in my camera have died. My friend Chris and I had just been at the opening reception of Detours: Tactical Approaches to Urbanization in China at the Faculty Of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto, 230 College Street, just prior, when I decided to take a picture of a group of people pointing up to the large map of China on the wall above the displays.

I cracked open my camera. Took one picture. A huge glare absorbed the map. I adjusted the settings to take another. Beep beep beep. Damn.

"What's wrong?" Chris asked.

"My batteries just died."

"You know, you should really consider investing in another set."

I glared at him. I did. I had left them at home because, the last time my batteries died, I lost one in exchange to the weeds of the Don Valley while taking pictures of the Elevated Wetlands, and I didn't want to risk losing my spare set again. (I know; that's pure logic for you).

At least this time, I didn't get lost.

So imagine, if you will, a narrow strip of plastic green turf hung salon style on the wall to which 80 tiny oil paintings are mounted with sterling engraved tags. And when I say miniature, I mean miniature. To enhance viewing, an odd assortment of unique magnifiers is provided. These Mementos are delicately detailed on piano ivory key veneers, yet each brush stroke is potent with emotive control. It is fascinating to note, that there are people who make careers of painting wide-eyed pets, a practice that is somewhat looked down upon in certain circles. Here, Holst's expert use of meaning and materials navigates the Mementos from kitsch to kunst.

Ascending upstairs to the second floor of Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects, Chris and I are equally impressed by her larger works. And when I say larger.... We are transfixed by her use of red in rendering flesh, and I have to keep myself from pinching the limbs of her magnetic children. Chris and I are quite the geeks when it comes to pigments and materials, and we spend quite some time hypothesizing at how she arrived at her hypnotic effect.

But I have detoured from China. It seems that, for now at least, all eyes are on China for a variety of reasons, the unprecedented rate of urban development and construction not being of the least. The Detours exhibition was very crowded last night; Chris and I had to fight our way to the food table feast of dumplings, noodles and soy (I can never get past mentioning the victuals for these things). The exhibition focuses on architects and artists Ai Weiwei, Amateur Architecture, Atelier 3, Atelier Feichang Jianzhu, Jiakun Architects, Mada S.P.A.M., Neno, Ou Ning & Cao Fei, Shenzhen Urban Planning Bureau, Turenscape, Urbanus Architecture and Design, all of who critically engage in "urban development in China today".

Resplendent with information, Detours demands a careful and planned visit, or several. There is a lot to see, investigate and read, and I am sure I will be back when the crowd has thinned so I can take it all in. Chris and I have made a pact if we are ever both in Asia we will rendezvous to visit the Museum of Clocks and Banners of the Cultural Revolution, for sure, not for just the content but for the transcendent architecture as well. The show remains open to March 10, and I would be remiss if I forgot to mention, there are ongoing lectures continuing this afternoon and Monday, open to the public at rooms 103, al&d of 230 College St.

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