Contact Photography reviews

Art Agenda: CONTACT reviews and other photography shows around Toronto

In light of this being the month of the CONTACT Festival, here's a little peek at a few current shows in and out of the festival that use photography in some highly divergent ways.

This week:

  • "The Undesirables" by Chantal James at The Department
    • "Kallima" by Alex Kisievich at Angell Gallery
      • "Top 30" by R. Kelly Clipperton at Pentimento
    • Chantal James at The Department from May 1 - May 28.

      Chantal James photos

      Chantal James' show at The Department showcases a body of work she amassed while spending five years with the street children on Rio de Janeiro, getting an often candid and intimate peek at their often desperate lives. Superficially, there's something in the highly saturated colours and docu-realism of her work that wreaks of exploitation. But this isn't Larry Clark does Rio. There's little by way of mythologizing going down. The ample video testimony from the children projected on the wall proves this. In spite of that, the overarching sense of the images is still one of heightened realism verging on the magical variety at times. The perfect moments sought out by the straight photographers of high modernism cast their shadow everywhere. In spite of the fact that many of the images seem too composed to be random, they are still most successful as captures of peripheral occurrences which are both elegiac and highly sensual.

      Alex Kisilevich at Angell Gallery from May 5 - June 11.


      Toronto photographer Alex Kisilevich continues down his already firmly established road of the strangely hysterical and slightly disturbing with his new suite of pieces on display at the Angell Gallery. He pushes his defamiliarization of the banal, the bland and the kitsch to a new extreme this time, allowing full reign to an excessive attention to patterns. These show up in wallpaper, in twigs, in mirrored reflections and other forms. Calling back to the colour schemes and interior design of the 60s and earlier sixties, he exploits this nostalgic element as a means of making everyday objects (like mops) eccentric and relishing in an ecstatic reiteration of the material on display. Inspired by the ideas of Roger Caillois, he uses alienation techniques on the banal to divorce them from their common subjective moorings, creating a sense of the uncanny.

      R. Kelly Clipperton at Pentimento from April 28 - May 22

      R. Kelly Clipperton

      Taking the everyday in a quite different direction, R. Kelly Clipperton's new show at Pentimeto Fine Art takes 30 pop songs, some famous, some less so, and then re-imagines them in photo form. The bright, highly saturated images are then printed on plexiglass to create a highly unusual and attractive object that changes substantially in the light. The thickness of the plexiglass lets them glow, but also adds to their sense of superficiality. Of course, they are, for the most part, images of the superficial, only with the seediness that underlies the narrative tales that the songs spin embedded heavily in the texture and tone of the surface rather than buried beneath.

      R. Kelly Clipperton

      Also this week:

      If you don't want to look at more photographs, some of Dana Bentley's fascinating and large, complex and uncategorizable paintings are currently on display at Engine. And acclaimed artist Brian Jungen's new sculptural pieces can be seen in butting up against the Henry Moore collection at the AGO and provide a nice nuance to the museum's ongoing "Inuit Modern" show.

      Photos courtesy of Angell Gallery, the Department and Pentimento.

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