A few times a year Wedge Curatorial Collective produces shows that explore Black Identity from the perspective most often located in the Caribbean Diaspora.
Image by Dennis Morris
My earliest memory of Wedge is back sometime around the early part of the millennium. Wedge’s founder, Kenneth Montague, had set up an exhibit of British-Jamaican photographer Dennis Morris’ work in his home (the original gallery space for Wedge exhibits called Shift Gallery). I met Dennis, who was in attendance, and became interested in the work Ken was doing as he was one of the people working to fill in the gap between fact and fiction when the institutions of culture overlooked contemporary narratives of Blackness.
Fast forward a decade and Ken has turned Wedge Curatorial into something much more than exhibits of photography. Wedge has become about conversations – around race, identity, community and culture. And Wedge has certainly played a part in working towards closing that gap by providing the necessary insertion of Black Identity into cultural institutions like the ROM with exhibits such as Position As Desired / Exploring African Canadian Identity.
This year Wedge has partnered again with the Gladstone Hotel and TD Bank for the “Then & Now Black History Month Series” to present local photographer and youth educator / mentor Jon Blak. Titled HOME Jon’s work is about reaching back to his familial roots in Jamaica while dissecting what it means to be a product of a culture here in Canada, that because of its hybrid mix, can at times cause feelings of dislocation.
Half of the exhibit was photographs of subjects located in Jon’s memories of Jamaica and contemporary youth culture. The other half of HOME spoke to the memories Jon has of the elders in the local Caribbean community who played a critical role in his own youth. There were several rooms full of warm and intimate images of tailors, shopkeepers, and barbers – all the enterprising individuals who added a new layer to Canadian identity while keeping strong ties to the cultural associations back home.
One room was ‘stacked’ floor to ceiling with photographs that almost convince the viewer that the room is stocked with all the staples one needs to cook a satisfying meal. It’s the replication of the West Indian shop that speaks to the collective memory many of us have from growing up in suburban and urban Southwestern Ontario – a place where you could buy a ‘ting’ or two.
On the night of the opening the install was interactive with boxes of the staples come to life – scotch bonnets, plantain, and callaloo as well as loaves of hard do bread were handed out to the lucky guests while peppery corn soup was served hot and fresh by One Love Vegetarian Take-out.
The night was a reminder of how much the culture of the Caribbean has infused the culture of Canada. Maybe now the conversation about what is home will become less dislocating because of projects like Wedge that support emerging artists who document the facts of Blackness in Canada.
Tonight Canadian Art’s amazing documentary film fest, RAFF (Reel Artist Film Fest) launches. Under the direction of the former Executive Director of Canadian Art, Ann Webb, RAFF became the sweet spot in the year for incredible inspiration. The Opening Night has become a big art star event with this year’s guest of honour Kehinde Wiley in attendance. Known for his vibrant portraits of black men that reference the portraiture work of Renaissance painters, Kehinde has (with some trepidation) moved on to paint women. An Economy of Grace is the documentary that follows Kehinde as he searches for the women who will become his new muses.
“Her work interrogates how the toxic postindustrial geography of Braddock, Pennsylvania has shaped multiple generations of her family, acting as a mirror for the complex social problems that beset America today.”Read more…
The second short is Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.
“In this film, Rashid Johnson discusses the fluid nature of black identity in America and its escapist tendencies, from the Afrocentric politics of Marcus Garvey to the cosmic philosophy of Sun Ra.”Read more…
Another great art party happens Thursday night with the Opening Soirée for The Artist Project Toronto. Running until Sunday The Artist Project offers three full days to experience beautiful work.
Eric Robitaille’s pieces show his talent as a graphic designer with stories emerging from the many colour washes and textural layers of his work. “During the last few years, the development of several new techniques has allowed for a more spontaneous and raw style, balanced throughout with meticulous detail.”Read more…
The Introduction #5 & #11 by Samara Shuter, The Artist Project Toronto.
Artist Samara Shuter paints crayola coloured canvases of men in suits because the suit “has represented something for decades; power, productivity, strength, economic prosperity, and hard work.” Read more…
Lego City Tower on Hill Elevation by Laird Kay,The Artist Project Toronto.
Laird Kay has studied planning and design so it’s not surprising his photography reaches back to the concepts of city planning via the playful medium of lego as the building blocks.
“Lego City Elevation, Is it Dubai? Is it Hong Kong? New York? Singapore? Toronto? Vancouver? Or all of the above? Cities used to be the result of collective will and a desire to shape – to control – our environments. They were expressions of the things that happened in them. Now they’re about branding and image. Like plastic, like LEGO City, they’re no longer built to last – they can be pulled down when fashions change. LEGO City expresses the modern absence of community in city-shaping. Although stylized, these photographs of LEGO City show us how the line between plastic and uninhabited has become virtually indistinguishable from the “real thing”.” See more…
Tears in the Ice Box by Noah Gano, The Artist Project Toronto.
The technicolour spectrum contained in Laird’s work on how places start to eclipse our human essence with their artificiality is in sharp contrast to the minimalist whiteness of Noah Gano who also makes use of materials the are divorced from the natural. “Navigating through themes of experience and identity, he works conceptually in photography, sculpture, and collage.”See more…
There is much to see at The Artist Project and much to buy with all artists exhibiting work that is for sale and ready to find a new home. Plan on making a purchase!
“This conference consists of both closed working sessions and public events. The conference opens with one and a half days of closed working sessions designed to provide opportunities for artists, educators, curators, scholars, and cultural workers to engage in intensive and critical collaborative discussions about the current state of blackness and the challenges and strategies employed to increase visibility. Emphasis will be placed on developing networks of engagement and knowledge exchange while developing methodologies and practices that inform the future of black Canadian artistic production and teaching.”
Corresponding with the conference is the exhibit Face Value by curator / artist Heidi McKenzie.
“The way people look, and the way they are looked at, has a profound effect on the person being seen. For the bi-racial or mixed-race person, the simple act of being seen by others can be fraught with tension and ambiguity. The familiar unconscious act of identifying and categorizing a person’s race based on their face value slips beyond the concrete into the murkiness of the grey zone.”
Another artist using Lego in his work is Ekow Nimako who uses the toy blocks to produce pieces that are about the less-than-playful issues around identity and racial narratives.
For the month of February his work in the show Building Black is part of Daniels Spectrum’s programming around Black History Month. On the main floor of the Arts Centre, Ekow’s work greets you at the side entrance and lines the hallway outside the theatre spaces. His masks reflect the cultural legacy Ekow inherited from his parents who immigrated to Canada from Ghana. They are each infused with their own personality and speak of the strength and tenacity of culture.
His other figures have darker stories which Ekow, also a writer, provides. Mounted on the walls is the poetry he has written for each piece. A golliwog sits less than comfortably, performing a stiff smile that would make Paula Deen feel nostalgic. The life sized figure of a child dressed like a flower girl is exhausting in its detail but also in the back story. Ekow was researching slave narratives and considering the lost girls who would never be granted the innocence of childhood dreams.
Flower Girl Requiem
Forever innocent they say,
Free from taint or world decay,
Pretty basket filled with blooms
Plucked from the earth none too soon.
Love she for all her hope and youth,
Her pretty gown, the purest truth
Her basket and the whites within,
The blooms of cotton, soft and grim.
The world can never seem so stark,
So bright, so safe, so cold and dark
As when gazed upon through childhood’s eyes,
For which my precious dare not oblige.
Alas, her aisle will not be strewn,
For she who’s ever loved is gone
The child of flowers, picked and praised
Forever innocent, they say.
“One of our most popular festivals! Island Soul celebrates the rich artistic traditions, emerging art forms, innovative expressions and vibrant lifestyles of the Caribbean”
It’s time for Carnival again in Toronto. The Caribana Parade can be a bit congested so if you are looking for Caribbean flavour with a more rock steady tempo then check out Island Soul Festival at Harbourfront Centre. Every year, corresponding with the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival (Caribana), Harbourfront focuses its programming on the Caribbean including the Caribbean Diaspora community here in Toronto.
“This four-day festival explores the diverse cultural terrain of the island nations, featuring a rich mix of music, dance, film, art and games, curated for multi-generational audiences. The music and arts of the islands have travelled across physical terrains to influence and inspire cross-cultural expressions. Island Soul offers a platform to share unique traditions, highlight commonalities, explore differences and pass along the soul of the Caribbean from generation to generation.”
“This group exhibition brings together the best Torontonian artists who have a love for Haiti, and took the time to showcase Haiti in all its forms after the earthquake. This is a gallery of photos and paintings.
Cette exposition collective rassemblera les meilleurs artistes Torontois qui ont un amour pour Haiti, et qui ont pris la peine, de nous peindre Haiti dans toutes ses formes après le tremblement de terre. Ce sera une gallerie de photos et de peintures.”
Artists – Gabriel Osson, Annik Chalifour, & Marie-Cecile Pierre-Jerome and more…
Artistes – Gabriel Osson, Annik Chalifour, & Marie-Cecile Pierre-Jerome et de plus..
Above painting by A. Morancy provided by Harbourfront Centre.
This exhibit runs August 2 – 5 at the Marilyn Brewer Community Space (Harbourfront Centre), 235 Queens Quay West. View map.