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Canadian Art Magazine: The "C" Word: Readymades Need Not Apply
Globe and Mail: Howard Podeswa at Peak Gallery
Press Release: Redux



The "C" Word: Readymades Need Not Apply


Canadian Art Magazine


The Doris McCarthy Gallery is currently host to an ambitious exhibition. The title of the show, "The 'C'-Word: A Look at the Role of Craft in Contemporary Art," humorously refers to an element that often retains a faux-pas status in the art world: craft.

Richard Mongiat, curator of the 18-artist group show, opens his curatorial essay by identifying the rise of conceptual art (and indeed, its legacy) as the harbinger of the death of craft and craftsmanship. (Full disclosure: Canadian Art editor Richard Rhodes also contributed an essay to the exhibition.) Though Mongiat is not accusatory in his approach—he explicitly states that he is uninterested in hierarchies—his writes that his intent is to re-evaluate the art object as the product of a "practice."

Indeed, the 39 works in the exhibition seem almost self-conscious at their display in a contemporary art gallery; that is, they contain a quality that does not require the justification of the pristine white spaces so often used to intellectualize and add value to "un-crafted" works of art. (This self-consciousness is true even of the paintings, which, though in a medium long prized in the art world, are meticulous in their execution and, given that attention, would well fit in spaces outside the white cube.)

The sculptures by Toronto-based ceramist and printmaker Susan Collett, Largo (2011) and Skin (2009), sit on plinths like dehydrated coral reefs. They are striking in their detail and furtive shadow play. Perhaps they made me read too much Lippard in art school, but the correlation between the presence of the artist's hand and the presence of beauty (that near-damning word) seems natural given craft's tendency towards visual, rather than intellectual, stimulation.

The exhibition is filled with works that have been painstakingly executed, such as Susy Oliveira's The Girl and the Bear, a sculpture created of Chromira-printed card and foamcore that is almost life size. There is no ignoring the careful work of the artist in arranging this early-CGI–esque sculpture. Its mesmerizing, faceted form could only have been achieved through Oliveira's highly crafted manipulation.

Another Canadian sculptor, Gord Peteran (who enjoyed a mid-career retrospective that toured the US and Canada between 2006 and 2009), is represented in part by Study Station, a small desk and chair covered in white leather and stitched together in a manner that, according to Mongiat, brings the work "kicking and screaming into the realm of art."

A geometrically robust 2007 work by Toronto-based painter Howard Podeswa, JNW (after the Night Watch), is an eerily corrupted version of the famous Rembrandt work, and it manages to relay the artifice of the original. Jay Wilson's patternpattern6 and Floppy Foam Stack, both from 2011, stand as miniature monuments to the formal possibilities of dollar-store materials and a patient approach.

I had one difficulty with this exhibition, and an ironic one at that: the concept of the show felt to me a bit more compelling than its execution. Walking through the show, other artists and artworks came to mind that could have better demonstrated Mongiat's thesis. Perhaps this had to do with something else often associated with the realm of craft: making do with what is at hand.

Nonetheless, the show left a strong impact on me, especially when considering the long-time propensity in the white cube for drier, more mathematical fare. Marcel Duchamp once justifiably suggested that "art should exercise the intellect rather than simply indulge the eye," but with conceptualist values so prominently (and sometimes disengagingly) present in contemporary art, it remains reassuring to see that art can still be a deeply visual and physical undertaking.



October 26, 2007
By Robert Ayers
Source: click here

[Susanna] Heller is currently showing at Toronto's Olga Korper Gallery, her dealer since 1992. To coincide with this weekend's Toronto International Art Fair, ARTINFO asked her to recommend shows that she feels visitors to the city will particularly enjoy. Here are her picks:

1. Howard Podeswa at Peak Gallery, through October 27
"In the back of the gallery there's a compelling group of tiny 4-inch by 4-inch paintings: they are like snapshots and glimpses out the window that capture the love of urban change as felt by an artist who calls himself a 'walker of the city.' In the main gallery, comical, Guston-like groups of geometric characters caper on painted grids. These pointy-headed folk riff on Rembrandt's Nightwatch, and oil-sketched copies of the famous work are included in the exhibition. But one hardly needs that reference to see these characters as bumbling bourgeois hunters, assembling for some ill-fated escapade!"


Howard Podeswa at PEAK Gallery

Globe and Mail | Saturday, October 13, 2007
by Gary Michael Dault

Rembrandt's The Night Watch (The Militia Company of Captain Banning Cocq) from 1642 is one of what Toronto painter Howard Podeswa calls his "pilgrimage paintings" - that is to say, one of those paintings he has gone out of his way to see as many times as he could. (He has seen The Night Watch, at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, seven times.) Podeswa's last exhibition stringently anatomized another of his attitude-forming masterpieces of the past, Velazquez's La Meninas (The Royal Family) of 1656-57 at the Prado in Madrid.
How do these homages to his painter-heroes manifest themselves? Well, aspects of the Velazquez work tended to find their way into a number of Podeswa's paintings and drawings made from the original work.
But not so here. For this highly accomplished new exhibition, titled Redux, Podeswa has deconstructed the Rembrandt by means of a suite of exquisitely painted abstract pictures. These paintings are populated by strange geometric figures, which look a bit like chess pieces, or like those striped poles that Venetian gondoliers moor their boats to, or the painted objects that punctuate the lonely streets of paintings by Giorgio de Chirico. These enigmatic figure-objects are used to indicate both the complex spatial organization of the original mural-sized Rembrandt and, in addition, something of the oddness and inscrutability of the big picture's meaning.
"It's a great but flawed painting," says Podeswa of The Night Watch, "like a brilliant Persian carpet." A brilliant Persian carpet with built-in "errors." Sometimes, it's easy to read back The Night Watch from Podeswa's abstractions of it - the golden drum at the right of Rembrandt's painting is easy enough to spot, for example, even in its now abstracted form.
But the rest of Podeswa's beautiful Night Watch glosses are not so transparent. The exhibition is, in fact, sensuous and difficult in equal measure - and, as a consequence, is perhaps Podeswa's best show to date.


Press Release: Redux

Press Release Statement: Redux
September, 2007

Redux is a series of paintings based on the group portrait “The Night Watch”, by Rembrandt. Taking his cue from Rembrandt, who costumed his subjects and used them as actors in a drama of his own making (and to suit his own artistic purposes), Podeswa has replaced the original cast of “The Night Watch” with his own characters – a collection of geometric shapes and Gumby-like ‘figures’ inspired by the originals.

“I have never seen the Night Watch as a naturalistic painting. To me it is all about artifice and theatricality - the subjects do not read as real warriors, but as people acting like them. These are properties that I’ve tried to distill and even exaggerate in my cover versions.”

Howard Podeswa