Upstairs Pussy Wallow: Wild Inside at Clint Roenisch Gallery.
Curator Pamela Meredith begins her exhibition text with a promising opening: indeed, it is always about “this space, the sidewalk, and the street. It is about the gallerist. It is about the artists and their preoccupations, and it is about me. “
This song is about me!
And since I’m not about formalities, this review will be a casual affair, like a garden hang. A good conversation can happen anywhere, garden, the street, or not. It could be an awkward – do I say hello; or why didn’t they say hello; or I’m just going to pretend I didn’t see them; or you like the person so you do say hello but you don’t really have much to add, there is an uncomfortable smile, suspense, release, you keep walking; or you say hello and they ignore you, and. You get the idea. What do we have here, at this Helens Avenue garden?
This is a fraudulent review because I spent only about 15 minutes at the opening with a splitting headache. Thought, I am told that’s how often the reviews are written anyway, not the headache part, but the 15 minutes. If the show can be reviewed through the screen of an iPhone why not through a headache? This song is about me!
I’m calling this essay Upstairs Pussy Wallow. My headache reaches a crescendo, careening into a migraine nausea faced with a row of images described a few paces down in so initially promising and quickly turning exhibition blurb, as fecund. Maryanne Casasanta is offering me silhouettes of women with what? Flowers between their legs? I close my eyes, I open them, no they’re real and are still there, edged into my memory with an unfortunate precision.
all images courtesy Clint Roenisch Gallery
At another garden variety show by Tiziana La Melia and Maryse Larivière about a year and some ago, at Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Art Center, an Irish artist and I (at the time in residence at the Center) widen our eyes and turn to look at each other, we have the same question: Is there something wrong with us or what is happening in Canada? Is this cute or why is the traditional feminine on the to do list? We are just growing a vegetable patch, wearing pinafores, and handsome gardening boots, girls don’t poop, we smell like roses, and our parts are flowers to be given away, fertile goddess, taking back the pink as if anyone had taken that gingham away from us. Feminism wave number hmmm. I, for one, am not worried about reclaiming anything pink. The pink has been a given, a number 1 in the North American rule book of dating, drink your prohibition style cocktail, don’t call him next day. He should want you and he will call you when he is good and ready. Wait your turn, know your place. Women, we have been gardening growing vegetable, making preserves, and working three jobs, for a while now, but maybe that would be having to look beyond Canadian story.
My headache is nearing a blackout.
Is the girl beautiful? Or is she at least, pretty?
Is her art?
Is she a dream you’d like to have?
Though overwrought and highly produced, busying itself with everything from glass objects to display design, perhaps I can strain and stretch to think of the “Garden Gossip” at BANFF as a kind of counterpoint to machismo of the extra extra tech accelerationism of the art fair age, though this sort off binary again returns me to the traditional feminine, I am locked in. The “Wild Inside” is more of the latter. The line up of the presented works seems arbitrary based on theme as if a desktop background. Save for exception that I describe below, the show fails to deliver a coherent inkling of awareness of the space around itself as the accompanying text proposes to do. Accumulative, the effect I register is of texture. Not unlike the curated guest room assembled by the wife of Barry Cohen, the hedge fund billionaire protagonist of Gary Steinhardt’s latest read, “Lake Success”.
Having a show at Banff, or in a commercial gallery as opposed to a project space signals a level up to the means of production, at least of the space in itself. What can and isn’t done with the technical and financial support these theoretically flavored gardens take the place of? Gardening, pottery, craft, is a certain Canadian strong theme that feels to be reminiscing of an image, and not of the actuality of the recent periods past, a pastoral time of flower children and a period of Kool-Aid suicides, wars, ecological decline and cultural erasure. It dawns on me that the show at Clint Roenisch is pegged as “all women”, which simply reminds us yet again that female candidates can just be Hillary. As pottery meets rare earth minerals of our devices’ screens, traveling through optical cables this letters I type are not written with pen and ink in another century. As delicious as referencing excerpt of the thing called history may be, or the way that “nature”, could feel, their meeting our eyes is inadvertently processed in the actuality of today.
Something is afoot, underfoot. A perspiring man with a slightly maniacal facial expression, is scribbling under stilettos of the attendees at Clint Roenisch Gallery. I step out of the man’s way, good girl that I am. It’s a dance we invent on the spot because his way is unannounced, he smiles, I follow a little, I see marks, indiscernible. He is dressed as ”worker”. What are those orange scribbles on the pavements of the city streets? I want to say that I kind of know, but really – not all.
Kevin Everson’s “Sound That” comes to mind, a 16mm short film, it follows employees of the Cleveland Water Department on the hunt for what lies beneath, as they investigate for leaks in the infrastructure in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. A moving image work of a repetitive human activity, it is opaque in most delightful and reticent ways that an artwork and life, can be. Kevin is one of the best teacher I had been fortunate to have. He doesn’t tell you who you are. Conversation shall unfold. Though Kevin had some personal objectives too, like when he said he went from studio to studio offering artists 50 bucks to take out text from their images. Hearing it made my heart sing. The Medium is the Massage: you don’t need subtitles, statement, curatorial or otherwise or a voiceover to an image, unless you do. Why do you?
Asking who the artist is of “the worker piece”, I am relieved: HaeAhn Kwon is the person whose work I came to see. Impervious to going on and I am glad to have the room for me to think around her proposal for this undercooked group show. There is something else HaeAhn had placed on a yellow bench she wants me to bend down to find, and I wish I could play along but my headache makes me leave. Exiting, my last thought is that I wish a paparazzi style documentation didn’t shadow the “worker’s” doing, or the performance, if you will. Though that is the least of my concerns. I leave the garden hoping, because HaeAhn chose to break with the herd.
Through the migraine of “Wild Inside” I took care to glance the exotic glass flowers by Lorna Bauer. The frustration I feel at the show isn’t merely for the expired ideas of togetherness, femininity, fertility, nature/human/gallery jargon of inside/outside, again, and not even as simple as another incoherent statements it makes per se, but the location of it, gallery, Canada, a country that no one supposedly hates, year 2018.
I took glassblowing a couple of years ago mostly trying to understand about transparency and economics, seeking and trying alternatives to petroleum based protective shields of the current sublime. Bubbles, screens. Glass would be environmentally friendly if not for the industry around it, the gas and electricity required for furnaces, cooling chambers, the excavation of sand. I know by trying it out, the small batch glass blowing is a luxury pursuit by all counts. The equipment, apprenticeship, materials and the assisted labor in making these glass sculptures is called production, like in design.
What I discovered while glass blowing with my own two hands, is that I am not afraid of the fire. It is a metaphor and it isn’t. Glass blowing is a heavy lifting pleasure I wish I could repeat though I’d have to write another proposal and I’m trying to keep those to things I know I have a chance of getting. I think about Tauba Auerbach, making neon glass tube systems. Austere and cold they are familiar in their hospital aesthetic of the future condo architecture encroaching on me. I digress.
Oh yes there were kimonos at the Clint Roenisch group show. Also there were kimonos. There too, were kimonos. Kimonos were on the moodboards of the designers at Urban Outfitters in 2017. Is it the essentialist “climate” that’s making me worry about the provenance of the kimonos, who made them and why, or is it a cultural reference in fact, worth thinking about, in that way, here? Mostly my feeling is that kimonos, flowers in a woman’s crotch, well off bird makes a garden nest because she can, the name would be more appropriately titled with a comma – “Wild, Inside”.
Most works at the “Wild, Inside” are made from the warmth of a sheltered shelter. They appear to exist in a vacuum of so currently trendy terrarium, recalling the 90’s nostalgia again and the excerpts of then-written Celeste Olalquiaga’s curiosity chest of “The Artificial Kingdom – A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience”. The group show presents us a gated community’s diorama of globalized life. “Wild, inside” is a code entry garden door to a pristine gallery cube amidst Toronto’s, or global, real estate and otherwise, crisis. The gallerist Clint Roenisch himself, a silver chalice in hand, completed the opening and the evening’s look.
For those exterior to the upstairs trappings of the charmed life, growing black mould is more likely. No name brand label, acid yellow, beams back from the shelf of No Frills, OLIVE OIL, VINEGAR, BAY LEAF. Driscoll employees are underpaid, abused, don’t buy their raspberries for your morning parfait. Farmer’s markets and locally sourced fare delux of a disposable income, this isn’t news but seems to be.