|The Backpage: Everything Must Go by Joe Lewis||| Print ||
Everything Must Go: Special Project Toronto International Art Fair 2010
Here an eager young "Sales Clerk" welcomes you to "Everything Must Go" wearing an apron by An Te Lui "Distribution of the Unsaleable" 2010, workers apron in embroidered denim, one of three models, each in a limited edition of 37.
"Welcome to our Fair" at the top, off the escalator, in the Metro Convention Centre North at 255 Front Street West in Toronto you come upon Toronto International Art Fair's Special Project "Everything Must Go" curated by Jeremy Laing. In an unintentional and interesting way Laing, a young fashion designer who was asked by the TIAF to curate a special project for the 2010 Fair, has exposed an interesting foible in the treatment of textiles in both fine arts and its market place. In "Everything Must Go," an installation that is a "parody of a clearance sale," he has selected artists that have nothing to do with the craft of textile construction, yet more then half of them have textile pieces on display. These artists address process and are exploring the concepts of commodities in the market place and to do this they have generated textile objects (among other things) as those commodities. Laing, in a balancing act of "Artist collective," has placed "General Idea’s" Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal and AA Bronson, who founded their media-based collective in 1969 and worked and lived together until 1994, when two of them passed away, side by side with BGL’s Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère, and Nicolas Laverdière who founded their collective in 1996.
Both of these collectives explore concepts of identity; GI in the period before "Branding" became the ultimate lifestyle /marketing practice created an persona in "Miss General Ideal" and created the lifestyle accouterments to support this concept of a slick urban sophisticated "Canadian" living a jet set life. BGL explore the everyman in Canadian Identity set in a domesticated Canadian wood (rather then "Wilderness") of log cabins, car parts, hockey and red flannel. In both cases it is the fashion elements garments and accessories that become the easiest marker/signifier for identity.The General Idea pieces include the Ұen Scarf from 1991, Silkscreen on crêpe de Chine scarf, title card [offset on paper] in Black linen covered card box with gold hot stamping, 140 X 140 cm, edition of 45 plus 3 artist’s proofs, signed and numbered $1,000. "The Armoury of the Miss General Idea Pavilion Standards" edition of 30 signed and numbered $18,000, along with the Sterling silver AIDS Ring, edition of 100 plus 1 artist’s proof signed and numbered $ 700. the iconic aluminum Palette Tray with Shot glasses (nfs) and a Colour Bar glazed ceramic tray (nfs)
Curator Jeremy Laing standing to the right of the General Idea display in which you can see the "Colour Bar" tray, AIDS rings and underneath the Standards
BGL's "Art Contemporain 2006" “Quebec Lilly Flower symbol coat" and "Canadian Maple Leaf Symbol Coat" both limited editions of 5 at $2,500 a piece are embroidered nylon jackets. Those and General Idea's "products" have been produced with anonymous industrial machinery thus removing the "hand" of the maker. The objects are in some ways embellished “ready-mades” that have been rendered art by concept rather then origin. Even though the numbered and signed limited edition production is a hand controlled enterprise.
BGL's embroidered coats
The history of fashion is full of iconic pieces, though most remain rooted to the time period of their creation; some represent a specific person even after the individual’s historical role has been forgotten. Who was Beau Brummell and what is a waist coat and who dresses as a "Fop" are questions few could answer and might as well be who wore / or is wearing again a Red Flannel shirt, 501 Button Fronts, work boots and a neckerchief. If you know, move to the front of the class. The use of clothing in stereotyping, or in creation of a character, is as old as drama itself and older still in the performance of ritual. Textiles are easy for artists to use because of this. There is a "Collective Unconscious," in Jungian terms, at work in these pieces. The placement of this work into the context of a bargain basement representing "these current economic conditions" is perhaps less ironic then intended in the larger context of the Art Fair.
During the media preview held earlier on the first day of the Fair we were given tours from different vantage points. "Buy Early, Buy Young" was a tour hosted by Manny Neubacher and Anya Shor "The Artstylist" a company that "works to place art in homes, commercial and event spaces, film and advertising" It was nice to have people talking about art having a dollar value and as a source of income for those engaged in making it rather than in some convoluted theoretical monologue proving the speaker reads art reviews and books as if they were the bible. Not that that isn't entertaining and informative, but the price of art which is usually a forbidden subject, was refreshingly interesting from The Artstylist point of view. On this tour they took us to look at paintings, sculptures and prints and used a $5,000 price tag as a starting point for entry level collectors. Later in the evening Anya Shor and I talked about the lack of support for textile work in the Market Place for either investment or a dollar per hour wage for the makers.
Kaija Sanelma Harris, Tapestry 54 "x 66.5" $12,000. Darrell Bell Gallery booth # 326
Kaija Sanelma Harris a Finnish born and educated Canadian tapestry weaver from Saskatchewan who's 1985 piece Sun Ascending hangs in the Toronto Dominion Centre, was one of the artist brought to the fair by her dealer Darrell Bell . She is a senior Canadian maker whose work is in public and private collections internationally. Amanda McCavour who was presented by Lonsdale Gallery is just at the beginning of her career and has already established a reputation for her outstanding originality in the use of free motion embroidery. These two where the only Canadian textile makers at the fair and represent a Canadian textile makers history by their contrast: Kaija Sanelma Harris a European trained textile designer working in the long tradition of tapestry at one end of the scale and Amanda who is self taught in that she independently perused using thread to draw within the confines of the fine arts department at York University, which has no fibre department that could have fettered her with the confusion of art /craft politics which so many fibre or material arts students seem to be graduating with.
Amanda McCavour"Compound Tangle", thread free motion embroidery, 40” X 60” 2010 $2500.00. framed, Lonsdale Gallery Booth # 1024
Looking at the price points for these two it is obvious that things are changing, improving for the younger makers. I spoke with John Alexander who runs the gift shop at the Textile Museum of Canada about the prices of Canadian textile work and the ability of makers to support themselves through there work. Sadly the notion that behind every successful "maker" is a well employed partner or a job that takes away from the time needed to make work. Looking at the work presented at the International Art Fair and the textile work presented by "Fine Artist" with an equal career level to "textile maker" the fine artist brings in a higher price. This is an on going conundrum considering the effectiveness of fine art use of textiles brings with it all the same associations of craft versus industrial production, social history and theoretical interpretation as the work being done by makers.
Oliver Husain "Pandy Ramamda Silk Scarfs Fall 2010, $ 2,000 each. Silk screen and silk painting on silk, 25" x 25"
That said, commercial success for anyone in the creative fields is rare, critical success can help build the commercial success, but not necessarily, and since the Toronto International Art Fair does provide "special projects" they need to be looked at from a critical rather then commercial perspective. "Everything Must Go" provided an excellent opportunity to contemplate aspects of both the commercial and theoretical art world. The ways in which the artists selected used product to explore these concepts and those using made or ready made with embellished textile products bring a larger discourse into the equation. Being that the curator is a fashion designer his choices made this 'Special Project" become part of the larger Theoretical arena that has been going on for over a century. Alfred Jarry's Ube Rio (1896), Duchamp's Fountain (Urinal 1917), The Chromazone Collective among a host of other "events" that contextualize/ use objects and clothing as identifiers of social history and the morality of consumption "Everything Must Go" in all its designed tackiness, from news print catalogue designed by Jeremy Stewart, and printed magic marker signage designed by Derek Sullivan, through the nearly empty display fits this tradition perfectly.
I give the last word to Douglas Copeland the P.T. Barnum of Generation X
Douglas Copeland's "Luxury Factory # 2" 2007. was in "Everything Must Go" this piece consist of a pegboard with spools of yarn its price tag is $9,999.99.
Over at Douglas Copeland's dealer Clark and Faria booth # 811 they had a painting worth $22,000. it is his reinterpretation of Tom Thompson's 1916 painting "Jack Pine". there is a similar pallet used in both.