I usually take a dim view of conceptual art largely because the importance given to the “words on the wall” has eclipsed the consideration given to the artwork itself. Mediocrity in technique or creativity hides behind big jargon words and convoluted language in the artist statement. Often the concept that the artist claims to be exploring is at odds with the end product.
When the art doesn’t live up to words that sound learned and meaningful then it degrades the work and makes the artist, and those curating the exhibit, seem pompous and out of touch.
For example, if you read that certain videos by an artist “cast a hitherto unexampled light on the conventional North American city”, what would you expect to see? Would you expect to see a video shot from a helicopter as it circled a city at night? A video that looks familiar to anyone who has flown over a city after dark. That’s what you get with Aude Moreau’s ‘The End in the Background of Hollywood 2015’ now showing at The Power Plant gallery. I don’t have a photo of it but I do have a picture of three of her other photographs also on display.
below: From left to right (discounting the small picture farthest from the camera): 1. ‘Untitled (Hollywood Sign)’ 2015, 2. ‘LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department)’ 2015. It’s a picture of a tiny helicopter in a large grey sky. and 3. ‘Waiting for Landing’, airplanes lined up as they approach LAX airport. Unfortunately, the words on the wall then go on to say, about these three images, “These demonstrate visual strategies that act upon the symbolic representation of the city and the spectacular dimension of the film industry.” Oh my.
And with that I left The Power Plant gallery. Growling silently to myself and shaking my head with a mix of disdain and and frustration. Imagine my surprise when once outside I encountered another of Moreau’s photographs. A very lovely one.
below: A picture of the Toronto skyline by Aude Moreau mounted on an exterior wall at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. A picture with visual impact.
below: You can play “spot the building” and test your knowledge of Toronto geography. You can line up the DBRS building, the Hilton Hotel and the Canada Life building on University Avenue along with the Sheraton Hotel on Queen street. The blue addition on the AGO is farther north on Dundas. Can you think of where the photo was taken? Apparently, it was taken from Toronto Fire Station 315 at College Street and Bellevue Avenue. It was taken just after sunset but when there was still enough light in the sky to reflect off the taller buildings. Moreau makes the city sparkle.
I must have seen this picture very shortly after it was installed. It is part of the CONTACT photography festival that starts this weekend but there was no accompanying sign, no words that attempted to a explain the image. Perhaps that was for the best. In fact, I now have the CONTACT catalogue with their description of the artwork but I think I won’t read them. I’d rather enjoy the picture just the way it is.