A Spectacle and Nothing Strange

Opens Thursday, July 24, 2014, 7-9 pm. To August 23, 2014.

Saturday 1 – 5PM • Tuesday 6 – 9PM

ARTISTS: asianpunkboy (Terence Koh), Keith Cole, Todd Evanger, Brendan Fernandes, Eve Fowler, Paul de Guzman, Jeffrey Hallbauer, Luis Jacob, Attila Richard Lukacs, Will Munro and Patryk Stasieczek

The use of text has been a significant feature of artists’ practices over the past century. Within the gay community, language has functioned as a system of binding people to overcome the days when homosexuality was deemed, during Oscar Wilde’s lifetime, the love that dare not speak its name. This exhibition intends to explore the ways in which contemporary gay artists have used language in their art to explore their identity.

Playful manipulation of language is demonstrated in Luis Jacob’s work, a print derived from the action of him kissing a sheet of paper, a la Joyce Weilland, while singing the disco funk anthem, Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”. Keith Cole marries text and visual in collages derived from mass media and advertising as he draws upon popular culture.

Text can be immediate, and billboards and signage exemplify the commercial world, as demonstrated by the poster work of the late Toronto-based artist, Will Munro. Munro was one of Toronto’s most active promoters of queer culture over the past decade, and brought to Toronto such legendary music performers as The Hidden Cameras, Nina Hagen, Peaches, among others.  His work with monthly events Vazaleen Peroxide, NoT.O. and Moustache yielded an astonishing amount of artist multiples; especially noteworthy is his work with silkscreen posters, produced in the collectively run Punchclock Studio.

In parallel, Los Angeles-based Eve Fowler took poetic licence with the early work of famed lesbian Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons, by working with now defunct commercial LA printer, Colby Press, to create signage which visually reference ubiquitous commercial signs posted on buildings and electrical poles throughout the city, while communicating information that is arguably non-immediate.

In a deeply personal work called dear folks, Todd Evanger mines meaning from a collection of handwritten letters, signed by the artist’s father, sent from the Boundary Lake oil field to Marsden, Saskatchewan, during the 1970s. In a different way, the narrative possibilities of text appeals to Jeffrey Hallbauer in a skillful watercolour that investigates the image-conscious element of gay culture that binds and divides it. Patryk Stasieczek’s photographic work, I Am You, all crumpled destruction and chromatic exposure as a form of conceptual engagement with the material process, poses a thoughtful philosophical response.

Artists have also looked at words as graphic signs in their own right. Terence Koh, as his early alias, asianpunkboy, created a text piece carved on painted metal called No Sissy Gays that employs a sensitive phrase as a method of an oppressed person reclaiming language.

Paul de Guzman’s new slideshow titled i need you investigates the phenomenon of mass communication of private desire, often closeted and hidden, on game-changing technology, Craigslist.  He explores visual alliteration by entwining Craigslist M2M personal ads with deftly-chosen, phallicly-inspired architecture.  The slideshow will be available on the internet during the exhibition dates at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdXoRsMoZJ0 and is best viewed using full screen settings at high definition with audio.  Due to the sexually explicit text used in this slideshow, some parts may prove objectionable to some viewers.  Viewer discretion is advised.

Attila Richard Lukacs’ explicit references to homoerotic sexuality in his paintings have often shocked galleries and the public. In a series of pure-text paintings, the inscribed text are both literal and resonant to those who have experienced the thrilling facets of dom / sub relationships.

Artists have, of course, also looked to language for its poetic impact and literary resonances. Like Eve Fowler, Brendan Fernandes’ text on wall contribution draws upon the daddy mentor / young mentee relationships illustrated in Plato’s Symposium and references his newest sculptural and recent performative dance work that looks at the intimate relation between embodiment and identity.

In all these cases, the openness, ambiguity and power of language has offered these artists the means to suggest, instruct, provoke, urge and compel the viewer to explore the multivalent and complex realms of gay existence in contemporary life beyond gallery walls. During this season of Pride spectacles, it’s thought provoking, but nothing strange.