Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens.
Summer may be winding down, but there’s still plenty of time to experience one of its most notable queer art offerings: Blurred Boundaries: Queer Visions in Canadian Art, which runs through September 25th at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Featuring installations spanning 150 years, the Blurred Boundaries exhibit is a powerful illustration of the various ways queerness can be conceptualized in Canadian art.
“Exhibiting historic works is invaluable, as it shows that queer relationships have always existed and are far from being a contemporary manifestation,” says Renata Azevedo Moreira, AGO Assistant Curator of Canadian Art, who put together the exhibit.
Take, for example, the photographer Edith S. Watson, whose work was predominantly created well over a century ago.
“Everyone should see her album, ‘Happy Voyages with Queenie in Canada,'” Moreira says. “It features photos of Watson and her companion ‘Queenie’ (the journalist Victoria Hayward) as they travelled around Canada at the end of the 1800s and beginning of 1900s.”
Moreira also points to Toronto-born, Montreal-raised artist Cassils, whose 2011 archival pigment print “Advertisement: Homage to Benglis” pays tribute to Linda Benglis’s historic 1974 feminist artwork “Advertisment.” In collaboration with photographer and makeup artist Robin Black, Cassils appears in the work in all their ripped, transmasculine glory.
“I think that no work in this grouping symbolizes resistance more than Cassils’ ‘Advertisement,'” she says. “It is a direct confrontation on the very definition of what a feminine or masculine body is supposed to look like, and if these concepts even make sense nowadays.”
“The artist’s choice to present it over wheat-pasted press releases denouncing the photographs’ ban from German subway stations as an act of transphobia brings a necessary layer of activism to the exhibition.”
Cassils and Watson’s work is displayed alongside the mighty likes of General Idea, Will Munro, Zachari Logan, Frances Norma Loring, David Buchan and Robert Flack. Collectively, their work makes up the 13 installations of the exhibit — which, while by no means massive, is a towering presence in one of North America’s largest art museums.
“I think [queer art] has been embraced by segments of the art world, especially university galleries, artist-run centres, and experimental art spaces which stimulate the production of works that question pre-established concepts and the status quo in general,” says Moreira. “Queer theory has had a huge impact in new media art, bioart, nanoart, and every practice that questions the limits between art, science, and technology.”
However, queerness has been less present in traditional public institutions — “especially when it comes to openly stating that a show or an artist is queer in a title or on the label,” says Moreira.
“There seems to be a fear that this can alienate or even offend part of the audience, or that queer art will only interest a queer audience — which is untrue and ignores one of art institutions’ main functions, that is, to reflect the world through art. We need more curators interested in queering and decolonizing exhibitions and collections working inside all institutions.”
Going forward, Moreira says she is excited about seeing more spaces and artists that “resist rigid classification and definitions, reflecting, as it does, a new generation brought up to see identity as not fixed or stable, but transient.”
She names Concordia University’s Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology, Brooklin’s Eyebeam and The University of Western Australia’s SymbioticA lab as some examples of the world’s more “fruitful spaces” in this regard.
“Among many others, these institutions centre queer definitions of what art is by proposing new terminology and providing inspiring environments for talented artists to create groundbreaking art,” she says.
Moreira also heralds the queer-focused Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in New York City.
“It is a necessary stop for any queer art lover who has the opportunity to travel there,” she says. “The National Gallery of Canada also has a show right now presenting contemporary queer art called Over the Rainbow: Works by LGBTQ2S+ artists that I am excited to see soon, together with the General Idea exhibition, whose work is also present in Blurred Boundaries.”
“My next show at the AGO is opening on October 8th and will be called Her Flesh and bring works by womxn artists including Alma Duncan, Nina Levitt, and Jess Dobkin, who all created and/or continue to create works that centre lesbian perspectives.”
But moreover, Moreira encourages people to do research about artists “they find particularly unconventional in a museum, even if not openly declared.”
“They might bathe in queer perspectives that will definitely surprise you,” she says. “It is much more common than one may think.”
Blurred Boundaries: Queer Visions in Canadian Art continues at the AGO through September 25th.
What Makes Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915) Not Just Art, But Important Art
Who created the first work of abstract art has long been a fraught question indeed. Better, perhaps, to ask who first said of a work of art that a kid could have made it. A strong contender in that division is the Russian artist Véra Pestel, whom history remembers as having reacted to Kazimir Malevich‘s 1915 painting Black Square with the words “Anyone can do this! Even a child can do this!” Yes, writes novelist Tatyana Tolstaya a century later in the New Yorker, “any child could have performed this simple task, although perhaps children lack the patience to fill such a large section with the same color.” And in any case, time having taken its toll, Malevich’s square doesn’t look quite as black as it used to.
Nor was the square ever quite so square as we imagine it. “Its sides aren’t parallel or equal in length, and the shape isn’t quite centered on the canvas,” says the narrator of the animated TED-Ed lesson above. Instead, Malevich placed the form slightly off-kilter, giving it the appearance of movement, and the white surrounding it a living, vibrating quality.”
Fair enough, but is it art? If you’d asked Malevich himself, he might have said it surpassed art. In 1913, he “realized that even the most cutting-edge artists were still just painting objects from everyday life, but he was irresistibly drawn to what he called ‘the desert,’ where nothing is real except feeling.” Hence his invention of the style known as Suprematism, “a departure from the world of objects so extreme, it went beyond abstraction.”
Malevich made bold claims for Suprematism in general and Black Square in particular. “Up until now there were no attempts at painting as such, without any attribute of real life,” he wrote. “Painting was the aesthetic side of a thing, but never was original and an end in itself.” As Tolstaya puts it, he “once and for all drew an uncrossable line that demarcated the chasm between old art and new art, between a man and his shadow, between a rose and a casket, between life and death, between God and the Devil. In his own words, he reduced everything to the ‘zero of form.’” She calls this zero’s emergence in such a stark form “one of the most frightening events in art in all of its history of existence.” If so, here we have an argument for not letting young children see Black Square and enduring the consequent nightmares — even if they could have painted it themselves.
New Spider-Man Art Features Web Slinger in Various Activities
Being Spider-Man is about so much more than webbing up bad guys. Spider-Man is the neighborhood guy. He gives back to the community. He protects the community. There’s swinging, there’s fighting, there’s dangling, and sure, sometimes he has to traverse the multiverse and see all his alternative versions.
In a new print series from artist Oliver Barrett though, we focus on the simple stuff. Spider-Man just being Spider-Man. Seven prints, available individually or as a series, each showing Spider-Man at his ground-level best. The pieces are from a collaboration Barrett did with Restoration Games/Unmatched and are being released via Bottleneck Gallery and Acme Archives on October 3.
Each piece is a hand-numbered, 10 x 10 inch giclée in various edition sizes and they’ll be available individually (for $30 each) or as a set (for $200) on the Bottleneck Gallery site at noon ET October 3. Check out all the images in our slideshow.
Kelsey Grammer Curates an Exquisite Art Collection New ‘Frasier’ Reboot Posters
Dr. Frasier Crane has always been an admirer of the finer things in life, and artwork is no different, which is why it feels fitting that, in preparation for his return to our screens, television’s most renowned psychiatrist poses alongside striking pieces of art in new posters designed to promote the launch of Paramount+’s upcoming reboot series, Frasier. The series follows Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) as he enters the next chapter of his life. Viewers will see him return to Boston which will come with its own set of challenges, relationships, and even dreams. Frasier has finally re-entered the building.
While the first of two newly-released posters show Grammer next to a striking collection of statues, the second poster emphasizes the start of the new chapter in his life. In addition to Grammer, the new series stars Jack Cutmore-Scott as Frasier’s son Freddy; Nicholas Lyndhurst as Frasier’s old college buddy turned university professor Alan; Toks Olagundoye as Olivia, Alan’s colleague and head of the university’s psychology department; Jess Salgueiro as Freddy’s roommate Eve; and Anders Keith as Frasier’s nephew David.
The new iteration of Frasier comes from writers Chris Harris (How I Met Your Mother) and Joe Cristalli (Life in Pieces), who executive produce with Grammer, Tom Russo and Jordan McMahon. The series is produced by CBS Studios, in association with Grammer’s Grammnet NH Productions. The first two episodes of the new series are directed by legendary director and television creator James Burrows, who is best known for his work as co-creator, executive producer, and director of the critically acclaimed series Cheers, as well as the original Frasier series, Will & Grace and Dear John. The series is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution outside of the Paramount+ markets.
The Legacy of Frasier Crane
The original series, which aired from 1993 to 2004, had an impressive 11-season run and earned numerous awards and honors. It was a major success at the Primetime Emmy Awards, winning an incredible 37 Emmys throughout its time on the air. This accomplishment set a historic record for the most Emmys ever won by a TV show at that point in time. The awards covered a wide range of categories, including recognition for Outstanding Comedy Series, Lead Actor (Grammer), Supporting Actor (David Hyde Pierce in the role of Niles Crane), and Supporting Actress (Bebe Neuwirth as Lilith Sternin), among others.
The upcoming series will premiere in the U.S. and Canada on Thursday, October 12, with two episodes, and on Friday, October 13, in all other international markets where Paramount+ is available. New episodes will then drop weekly on Thursdays, exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. and Canada, and on Fridays, internationally. In addition, the CBS Television Network will broadcast a special airing of the first two episodes back to back on Tuesday, October 17, beginning at 9:15 p.m. ET/PT. Until then, check out the new posters below:
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