His auspicious first opening, celebrated in his upstairs living room, was
on Friday 13, 2000, the October full moon. He invited the incomparable Vancouver
based artist, Brian Jungen to create a new work for the occasion. As he
said "small gallery, good vibes and beautiful big party." Barr,
a trained artist himself, works with the famous Bruce Mau. As a result,
Barr has the opportunity to travel, the exposure and access to internationally
recognized, up and coming young artists and projects. He has no rules, he
loosely curates. He does accept proposals but only chooses to invite artists
"whose work he loves". He doesn't charge for the space and can't
tantalize with offers of money. But he tries to co-ordinate with a local
showing at a larger gallery, such as Art Metropole, and basically hooks
the artists with the offer of a challenge and the liveliness of the local
space. So far, most requests have been met with site-specific works and
I was on hand for Solo's latest work "Going Upstairs" by Montreal based artist, Steve Topping, It is an example of the quality of the possibilities, a lovely interactive kinetic sculpture. Complex in its referential elements, but simple and elegantly designed. Inside the window, lit up like an oversized light box sits a solitary film loop. Suspended within a sculpted wooden projection box, its excessive coils and the content it contains are kept in functioning order by an ingeniously beautiful clear Plexiglas frame. Somewhat in contrast, the surface of the projection box is partially unfinished, carpenter pencil marks still visible. From afar, the installation looks oddly lonely, almost dwarfed by the height of the window. I have to bend over awkwardly to view the film's secrets. I am both viewer and viewed now. My seat hangs out to the street, somewhat precariously and vulnerable. There are no instructions. It takes a few minutes to realize that the nipple like knob fixed magically to the brick wall beside me is, in fact, the timer that allows me to control when and how long the loop will run.
Suddenly I see a kind of beauty in human struggle and groping for life, an art form to homelessness, a clear design of tension between the fuzzy lines of organic and structure. Perception is everything. And in an eerie moment of life imitating art, I leave this street view to go upstairs to Barr's apartment and join the pulsing throng at Steve's opening party.
Check out a Quicktime Movie of "Going Upstairs"
Pages Book and Magazine Store (256 Queen St. West)
Home to one of Toronto's first window galleries, Pages is one of the last bookstores, in a disappearing breed of independents, stalwarts against the ever-growing bookstore chain megaliths. Pages window has a venerable history. Started 21 years ago, Marc wanted to devote one of his commercial display windows to his local art community and patrons. There weren't many spaces for artists in the contemporary scene. "I wanted an art window and liked to encourage the link between art and activism or local events- for example every year we celebrate 'Mayworks' (our version of worker's remembrance and unite day). I think it's important for a bookstore, especially a private bookstore, to promote art and culture ".
The list of young artists that have shown at one time or another in this space is impressive, a sort of a who's who in the history of the local art scene: ChromoZone, Andy Fabo, Barb Klunder, John Scott, Fastwurms; and of course there are those many who were brave but maybe not so famous. Marc, like his peers, doesn't think of himself as a curator, at most a collaborator. He used to give the artist free reign, sometimes not even viewing the work until after installation. However a brush with the law over an installation in the 1980's, changed his naive lesser faire approach. Apparently a member of the public saw a Pages sponsored feminist art display set up to celebrate FemFest '85. They reacted strongly with a morality complaint. It became a seminal case in censorship activism and pornography law, attracting the likes of Clayton Ruby, Margaret Atwood, Ken Danby and John Bentley Mays. Suffice to say, Glasman now views all pieces and proposals with an educated eye. However his acceptance still rests on his basic "if he likes your work he's happy to have it". And yes, people have come into the bookstore to comment and even to buy.
Above: Steve Topping 'Going Upstairs' installation view
Below: Germaine Koh 'Watch' performance, Solo Exhibition