John Currin, Patch and Pearl (2006)

I went to Montreal last weekend to visit my friend Chandler Levack and to see a show by one of my favourite contemporary artists, John Currin, at the impressive DHC/Art Foundation. (Each subsequent trip to Montreal is a reminder to me of how lacking in spacious, theatrical locales for art Toronto is. Le sigh.) My review on Currin’s show was published on Thursday on Canadian Art‘s website. There is so much more to say, and I find it endlessly intriguing how calmly reticent Currin remains about his own practice, where, in contrast, so many artists about whom one struggles to find any analytical thoughts/words can’t stop vociferating.

The day after I saw Currin’s show, I had a studio visit with the excellent Janet Werner, who went to Yale with him, and is acquainted with him and his mesmerizing wife and muse, Rachel Feinstein. (Werner herself has painted her.) Werner told me that, at his recent DHC/Art talk, Currin was asked about his interest in contemporary art. His response? “That’s like asking a basketball player, ‘What about golf?'”

Inside Janet Werner's studio.

In his unsung 1957 study/lecture The Shape of Content, artist-philosopher Ben Shahn says, “There are, roughly, about three conditions that seem to be basic in the artist’s equipment: to be cultured, to be educated, and to be integrated.” I am increasingly intrigued by artists who are choosing to downplay integration—purposefully connecting oneself with a community of artists—because it has become such an overwhelming, aggressive aspect of artist practice over the past 40 years, at the great expense of culture and education. Said Werner in response to Currin’s statement, “Perfect, but, not being in academia, he can afford this luxury (among many others).”

Midcentury Studio.

Yesterday, my interview with Vancouver artist Stan Douglas about his New York show at David Zwirner Gallery, “Midcentury Studio,” was published in The Globe and Mail. The show, for which Douglas has created a body of work for a fictional, Weegee-like jobber photographer ca. 1946 to 1951, has left a considerable impression on me, as it has on many others. It is a total project, full of technical rigour and provocative ideas about the nature of looking, and of history-making.

Douglas also has the talent, rare among contemporary artists, of being able to discuss his own work eloquently and thoroughly. The more I spoke with him about “Midcentury Studio,” the more I realized how well-researched and directed this and every one of his projects is. So, for those who are curious, I present my full interview with him here, in which he goes through several of the show’s key images. I recommend you read the Globe piece first, to get an idea of the fundamentals of the project. Or, read the gallery’s press-release PDF here. Enjoy!


I went to New York just over a week ago, a few days after Elizabeth Taylor’s death. Those of you who know me know how much the latter event has affected me. (My site portrait was taken before this happened, btw.) My partner Derek and I hosted a wake; our relationship has in many respects been defined by a mutual admiration of Liz, especially the Mrs. Burton/obscure-European-pseudo-art-film-star/shrew Liz. (An early date involved renting her 1974 film Identikit a.k.a. The Driver’s Seat; we recently hosted a private screening series of this and other “Lizploitation” films in our attic.) I took the above photograph in Chelsea on the afternoon of March 26, at Chisholm Larsson poster gallery, which had erected a shrine of sorts. Many who passed by stopped to pay their respects.

While in New York I went on a gallery-going spree with Jon Davies. Highlights: “German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse” at MoMA, about which I will write for Canadian Art‘s website in the coming weeks; David Altmejd at Andrea Rosen, about which I’ve already done so (with a Liz lede); Stan Douglas at David Zwirner; and Mark Morrisroe at Artists Space (full of the late artist’s Liz love, including a faux-Q&A in his Dirt zine.)

But more on Liz. Aside from the exquisite news that Liz had a) stipulated in her will that she be buried with the last love letter Richard Burton ever wrote to her; and b) also stipulated that her corpse be delivered to the funeral service fifteen minutes late, the internet has provided some unique commemoration opportunities. Salon got Camille Paglia on the horn for a characteristic tirade. CBS posted this vintage interview with the ebullient Burtons about fighting. Tumblr has given us this. (See left.) This week, her nude portrait at twenty-four years old emerged, but was soon revealed to be a fake. (The Daily Mail claimed it was taken by Roddy McDowall, whose own purported nude portrait may be found here.) Taylor’s Twitter feed was lamentably ended by a plug for her lamentable last interview with the lamentable Kim Kardashian, though, as my friends Rea McNamara and Daniel Shusterman were keen to point out, if you look past this tweet, and the previous one anticipating it, you will find ten tweets in a row, from July 22, 2010, that constitute a poetic, moving goodbye.

I am happy to announce that Derek and I will be hosting a special screening of one of Liz’s greatest films, Joseph Losey’s Boom! (1968)—hailed by John Waters as “the ultimate failed art film” (and by “”failed,” of course, he means “triumphant”)—at the Drake Hotel as part of their “Movies in the Mess Hall” series May 1. The event will include a special Lizploitation sizzle reel. More on this shortly in Events.

To conclude, I bring you one of Liz’s last great works. Hardly dignified, but then she was never one to go gentle, not least, evidently,  into that good night—