To be honest, getting into Art Toronto was a bit of a hassle. I show up at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and buy my ticket—$15 for a student—and believe me, if I had to buy it at full price, I’d have turned around and walked out. I get over the price thing, only to be turned away at the escalator because no backpacks are allowed. So I find the coat check, fill my pockets with anything I think could be deemed valuable, and proceed to scrape together another three dollars out of my change purse. Okay, so $18 isn’t that much money, but because of what happens next, it sure starts to feel like it.
After finally scaling the escalator, I pick up a map and take a look at what’s going on here. The layout of the show is impossible to understand; it’s more of a rat maze than an art show. I came here looking for the Art Gallery of Mississauga, hoping they were making a good impression on the Toronto art scene—but they are nowhere to be found in the directory, although they are listed as a “cultural partner”. I figure they must be around somewhere, so I set out, moving up and down the rows because maybe I just can’t read the map properly.
No luck. I do find the Rumi Gallery, though, and applaud them silently for sticking it out next to big names from not only Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal, but also Paris and London.
On my meandering journey, I do stumble upon a couple of gems. Art Mûr, for instance, has on display an installation piece that immediately grabs my attention. An average kitchen table is set on uneven legs, so it is pitched heavily to one side. A chair set at the table has also lost its balance. On the table, a bowl of milk and cereal spills across onto the table and drips to the floor. I’m not sure what materials artist Katherine Payette used, but the milk still looks wet, and the cereal slightly crunchy. Behind the table, a sculpture of a headless child (complete with clothes and dirty bare feet) kneels in such a way that it looks like his head is either tucked between his knees or has been consumed by the floor. Either way, it’s a disturbing image, bringing a whole new meaning to the saying “Don’t cry over spilled milk.”
Another piece that strikes me is from the Trepanier Baer Gallery in Calgary. Artist Evan Penny has made a sort of optical illusion sculpture of Jesus after his crucifixion. He lies in an abnormally long, thin box squished into the wall. In my experience, representations of Jesus on the cross usually have a peaceful, cherubic look on their faces, but not this one. He looks positively manic, with his (real?) hair frizzing all over and eyes rolling back in his head. He hasn’t been laid out for others to admire; instead this is a representation that appraoches realism in its representation of death. There’s also a bit of black comedy here, set in motion by this cartoony religious icon stuffed into a wall in an art gallery. But my favourite thing about the piece is that it looks—at least to me—like Jesus is giving us all the finger, even in death, though the hand is draped so casually that it might not be true. But I kind of like to think it is. There’s something in that—this flawless saviour taking his last moments to give all of humanity a great big f— you.
The long and short of it is that I never found the AGM, not even after asking a very friendly and helpful guide at the information desk to help me. Oh, and they almost couldn’t find my bag at the coat check when I left.
This article has been corrected from the print edition. It misstated the name of the artist Evan Penny. A notice will be printed in the November 9, 2015 issue.