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In Review: Art
In Review: Art

In Review: Art


December 18th to January 19th

Emerging artist John Lee is carving out an unexpected niche for himself with his very particular brand of performance, as he wrestles his four loves of manga, martial arts, glassblowing, and b-boying into a whirlwind of painterly Abstract Expressionism. Like a cross between Miyagi’s apprentice and Jackson Pollock, infused with all the intuitive grace of Jean-Michel Basquiat, he creates large-scale all-overs through live action painting by taking to the sidewalk with kick-ass moves. For some, he dresses himself in paintfilled sponges and breakdances layers of splatters and skids onto a canvas. For others, he sets paint-filled, hand-blown glass containers on the canvas and attacks them with an assortment of martial arts weapons; the ensuing destruction leaves its mark in effusive manga-esque blobs and gloops, trails and visual screeches. He talks about wanting to capture energy and impact, exertion and struggle: “There is nothing like it to feel the rapid heart beat and rush of blood, when out of breath and covered in sweat after beating the hell out of a punching bag or my body on the floor, dancing.” Catch him in action at two live events at the Michael Mut Gallery on January 1st and 15th. DALE BERNING

January 15th to April 6th

If Walter Salles’s recent adaptation of On the Road and Patti Smith’s Just Kids have you smitten with the as-yet-unequalled counterculture decades of mid-twentieth century New York, NYU’s forthcoming Beat Memories exhibition is right up your alley. Allen Ginsberg, that howling, ragged, exquisite voice of the Beat Generation’s new America, was a prolific photographer as well as wordsmith, and the first major exhibition of his photographic work is being held in the very neighbourhood where he and the figures in his images forged their indelible way into contemporary culture. Portraits of William S Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and others taken in the 1950s hang alongside later 1980s shots of the likes of Bob Dylan and Francesco Clemente, and they serve as perfectly formed and beautifully tangible shards of a life lived to the fullest. Just as Patti Smith describes her first meeting with Ginsberg in a diner, where he bought the starving singer something to eat, mistaking her for a “very pretty boy,” and you can just feel her relieved hunger and his bashful awkwardness through the skillful simplicity of her prose in Just Kids, so too here Ginsberg’s intimate and sensitive snapshots plunge you directly into those heady times. Handwritten captions expand fleeting moments frozen in black ink on white paper with memories, recollections, and descriptions, a rare opportunity for the viewer to access the artist and poet’s mind at work. The images will be displayed along with manuscripts, correspondence, and sketches from both Ginsberg and his contemporaries. DB

January 2nd to January 26th 

“Please note,” reads the website of Toronto’s Red Head Gallery, “this exhibition contains explicit sexual content.” Even in an age of online over-reliance, where extra-sensory overload of any kink is always just a mouse click away, little encourages footfall to your nearest art space than a warning like that. Borrowing its title from French literary critic Roland Barthes, Talking: A Lover’s Discourse features work from Canadian artist Jack Butler, who takes not only a sideways, but from-all-angles (and often unblinking) look into sexuality, and the invariably complicated relationships we have with our bodies. Butler uses visual art to explore his interests in medical science and he works in multiple mediums, including illustration, sculpture, computer animation, and video installation. “GenitalEmbryogenesis,” for example, is Butler’s graceful animation that shows how genitalia, his and hers alike, develops in the embryo, while the video installation projection “Fatemap” portrays the body as “part of an interpretive narrative.” “My purpose,” says Butler, “is to offer more accurate social and aesthetic discriminations, and adequate frames when conceptualising and representing the process of sexual differentiation.” What he means here, it seems, is that we should all accept ourselves for who we are, and for what we’ve got, whatever shape or size. NICK DUERDEN

January 4th to January 24th

In what must be one of the most eclectic exhibitions recently on offer in San Francisco, Speak Your Peace, which opens in January at the SOMArts Cultural Center, is a group event comprising works by more than 20 Bay Area-based painters and digital, video, and installation artists of all ages and ethnicities organized with the expressed goal to “explore intercultural communication and social justice, and propose new iconographies of peace through visual art.” (No pressure.) The exhibits on offer are as divergent and eclectic as the people who created them. Poet Silvi Alcivar describes the cycle of destruction and reconstruction through Japanese-American symbols of identity in a mixed media painting with origami overlays; Uzi Broshi another ponders the implications, both moral and legal, of places like Guantánamo and the U.S.’s relationship with Cuba with graphics over photographs (one asks “Can I tolerate intolerance?”); and Shaghayegh Cyrous looks at the cultural iconographies of Iran through in the form of Persian-influenced graffiti installations. In each case, the aim is to show how the media informs the way we envision peace, how we ourselves define it and, as utopian as it undoubtedly appears, work slowly but stealthily toward it. ND