Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saturday, December 18th: Profits / Prophets
Joel Richardson's Suitman ends with an artist talk & screening

'Tis the season to evade stressed out consumers.

And there is an alternative: engage with artists before they hunker down for winter! Seize the opportunity Saturday, December 18 at Oz Studios where you can meet Joel Richardson, creator of Toronto's most (in)famous, scandal-embroiled mural

Installation view of Joel Richardson's solo show Suitman.  Photo credit: Nekhat Ahmed

Yes, I mean the creator of the Dupont Street city-commissioned mural, erased during Mayor Ford's ham-fisted initiative to lambaste street art, now fully restenciled & restored.  Joel Richardson's solo show Suitman comes on the heels of work featured at Occupy Wall Street and at the Chelsea Museum, New York.

Between 8 & 10 pm, Joel will speak about the Suitman exhibit, screen a short film, and introduce models used for his stencils.  (No, Harper will obviously not be in attendance.)

Installation view: Suitman prints (edition of 100) and Dupont St. mural photo collage.
Photo credit: Joel Richardson

Another reason to go?  Consider picking up a limited edition Suitman print.  If your own collection is brimming at the edges, this $100 print is an inspired gift for the artsies, TO history/Occupy enthusiasts, and anti-capitalists on your list.

It's easy to see that Joel is used to working with large spaces; for Suitman he has totally revamped the space.  Rays of red paint and newspaper intervene with the white walls and amp up his dissident graphic rhetoric.

Elegant framed works on mylar hang in the gallery windows, meshing Joel's ubiquitous suited man with blueprints — these can be lightboxed on request.  Striking life-sized figures are stenciled onto doors, which have been left outside to loosen the original paint, partially sanded, and finished in a gently tinted latex wash.  In this new stencil, the caucasian businessman is barefoot and punches his right fist the air, reminiscent of that furious, electric moment in 1968 when US athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, standing triumphant on the Olympic podium, raised black gloved fists in solidarity with the civil rights movement.  In fact, this gesture resurfaces throughout history as a civic call to arms.

The barefoot figure can be interpreted in a slew of ways, but without a doubt Joel Richardson is critical of North America's diseased economy and the putrefying value system it heartlessly propagates.
"The barefooted suitman with his fist in the air is a call for working people and our leaders, regardless of race, sex or religion, to act with similar bravery, and solidarity and to stand up to the massive and corrupt economic inequalities and to make the world a better place."  — Joel Richardson
Joel Richardson, Zen Suitman, 2011, plaster, paint, tape, beeswax and found objects.
*Note: photo taken during installation, and the zen suitman's tie is unaccounted for.
Photo credit: Joel Richardson

Joel routinely introduces religious iconography into his politicized artwork, an interesting juxtaposition.  He alchemically combines sun symbols, orthodox Christian halos, and references to Buddhism with businessmen and gas masks. 

In the sculptural installation above, a pure white figure is folded into a traditional Buddhist asanas — think Gandhi and his message of nonparticipation — sitting on newspapers and television sets, primary vehicles of mass media, all perched atop timbre and ready to be set afire.  The gas mask is a rebuttal against martyrdom, while the oppressive power of the circling and sainted businessmen is mathematically negated and reduced to a decorative detail.  Emphasizing the figure's humanity and, by proxy, flawed nature, is a jet black tie.  This unifies the oppressor with the oppressed, and acts as a metaphorical plumb line connecting the now humanized figure to the earth, just as the sun embodies a connection to the celestial.

This meditating figure wearing a gas mask is burned into my memory, and brings to mind comparably evocative works by Samuel Stimpert & Arman.  To me, the installation reads as a politicized play on Nam June Paik's famous TV Buddha.  Like Paik's Buddha, Joel's work strives for balance, promoting an even-keeled and meditative reflection on the world around us.

Nam June Paik, TV Buddha, 1974, Closed Circuit video installation with bronze sculpture

Put yourself in the place of Paik's Buddha.  We are caught in the loop of our economic system, surveillance, and (often self-indulgent) TV or computer screens.  But this system is not eternal.  It is certainly not infallible.  Today Paik's technology seems ancient, and eventually, our system of imperial adventurism, bought politicians and corporate bailouts will too.

Until then, take a moment Saturday to visit Oz Studios where Joel Richardson may disrupt your closed circuit, if only for a moment.

about the author

My photo
Personal space yields the simplest insights into a person. My space is full of work by contemporary artists & (some would say fanatically organized) bookshelves. I live for complex ideas, accessible artwork that takes advantage of the materials postmodernism introduced as viable fodder, & great literature. I work & write in Toronto, Ontario. Posts on this blog will range from reflections on exhibits I have seen or would like to see, musings on criticism, published essays, & maybe a few stray posts on literature. It may also include essays written for McGill or OCAD U. courses, as well as snippets of articles I've found interesting. You can bet your ass that all this will be cited!

I will happily field questions via Facebook messages, find me listed as "Leia Gore".

Last but not least, I freelance! Connect on Facebook for rate inquiries, or permission to cite/redistribute my work.