Ryan Gander at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, September 11 to November 1
For British conceptual artist Ryan Gander, the act of living itself is a creative process, and artwork just the consequence of engaging with the world with an open and inquisitive mind. His ludic practice, equal parts confounding and delightful, evades easy categorization. His contribution to Documenta 13, I Need Some Meaning I Can Memorise, (The Invisible Pull) (2012), took the form of a light breeze in a large, empty room. He’s invented a new word, “mitim,” whose definition is “a mythical word newly introduced into history as if it had always been there.” In the Mexico City Zoo’s lion enclosure, he installed a sculpture that resembled a giant scratching post.
For “Make every show like it’s your last,” which has travelled internationally and makes its second Canadian stop at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal after Vancouver, the prolific artist hopes that his playful, puzzling works, such as a pair of animatronic eyes installed into the gallery wall that clack as they follow and respond to visitors’ movements, and witty interventions (look out for Imagineering campaign posters at select Vancouver transit shelters) will encourage visitors to live in the world as active spectators, staying acutely aware of all the brilliant stuff out there beyond the context of what’s shown within white walls. – Rosie Prata, copy editor
Supercommunity Live: The Climatic Unconscious at the Roxy Theatre in Saskatoon, October 30 and 31
With construction of its four-level, 130,000-square-foot building on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River nearing completion, and an opening slated for late fall 2016, Saskatoon’s Remai Modern (with the help of contemporary-art think tank e-flux journal) gets the momentum rolling with Supercommunity Live, a program of lectures and film screenings at the city’s historic Roxy Theatre. The two-day line-up draws from e-flux’s summer-long publishing series at the Venice Biennale, which distributed daily essays, poems, plays, manifestos, ruminations, etc., by A-list international artists and thinkers—all in an intentionally paradoxical reflection on the critical disparities and shared preoccupations of contemporary art, politics, economics and life.
Likewise, discussions and debates at the Roxy are bound to range far and wide, but the lynchpin to the Saskatoon summit—including presentations by Kader Attia, Raymond Boisjoly, Natasha Ginwala, Wietske Maas, Pedro Neves Marques, Matteo Pasquinelli, Elizabeth Povinelli and Mohammad Salemy, among others—is the core issue of global climate change and a collective renegotiation of the increasingly tenuous borderlines between humanity and nature. – Bryne McLaughlin, managing editor
Turner at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, October 31 to January 31
This has been the year of the watercolour at the Art Gallery of Ontario. In the spring, Silke Otto-Knapp showed how the medium could be re-energized for contemporary painting. Through the summer, “From the Forest to the Sea” showed how crucial watercolour was for Emily Carr to find her way to the sublime openness of her late, loose style. Now, as of Halloween, Tate’s “J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free” brings us the pinnacle of watercolour production with an exhibition concentrating on works from Turner’s last 15 years. Included are some of the most famous watercolours ever made. When the exhibition was in London last year, a room of watercolours that included both the Blue Rigi and Red Rigi pictures painted in Switzerland in the 1840s led to a room with late oil paintings that included the black, floating silhouettes of Peace—Burial at Sea and the churning and swirling vortexes of the the morning and evening Deluge works. Turner was an artist possessed by water as an imaginative space. He was also an artist who made water an exquisite means to an end. It is an unmissable show. – Richard Rhodes, editor
John Devlin at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, September 5 to January 3
I have endless questions about outsider artists, which largely revolve around issues of evaluation and acceptance. What makes a particular outsider artist succeed when countless others flounder? We all know at least one self-taught artist, but they’re probably not getting retrospectives at provincial galleries. Thinking of “Spring in Cambridge,” which culls from John Devlin’s hundreds of sketches, all of which depict his fictional world of Nova Cantabrigiensis, I keep coming back to questions of fixation. Think of Henry Darger’s 15,000-page manuscript, The Story of the Vivian Girls, or Marino Auriti’s Il Palazzo Enciclopedico del Mondo, an extensive sculptural model for a building to house all worldly knowledge (and later scooped by Massimiliano Gioni to title the 2013 Venice Biennale). If fixation is indeed a metric for outsider-art success, Devlin, and this show, has it in spades. – Caoimhe Morgan-Feir, interim online editor
Dana Schutz at Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, October 17 to January 10
Debates surrounding painting’s relevance in the artworld have faded along with the avant-garde, and New York–based Schutz demonstrates why: to make any contemporary medium relevant, just be good at it, and be yourself. It’s not a matter of romanticism (Schutz is a marketable New York painter, with studio assistants) but of determination, focus. Like all successful artists, Schutz gives us a world. Hers has a loud palette, with figures negotiating mental and physical duress the way she negotiates the history of abstract representation. It’s a sour, funny, bathetic, raucous vision.
There are specific reasons to look forward to Schutz’s upcoming exhibition at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. It’s her first at a major Canadian institution. Curator John Zeppetelli, who did such a great job of the John Currin show at DHC/Art in 2011, promises a focus on Schutz’s connection to the “primitive impulse” of German Expressionism, and a related one on the very painterly topic of flesh. The MAC’s 2015 programming has been consistently impressive. Schutz follows a triumphant double bill by David Altmejd and Jon Rafman—who, like Schutz, are challengingly violent and psychosexual. Montreal is the home of contemporary painting in Canada; with the MAC leading the way, it’s also the home of exhibitions for grown-ups. – David Balzer, deputy editor
Shayne Ehman at Thunder Bay Art Gallery, September 18 to November 15
The Thunder Bay Art Gallery opens their fall season with a solo exhibition by Shayne Ehman, the itinerant artist who currently hails locally. Ehman is best known for his cartoony figurative drawings and sculptures, which have over the years been put to use in a number of animated video works. His acclaimed animated film Asphalt Watches (with Seth Scriver, 2003) depicted a hallucinatory picaresque loosely based on the two artists’ cross-country hitchhiking odyssey.
More recently, his familiar cast of bulgy-eyed figures, mushrooms (Ehman has described himself as an “amateur mycologist”) and weed-smoking forest creatures populated a stop-motion animated music video for genre-defying Vancouver band Destroyer. For “Hand To Eye To Land To Sky,” Ehman will show animation works, sculpture, poetry and sound art, and the gallery will release an LP of Ehman’s spoken word, field recordings and songs. – Nicholas Brown, contributing editor