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The CONTACT Festival: Shoot to Thrill

Various locations, Toronto May 1 to 31 2008
Martin Parr  <i>Greece, Athens, Acropolis</i>  1991   Copyright Martin Parr/Magnum Photos Martin Parr Greece, Athens, Acropolis 1991 Copyright Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Martin Parr <i>Greece, Athens, Acropolis</i> 1991 Copyright Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

The twelfth annual CONTACT Toronto Photography Festival is kicking off this week, and its constant growth has once again assured it the title of the world’s largest photo fest. With over 200 exhibitions, installations and events on the roster, it’s hard to know what to see first—fortunately, the fest’s primary exhibition, “From the Epic to the Everyday,” makes a good starter over at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (952 Queen St W).

First, “Epic” has those marquee names, like boho documenteuse Nan Goldin, cheeky joykill Martin Parr and journo-turned-artist Luc Delahaye. Second, it’s got some beautiful work touching on the home front, from the poetic paint-scratchings of Quebec’s Raymonde April to the Rembrandt-lit living rooms of Dutchman Bert Teunissen to the youthful meditations of Guggenheim fellowship winner Alessandra Sanguinetti. Finally, it’s got some works to challenge sophisticated viewers, like Thomas Ruff’s massive, blown-up prints of web-sourced photos, Adi Nes’s staged photo-paintings of the homeless that echo the Old Testament and art history, and Chi Peng’s digital collage of ancient and still-fresh “journeys to the West.”

Once that has whetted your appetite, try some of the following shows also opening this week:

If you loved Kent Monkman’s recent exhibition, don’t miss “Drive-by” by Jeff Thomas, another First Nations artist, at the University of Toronto Art Centre (15 King’s College Circle). Where Monkman applies his witty art historical critiques to paintings and videos, Thomas achieves similar results with photos of plastic native-themed toys set against urban landscapes, as well as juxtapositions of actual and idealized native people.

Get out to the galleries often, and feel like you’ve seen it all? Try “Sommes Nous?: Tendance Floue” an exhibit by a French collective that makes intertwining, open-ended photographic series. You likely haven’t seen the work before, and even if you have, there will be a certainly be a different way to read it. At the Alliance Francaise (24 Spadina Rd).

While the recent boom in museum starchitecture has pumped up Toronto’s artistic profile, it has also created a lot of psychic and material debris. Suzy Lake tackles this problem photographically in “Rhythm of a True Space,” an installation on the Art Gallery of Ontario’s construction hoardings. Lake, clad in a contemporary-Cinderella-like slip, seems to sweep away the detritus of change, clearing the way for better things to come.

Stay tuned for more CONTACT previews each week in May at Canadian Art Online.

This article was first published online on May 1, 2008.

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