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Must-Sees this Week: May 21 to 27, 2015

Lots of great art exhibitions open across the country this week. Here are our recommendations. (And remember to visit our Exhibition Finder for worthwhile shows that are already open.)


Rana Hamadeh, whose work is research oriented and focused on wide-ranging subjects such as systems of justice, militarism and theatre, has a performance piece on May 21 at 7 p.m. at the Western Front, coinciding with her newly opened exhibition “Can You Make a Pet of Him Like a Bird or Put Him on a Leash For Your Girls?” Photographer Christos Dikeakos—whose recent works, focused on his rural Penticton orchard, point to the deeply weighted symbolism of the apple—gives an artist talk at the West Vancouver Museum on May 23 at 2 p.m. New painting by Camrose Ducote opens at Elissa Cristall Gallery on May 23 at 2 p.m. Malcolm Levy and Scott Massey, who both work in concrete photography, have a conversation at Wil Aballe Art Projects on May 23 at 2 p.m. about the conceptual frameworks of their practices and the historical trajectories of these forms of image-making (a word to the wise: they will also be discussing the frequent misuse of the term “abstract” in relation to their work, so check that term at the door). At Access Gallery, two artists (Rebecca Bayer and Laura Kozak) and three writers (Colin Browne, Meredith Quartermain and moderator Judith Penner) will discuss the geography of imagination at a talk, book reading and launch on May 23 at 2 p.m. To mark the Vancouver launch of a new journal, Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, critic and poet Roy Miki will give a talk at the Audain Gallery on May 21 at 7 p.m.


Stretching over several days (at various times on May 21 through 24), the Khyber Centre for the Arts and the OBEY Convention present a festival of contemporary art, “Art in Fest.” Including installation works, animation, experimental electronic music and photography, the multi-disciplinary festival promises “new and intriguing” works by local artists.


Most large exhibitions include pieces from private collections, but this fact is taken in a more literal manner at the McMaster Museum of Art, where 12 collectors from Hamilton and surrounding areas were invited to share works from their collections, culminating in an exhibition that goes on view on May 21. (Forget the artist as curator; it’s all about the collector as curator now.) 


MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) hosts a kind of modern-day Salon des Refusés on May 21 at 5 p.m. with “Gala Salonesque,” which sees more than 150 works accepted and installed in a non-juried show—quality will be variable, but that’s half the fun, really. Kai Chan, whose thoughtful, delicate textile work has gathered attention, opens “Starry Night” on May 21 at 6 p.m. at Diagonale. At the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the Mutek Festival, dedicated to electronic arts and music, begins on May 27. It seems a difficult task to translate “social media’s specific language” into painting, but Véronique Savard is attempting it at Galerie Graff in “Share,” which opens on May 21 at 5 p.m. Artists Sarah Pierce and Gerard Byrne will be virtually checking in all the way from Dublin for a Skype talk at SBC Gallery on May 23 at 3 p.m. about “Short Form,” their current exhibition at the gallery, which pulls from archival films. New work by Péio Eliceiry, who generally focuses on painting and engraving, goes on view at Galerie Nicolas Robert on May 23 at 3:00 p.m.


At the McIntosh Gallery Janice Gurney’s solo exhibition “All the Spaces,” which shows the artist’s work playing with the 16 translations of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius that have been published since 1634, has an opening reception on May 22 at 5 p.m.


At the Varley Art Gallery “Traversive Territories,” a group exhibition dealing with migration and belonging, opens on May 24 at 2 p.m. The show features work by Sarindar Dhaliwal, Soheila Esfahani and Colette Urban, and focuses on the search for place that is particularly prevalent in a country like Canada, almost entirely formed by histories of immigration. 


A closing reception is held for Alyssa Ellis’s project, The Laboratory of Toxic Maturation on May 21 at 6 p.m.; the project involved Ellis’s cultivation of toxic botanicals, so be sure to stick to clearly indicated foodstuffs in the gallery. Shows turn over at the Esker Foundation on May 22 at 6 p.m., with Mia Feuer’s exhibition focusing on post-natural landscapes, Kevin Schmidt’s powerful project that highlight issues of Arctic sovereignty and climate change and Guido van der Werve’s critiques of the sublime landscape tradition. At the Glenbow Museum, artists Sandra Bromley and Wallis Kendal have collected and deactivated over 7000 guns that have been assembled into a monumental, 14-panel sculpture, which goes on view on May 23 alongside From Our Archive: Political Satire in Alberta—a show that will likely take on new meanings in light of Alberta’s recent surprising election results. 


Bugera Matheson opens “A Stop Along the Way,” featuring painting by Jerry Heine and the sculptural work of Rogelio Menz on May 23 at 1 p.m. At Bearclaw Gallery, veteran painter Jane Ash Poitras opens “Aliens and Shamans” on May 23 at 1 p.m.


“Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice” takes a look at contemporary investigations of puppets—why the impulse to depict these manipulatable, directable figures? It includes work by Catherine Heard, Spring Hurlbut, Suzy Lake, Diana Lopez Soto, Tim Whiten and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, and opens at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery on May 23.


The Natural History Museum—those spaces where defining choices are made about the history of scientific and cultural development—is giving another look in the upcoming show at Evans Contemporary, “Creative Evolutionism: An Unnatural History.” Featuring work by Tara Azzopardi, the show consists of “curiosities” that, with an added dash of fiction, could be easily at home in these institutional structures. It opens on May 21 at 6 p.m.


The Red Head Gallery opens Margie Kelk’s “Counterpoise” on May 27. Hazel Meyer and Beth Stuart, who are the first visiting artists to Open Studio in 2015, open two exhibitions at the gallery on May 22 with talk at 6 p.m. followed by a reception at 7 p.m. Patrick Howlett opens an exhibition at Susan Hobbs Gallery on May 21 at 7 p.m. that questions the term “abstraction,” opting instead to see his work as a series of “unitholders”—another way to think about formal structures and logics. Yto Barrada’s “Beau Gestes” opens at A Space Gallery and the Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art on May 22 at 7 p.m. Photographer Sally Mann will discuss her new memoir with Paul Roth, director of the Ryerson Image Centre, at the gallery on May 22 at 7 p.m. At L Space Gallery, the history of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital is brought to the fore in an archival project that opens on May 23 at 3 p.m. The Toronto Feminist Art Conference is hosting an open studio on May 22 at 7 p.m. at ArtScape Gibraltar Point.


Canada’s colonial past and present is the focus of a new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, “Mammo’wiiang to Make Change,” guest curated by Leah Decter and Jaimie Isaac. Building from the Anishinaabemowin word meaning “gathering,” the exhibition features works by Ayumi Goto, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Adrian Stimson, Michael Farnan, Scott Benesiinabandon, Paul Zacharias and Peter Morin. It opens with a public reception on May 21 at 7:30 p.m.


The programming complimenting Plug In ICA’s current exhibition, “Yesterday was Once Tomorrow (or, A Brick is a Tool)” has been some of the most delightfully unexpected in recent memory, but all good things must come to an end. It’s going out on a high note, with a Question Period event, where curator Kegan McFadden’s decisions about the show are explored in a Q&A session with David Churchill, Sigrid Dahle and Shawna Dempsey, and the launch of a publication, Group Text, on May 21 at 7 p.m. “Yesterday was Once Tomorrow (or, A Brick is a Tool)”: the must-sees will miss you.


Contemporary reflections on place, real and imagined, are paired with historic paintings and drawings depicting observed experience in “Vantage Points,” an exhibition opening at the Confederation Centre of the Arts on May 23.

Our weekly must-sees, published each Thursday, are chosen from opening and event announcements sent to at least two days prior to publication. For listings of art openings, exhibitions and events, visit

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Dolores says:

Ottawa is the eternal neglected city missing from your “must see this week ” list. I know that the National Gallery gets your attention regularly but what about the poor mortals who produce and show art under the shadow of
our venerable institution?

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