The Place of Art, the Art of Place

Harbourfront is one place where you feel both in the city and on its edge at the same time. It’s always an enticing locale for a walk, but we are in the car. Tree at lakeshore damaged by ice storm.So we park at Coronation Park, which is near the Prince’s Gate entrance to the Exhibition grounds, and stroll along the Waterfront Trail to our ultimate destination, the exhibition at the Power Plant.

The first thing we see is more ice storm damage.

Toronto Naval Division on Lake Ontario.Join the Navy sign.At the end of the park is a naval installation which I never knew was there. Why is it there? Are we waiting for a rematch of the War of 1812? And I had no idea they are still attempting to  persuade people to enlist with that hoary old slogan.

Details of Tip Top Tailor building exterior.Walking past the TipTop Tailor condos we get a close-up of its glorious art deco details. Wonder what it’s like inside.

Iced Toronto harbour.As we come up to the lakefront, we can see the extent of the freeze-up. Whenever in December has  the entire harbour been ice? Sailboat and Quay in the ice.The cold is too bitter to stop at the outdoor Exhibition Common now located in the new park, formerly a parking lot, but in most weather it’s a fine new venue. Queen’s Quay also has several galleries for art but today we head straight inside the Power Plant.

The Power Plant art gallery at Harbourfront.

Micah Lexier: One, and Two, and More Than Two

Micah Lexier is a Toronto artist whose practice explores variety within constraints.  His exhibition at the Power Plant had more than I could take in at one visit, but some of the work provokes these thoughts and impressions.

In his video This One, That One, Lexier allows us to look over his shoulder as he arranges and rearranges drawings on cardboard and simple objects.  More than an insight into his process, he seems to be suggesting the importance of a playful and open stance at the outset of creation.

Student writing in Micah Lexier art.1334 Words for 1334 Students is a story, written by Colm Toibin, written out by the students, and printed on newsprint like a free paper in the subway. Each pupil in a Toronto school contributed one hand-written word to the whole. It is not a collective creation of story, but a collective effort in the presentation of the story – of the artifact. The personal mark of each child is discernible in the published piece. I wonder how significant it was for them, since for many the physical act of writing is a newly acquired skill. But the thing being presented is actually a story, and I wonder what the children thought of the story itself. I would have liked to eavesdrop on that discussion.

Two equal texts, art by Micah Lexier.A collaboration between Lexier and Christian Bok, Two Equal Texts, brings to mind Robert Bringhurst, the BC poet, who brilliantly characterizes writing as the solid form of language. The limits of our written signifiers – the alphabet, grammar and punctuation – are the basis for an infinite variety of literature. This is emphasized in two ways; by imposing a further limit, explained in the text itself, and by enlarging the paragraphs themselves into a wall-sized installation.

At Harbourfront

All the art at Harbourfront is accessible and free of charge – you encounter it outdoors, or amidst the cafes and artist’s workplaces in the building at Queen’s Quay. Even the big institutional gallery, the Power Plant, has free admission (in its case subsidized by some big bank). It means art can be one part of a day at the lake that includes ice skating or boating or walking or listening to music.  It is exactly the sort of place which a city can build when it’s citizens are happy to be a city, glad of our urban density and of all the opportunities afforded by pooling our collective resources (taxes and bank profits) to create publicly more than we could have individually and privately.  We are all so much richer for it.

– Schuster Gindin
Photos by Schuster Gindin

Read the Power Plant write-up of Micah Lexier’s show here.

Read a review from the Toronto Star here.