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Still the best street fest in the city

The Beaches Jazz Festival is a huge draw and the crowds seem to get larger every year. Bandstand acts in Woodbine Park are great, but my favourite part is the street festival, when bands set up in front of stores along Queen.

 

Public art speaks, if I listen

Standing on the College subway platform, I smiled at artist Charles Pachter‘s effort to mark the station as the one closest to Maple Leaf Gardens. The hockey shrine is a supermarket now.

In 1985, it was unimaginable that the revered Gardens would be abandoned in favour of the Air Canada Centre.

Pachter’s enamel-on-metal drawings have proved durable enough to survive public service. They’ve even outlasted their purpose. The comic book look took some critical hits when the panels were first installed, but 30 years ago, graphic novels were not viewed as art the way they are now, either.

Pachter chose to focus on the teams. I prefer Michael Snow‘s more surprising approach, when he turned his eye away from the players and looked at The Audience , for his 1989 pro sports commission  on the side of Toronto’s dome.

It’s a funny, unflattering tribute to baseball fans, howling from the stands. I like it for not being pompous or reverential.

I see a sly acknowledgement that pro sports have become today’s popular religion. Placing figures in boxes this way has a long history in church art. Bernini‘s  1651 Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is probably the most famous example.

Art patrons are forever changing their strategies for shaping public values. From ancient Roman bread and circuses, through pious Bible stories and, perhaps, back again.

Public art, even when it stinks (or especially when it stinks) reveals a lot about the society that accepts it and about the people, committees, corporations or institutions that commission it.

“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.” — Pablo Picasso

Green, single-serve coffee

Listening to the most recent episode of Terry O’Reilly’s entertaining Under the Influence show. I learned that John Sylvan regretted that he had invented the Keurig coffeemaker. Those expensive little cups are environmental bad news. Unrecyclable, and enough are in landfills to circle the globe 12 times. ☹️

So how can I be happy that Danica brought home this new single-serve machine? Because this one is the the “classic” model that doesn’t have to use K-cups.

A little wire-mesh cup holds ground coffee that I spoon in … any brand. I clean it after each fresh cup, for reuse. The mesh cup must be purchased separately for $20, but that’s it and you’re K-cup free.

I first saw the unit at Andja’s house in Windsor, but Keurig had stopped making them … until now. Andja told Danica they were back in production and available at Walmart. Ninety bucks. Model K50 Classic.

Thanks for the heads-up, Andja!

Oops. Another stop work order

Perhaps Danica and I weren’t the only ones surprised to see signs of another floor being added to the pied à terre being built on Corley. The building inspector has ordered work to stop (again), according to posted notices.

We’ve been following the construction since the beginning and we like the builders, Rob and his son Josh, so we hope the delay will be brief. Whatever the reason for the stop work order, we wish Rob good luck and we’ll continue to follow the story with interest.

 

Avron Mintz art

Avron Mintz has responded to my request for examples of the digital art he is producing. He starts with observation of his surroundings, selects subjects that he thinks may have potential and photographs them.

So, abstract or nonobjective as these examples may look, they do begin as recognizable images. Well, not always recognizable. Sometimes viewers would be hard pressed to recognize extreme close-ups and photos of textures.

The photographs are then opened in Photoshop or Picasa (or both) and manipulated with various filters until something appears that satisfies. Familiarity with the kinds of results given by filters and combinations permits a level of control.

The artist favours natural subjects as a starting point … a leaf, for example, or trees or clouds … because they give him confidence that the resulting forms will be aesthetically sound.

Another level of control is selection from the myriad of images that can be quickly made this way. Avron makes his own choices, but relies on his wife Elaine’s eye, too. If she doesn’t like one, she’s always right, he says.

A few images are chosen for ouput as hard copies, then more choices must be made, because of all the substrates available these days … aluminum, acrylic, paper, foam core, you name it. Size must be determined, as well, of course.

Artists today often act more as art directors than as makers. Unlike art directors of the last century, practitioners now direct computers and inkjet printers rather than other people.

A meeting with collaborators

Fair exchange … last week I introduced sculptor Gord Smith to sculptor Rob McBride, this week Gord introduced me to Avon Mintz, painter, digital graphic artist and one half of the Smith + Mintz artistic collaboration.

We met at the architecturally stunning Mintz condo called ELAV Nest by architect Reza Aliabadi, whose firm did a complete renovation about 3 years ago.

My jaw dropped when I stepped inside. It’s an art gallery! Paintings and sculptures are everywhere. One of the first pieces I saw was a large Gord Smith openwork steel piece, silhouetted again north light. Gorgeous. Just inside the front door, there’s a large, impressive Avron Mintz painting you’ll see if you follow the condo link above. Pre-computer work. Very well done.

The name ELAV is a contraction of the names of Elaine and Avron Mintz. Elaine gets full credit from her husband Avron for her unerring eye when it comes to judging his digital art, so there’s another level of collaboration going on.

I’ll come back to the subject of Avron Mintz art when I receive images to illustrate his work. For now, I am just showing you one piece, Red Butterfly, to give you a sense of the abstract work by Smith + Mintz.

These artists are a good influence on one another.

Snapshots and the visual arts

The Incredible Hulk demanded that I take his picture before I could go into the Gerrard Art Space. Actually, I was supposed to be in the picture with him, because he was a prop for selfies, erected as an attraction at the South Asian Festival.

Yeah, I didn’t know he was South Asian, either.

Anyway, I did get into the art space to look at the current show, loosely themed around the notion of “Home”. There are 16 artists represented. Lots of variety, mostly mixed media pieces.

Danica was immediately drawn to Dana Green’s Spirit Dwells Inn, a more or less life size figure made of wire mesh, attached to a rough 2×4 frame. The appeal was in the innards … a shell, bird’s nest and mousetrap in the head, for example.

A snapshot doesn’t capture a piece like this. It really wants to be seen in person. A perfect exhibition piece, in this respect.

Another of Danica’s favourites was easier to photograph … Susan Aaron’s Spritz of Joy, but that raises a question. Just because I can take a snapshot, as we all can now, with our phones, should I?

Unsure about reproducing the artist’s whole piece, I decided to show only a close-up detail and leave it to you to go see the complete composition.

Danica related to these colourful squares, partly because they reminded her of quilting.

GAS has an upcoming Puppet Show (August 2nd to 21st, Reception Thursday August 3rd 6pm-9pm). 1475 Gerrard Street East