Sunday, February 17, 2013

Patti Smith and Beat Nation

Patti Smith, from her exhibition Camera Solo 

Last week was a luxurious one in that I managed to find the time to take in two art shows in two days.  I went to the preview of Patti Smith's photography exhibition, Camera Solo, at the AGO.  The next day, I braved the snow and embarked on a rather hellish walk to Harbourfront to check out Beat Nation at the Power Plant.  Boy, was it ever nice to spend a few hours outside of my own head (which is constantly consumed by thesis work), looking at the work of other artists.

The Patti Smith show was an interesting one for a few reasons.  The exhibition was gorgeously installed-- a clean and uniform installation of small photographs with nice touches like ephemera placed sparingly on weathered wood tables, persian rugs, church pews facing a video projection, and a huge Italian fishing net in the middle of the main gallery. Despite the exhibition's pitch-perfect style, a telling moment for me was when I took in a photograph taken by Robert Mapplethorpe of Patti-- not the iconic one of her on the cover of Horses, but another one of her looking long-limbed and awkwardly other words, it was pure Patti.  After drinking in this photograph for several minutes, it became obvious just how artless Smith's photographs were in comparison.  The exhibition reminded me of my ambivalence towards Patti Smith's work, whose artistic career has been (in my humble opinion) rather uneven.  The thing is, you'd never guess it from all the attention she has been showered with.

Jordan Bennett, Turning Tables (2012)

Continuing the theme of intersections of art and music, Beat Nation: Hip Hop as Indigenous Culture at the Power Plant was worth the walk.  I especially loved Jordan Bennett's Turning Tables (pictured above), which plays Bennett's voice learning his native tongue, Mi'kmaq.  Also really stirring were two of the exhibition's video works-- 10 by Dana Claxton and Nicholas Galanin's Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan Part 1 and 2.  Recommended!

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