With three new sum­mer ex­hi­bi­tions, Toronto’s Power Plant gallery takes a strong stance on global is­sues.


An ex­plo­ration of the lat­est exhibits at Toronto’s Power Plant gallery

Over the last year, long-time frus­tra­tions sur­round­ing

in­equal­ity have fi­nally be­gun to be ad­dressed in a mean­ing­ful way, and The Power Plant Con­tem­po­rary Art Gallery is tak­ing part in the con­ver­sa­tion. This sum­mer, the Toronto cul­tural in­sti­tu­tion will present three new ex­hi­bi­tions, each con­tribut­ing its own voice on themes rang­ing from gen­der to race and colo­nial­ism. “I think this is the role of art and an art in­sti­tu­tion,” says Carolin Köch­ling, cu­ra­tor of ex­hi­bi­tions at The Power Plant. “It’s a space where you can dis­cuss these things in a very good en­vi­ron­ment.”

While each ex­hi­bi­tion stands on its own as an in­de­pen­dent pro­ject, vis­i­tors will dis­cover com­mon­al­i­ties be­tween the three. “We al­ways con­sider which artists’ work to present at the same time, in or­der to leave the po­ten­tial for the works pre­sented through­out the three ex­hi­bi­tions to de­velop con­nec­tions be­tween one another, through their own means, so to speak,” says Köch­ling. “We be­lieve that there are many themes ad­dressed in the re­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­tions that would trig­ger a fruit­ful dia­logue be­tween them.”

Open­ing that dia­logue is Rhode Is­land–born artist Ellen Gal­lagher, whose ex­hi­bi­tion “Nu-Nile” will be lo­cated in the Royal LePage Gallery and the North Gallery on the sec­ond floor. “Nu-Nile” in­cor­po­rates Gal­lagher’s prac­tice of syn­the­siz­ing a va­ri­ety of pic­to­rial tra­di­tions to ex­plore nar­ra­tives of race and rep­re­sen­ta­tion. In her pieces, Gal­lagher coun­ters tra­di­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tions of black peo­ple in art, re­assert­ing them into the canon of Western painting.

In keep­ing with her on­go­ing ex­plo­ration of wa­tery mo­tifs, Gal­lagher’s 2010 film in­stal­la­tion Osedax, cre­ated with Edgar Clei­jne, will be pre­sented out­doors in a wooden box next to Lake On­tario. “Her work is so much about the un­der­wa­ter realm, so it’s nice that we are so close to the wa­ter,” says Köch­ling. “Osedax” is the name of a re­cently dis­cov­ered worm that lives off of whale bones, and the film is based on whale fall, the sci­en­tific term for dead whales that have fallen to the ocean floor and are con­sumed by scavengers. “Whales are these crea­tures that, when they fall to the sea bed, they cre­ate a to­tally new ecosys­tem, and Ellen Gal­lagher is very in­ter­ested in this,” says Köch­ling.

Join­ing Gal­lagher from her home base of Ber­lin is Por­tuguese artist Grada Kilomba, an artist whom Köch­ling and Power Plant direc­tor Gaë­tane Verna both first en­coun­tered around the same time. Lo­cated in the McLean and Cana­dian Tire Gal­leries, Kilomba’s ex­hi­bi­tion “Se­crets to Tell” marks her first time show­ing in North Amer­ica. With a PhD in phi­los­o­phy from Freie Univer­sität Ber­lin, Kilomba has ex­panded the scope of her creative out­put, while still in­cor­po­rat­ing the writ­ten word. “She’s trans­formed what she is do­ing in her lit­er­a­ture work into vis­ual art, which is very much text-based trans­formed into space. It’s ex­tremely pow­er­ful,” says Köch­ling.

Fi­nally, Cana­dian artist Ab­bas Akha­van will in­stall a site-spe­cific work in the Clerestory, which lies in the cen­tre of the gal­leries on the first floor and func­tions as an axis be­tween the main en­trance and the wa­ter­front en­trance. In­cor­po­rat­ing a foun­tain, the in­stal­la­tion aims to pro­vide a cir­cu­lar point that re­flects on the role of an art in­sti­tu­tion. “If you think about ur­ban cen­tres in Europe or the Mid­dle East, they are very much de­fined by some­thing like a foun­tain, as op­posed to this mod­ernist grid of a North Amer­i­can city,” says Köch­ling. Akha­van’s in­stal­la­tion is meant to func­tion as a gath­er­ing point for vis­i­tors, pro­vid­ing a crit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity for some face-to-face dis­cus­sions. Some­times, tak­ing the con­ver­sa­tion off­line is the best course of ac­tion. The Power Plant’s sum­mer ex­hi­bi­tion sea­son is on view from June 23 un­til Septem­ber 3, 2018, with the Ab­bas Akha­van ex­hi­bi­tion run­ning un­til De­cem­ber 30, 2018.

Edgar Clei­jne and Ellen Gal­lagher, High­way Gothic, 2017, 16 mm film in­stal­la­tion with 70 mm film cyan­otype ban­ners.

Ab­bas Akha­van, Study for a Gar­den (2015), Emer­ald Green Cedar trees and string.

Grada Kilomba, Table of Goods, 2017, In­stal­la­tion view: MAAT – Mu­seum of Art, Ar­chi­tec­ture and Tech­nol­ogy, Lis­boa.

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