We zoom in on 5 ex­hibits at photo fest,

A look at five of the 200-plus shows about to pop up ev­ery­where in Toronto’s an­nual pho­to­graphic free-for-all

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - MUR­RAY WHYTE VIS­UAL ARTS CRITIC

The Sco­tia­bank Con­tact Photography Fes­ti­val is an un­ruly beast and that’s part of its charm.

Over its 18 an­nual in­stal­ments to date, the sprawl­ing photo fest has grown and ma­tured, surely, but still strained at the bri­dle fes­ti­val or­ga­niz­ers looped over its head.

Well, no more. Af­ter sev­eral years of best ef­forts to di­rect what is, at its heart, a pho­to­graphic-free-for-all — or­ga­niz­ers, well-in­ten­tionedly, have of­fered some broad the­matic guid­ance to the in­evitable chaos in re­cent years, only to see it fall largely by the way­side — the fes­ti­val has loosed the bit. And Con­tact, with its 200-plus shows pop­ping up ev­ery­where from cor­ner cafés to ma­jor mu­se­ums, is off the chain once more.

That, not to men­tion sheer vol­ume, makes the word “pre­view” some­thing of a red her­ring, but we can still steer you to­ward some wor­thy ef­forts be­fore the start­ing gun May 1. 1. Part Pic­ture, Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Canadian Art: It’s a semi-tra­di­tion that Con­tact’s an­chor ex­hi­bi­tion takes place at MOCCA, but all good things must come to an end. With its lease up in Au­gust and its des­ti­na­tion un­known, this year’s of­fer­ing will be the last at MOCCA’s Queen West digs. So maybe this year’s an­nual, enor­mous pho­to­mu­ral in the park­ing lot herald­ing the fes­ti­val’s ar­rival is not irony un­in­tended: Jihyun Jung’s De­mo­li­tion Site shows a hy­per­real build­ing gut­ted from the out­side-in — ap­pro­pri­ate, given the pending fate of MOCCA’s decade-plus home as a site for (what else?) a condo devel­op­ment.

2. Chris Cur­reri, So Be It, Gar­diner Mu­seum: 2014 Sobey fi­nal­ist Cur­reri works in photography, for the most part, and part of his project seems to be trans­lat­ing the sen­sual world to the con­fines of of­ten-chilly two di­men­sions.

I’ve never seen him more suc­cess­ful in that than with this se­ries, where he pho­tographed the var­i­ous fail­ures of neo­phyte pot­ters at­tend­ing classes at the Gar­diner. Slumped and de­flated, the col­lapsed ves­sels have a vis­ual lure that prompts con­tem­pla­tions of a very vis­ceral kind. 3. Mark Ruwedel, Ry­er­son Im­age Cen­tre: Ruwedel won the an­nual $50,000 Sco­tia­bank Photo Prize last year and this is the show that comes with it, a ca­reer sur­vey at the RIC and a cat­a­logue of works by the fancy Ger­man photo pub­lisher Steidl. Ruwedel, an Amer­i­can who stud­ied at Con­cor­dia in Mon­treal, is best known for his eerily un­peo­pled im- ages of land­scapes scarred re­peat­edly over time by our busy lit­tle species and left for dead.

As a re­sult, the empti­ness he cap­tures over­flows nonethe­less, haunted by days past. 4. Gen­er­a­tions, Annu Palakun­nathu Matthew, Royal On­tario Mu­seum: Matthew, who was born in Eng­land and raised in In­dia, takes as her start­ing point the con­ven­tion of the fam­ily pho­to­graph, gen­tly un­pack­ing its con­tent and the mem­o­ries it both pre­serves and de­nies. 5. Is­land Projects, Artscape Gi­bral­tar Point: Be­cause it’s spring, or at least sup­posed to be, I’m a fan of this ex­hi­bi­tion out on Cen­tre Is­land, and not only be­cause of the brac­ing ferry ride it’ll take to get you there.

For some years, Artscape has been op­er­at­ing a free and easy artist res­i­dency pro­gram out on the is­land — yes, they get to sleep there — and when it comes to shak­ing up a worn­down ur­ban­ite’s world view within an eight-minute boat ride, this is hard to beat. There’s some lib­er­at­ing stuff to be found here (lit­er­ally, if you look at Claudette Abrams’ photo of a per­for­mance by Holy Jackal) and who knows? You might come back feel­ing a lit­tle re­freshed your­self. The Sco­tia­bank Con­tact Photography Fes­ti­val kicks off May 1.

Annu Palakun­nathu Matthew uses the fam­ily pho­to­graph as a start­ing point be­fore gen­tly un­pack­ing its con­tent and the mem­o­ries it pre­serves and de­nies

ANNU PALAKUN­NATHU MATTHEW

Annu Palakun­nathu Matthew’s In­dian from In­dia, Sav­age, Port­fo­lio I, 2001, is part of her ex­hi­bi­tion Gen­er­a­tions at the Royal On­tario Mu­seum for the Con­tact Fes­ti­val.

Jihyun Jung’s De­mo­li­tion Site will be in­stalled as a huge wall mu­ral out­side MOCCA.

Mark Ruwedel’s Cen­tral Pa­cific #18, 1994. Last year’s Sco­tia­bank Photo Prize win­ner, Ruwedel will have a solo show at the Ry­er­son Im­age Cen­tre.

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