Uptown

April 5, 2012

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www.uptownmag.com Caught you looking arts&culture Today is your last chance to catch this weird and weirdly affecting collection of dioramas, peep shows and other stolen views ArtBurn Steven Leyden Cochrane visual art review DIORAMA-RAMA Until April 5 Negative Space (253 Princess St.) S dows that make up Negative Space's street- facing "fourth wall," I must have overheard a half-dozen strangers independently mention feeling as if the gallery itself had become a giant diorama, that they themselves had been recruited—quite unwittingly—as players in a still-unfolding tableau vivant. And it's true that those windows do render visitors to the space palpably and conspicuously visible, in marked contrast to the comforting anonym- ity of typical, windowless art-viewership. For a show highlighting works whose very enough. That, at least, was my experience of DIORAMA-RAMA, the exhibition of 14 art- ist-created miniature scenes and "aperture viewed boxes" curated by the collective that operates Negative Space (formerly the Buf- falo Farm Equipment showroom at 253 Prin- cess St.). If my own shameless eavesdropping on opening night is any indication, I wasn't alone in feeling a mild but mounting para- noia as I made my way around the gallery. Each gesturing toward the storefront win- pend too long peering out between the slats of the Venetian blinds and you'll start checking over your shoulder soon Steven Nunoda's Amnesia Case C2-AC-015 forms muddle distinctions between seeing and being seen, public and private spaces, and exhibition and voyeurism, the venue — in essence an enormous, glass-fronted shoe- box—could not have been more appropriate, providing a physical and metaphorical frame- work for understanding the diverse assort- ment of objects on display. Some of these speak directly to the creep- iness of stolen glances: Nicole Magne's Block Parent Party has us literally peering through Venetian blinds to a queasy-making, A beachfront battle F Paper Trails Quentin Mills-Fenn War in the Caribbean (McClelland & Stewart), by England's Alex von Tunzlemann, is a fas- cinating story about some of those displaced battles. Blinded by anti-Communist paranoia, the United States compromised its democrat- ic principles and supported dictatorships in three island nations not far from the Florida coast. Red Heat: Conspiracy, Murder, and the Cold ing out his country to American gangsters. Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic had Rafael Trujillo, a murderous diactator, while Haiti suffered greatly under Francois Duva- lier, quite clearly a psychopath. The three brutalized and robbed their people ruthlessly. Cuba's Fulgencio Batista was corrupt, sell- or decades, rather than fight each other directly, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. fought proxy wars in other countries. er than a diehard communist. (His brother Raul Castro and lieutenant Che Guevara were the committed reds.) Paradoxically, anti-Cas- tro activities by the Americans pushed Castro towards the Soviet Union, culminating in the lier because they feared communist revolu- tion. They undermined democratic oppos- itionmovements even though the opposition wasn't communist. Andthey misread Castro,anationalist rath- idents — Eisenhower, Kennedy and John- son — set out to topple Castro. Complicated, crazymurder plots were devised. Coups were attempted. The U.S. was humiliated by the Bay of Pigs debacle. Americans supported Trujillo and Duva- overthrew Batista and hell broke loose. Three American pres- Then, Fidel Castro rear-projected animation of an apartment block rotating wildly in space, zooming in on individual windows to reveal characters engaged in activities variously menacing and banal. Melanie Rocan's untitled, Habitat- 67-style stacked boxes offer furtive glimpses of, among other sights, an artist's studio, a dingy pub that I'm sure I could identify if I got out more,and a nighttime scene of a nude woman sitting at a forested water's edge. Steven Nunoda equips his pair of unassum- ing wooden Amnesia Cases with brass door more readily calling to mind — with vary- ing appeal to childhood nostalgia—dioramas made for grade-school social-studies class. Ray Peterson gives us a jalopy driving cease- lessly through a Looney Tunes-inspired desert landscape (replete with Wile E. Coyote figur- ine) and a humorous-if-apocalyptic vision of Portage and Main overrun with twitching, liz- ard-headed green army men.Ceramicist Chris Pancoe's contribution stars"Snacksy,"a bewil- dered-looking and be-sweater-vested bulldog stranded in the bush, and senior artist Diana Thorneycroft offers two works pulled from hermuch-loved serieswhichmashes up icons of Canadian landscape painting and Canadi- ana kitsch (the Group of Seven and The Trail- er Park Boys arguably being two sides of the same embarrassing toonie). Still other works break from the classic "diorama" format to offer thoughtful explorations of constructed space—Suzie Smith's heartbreakingly abject miniature wrought-iron fence, Breaks and Bends, stands out as a prime example. Each work rewards and indeed demands close and careful attention, in some cases for- cing us to crawl on hands and knees to get a better view, an awkward position sure to keep you checking over your shoulder toward those showroom windows, wondering what —or whom—exactly, is really on display. Steven Leyden Cochrane is an emerging art- ist, writer and educator from Tampa, Fla. He's never seen an episode of the Trailer Park Boys. Alex von Tunzelmann's fascinating new book looks at the Cold War in the Caribbean Vietnam (we know how well that turned out for the United States). And although von Tunzlemann doesn't get into more recent history, later came Allende in Chile and death squads in Guatemala, Oliver North and Iran- Contra in Nicaragua. Of course, Fidel Castro survived them all. • • • belongs to Ernesto (Che) Guevara. If you're unfamiliar with the man behind a million T-shirts, consider reading The Story of Che Guevara (Harper Collins) by Lucía Álvarez de Toledo. The author is from the same social milieu One of the most famous faces in the world as Guevara. She's neither an enemy nor a fan but rather a biographer sympathetic to his numerous sources, including oral history contributions from many of the key players. (Her requests to interviewFidel and Raul Cas- tro were unsuccessful, alas.) Ultimately, American attention drifted to Cuban Missile Crisis. For her book, von Tunzelmann consulted still in print. Álvarez notes that Guevara's widow sold the rights to her late husband's writing to a company owned by former Italian president and media tycoon, Silvio Berlusconi. The books he authored are failed to export it. He was shot and killed in Bolivia in 1967.He became even more famous after his death, the subject of books, movies, and posters. able childhood in Bue- nos Aires, Che overcame significant health prob- lems, specifically crip- pling asthma. He joined Castro's 26th of July Movement, helping to make quick work of Batista. Che helped with the revolution in Cuba but concerns about social justice. Although she never knew him, she met with people who did, including surviving family members. From his comfort- viewers, looking in on a suburban garage that houses only a silvery alien spacecraft and (somehowmore upsettingly) a darkened, downward-leading flight of stairs. Other artists bring a morewhimsical touch, UPTOWN April 5, 2012 15 Steven Leyden Cochrane

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