1 North Square, Cambridge, ON
Young Romance is a look at the dating ritual through a skewed lens. Juxtaposing dysfunctional relationships, co-dependency and obsession, the exhibition highlights the work of four artists. The Dating Portfolio by Susan Bozic (Vancouver) is a series of perfectly staged photographs featuring the artist spending quality time with her ideal boyfriend – a mannequin named Carl. The large oil paintings Incitement and Inclination by Eliza Griffiths (Montréal) vividly capture the tempestuous break-up and reconciliation of an imaginary young woman and her companion. Garments for Forced Intimacy by Andrea Vander Kooij (Bradford) documents a series of wearable balaclavas that have been hand-knit by the artist and are intended for use by co-dependent couples. Finally, a video lounge features selections by Jillian Mcdonald (Brooklyn), who has digitally inserted herself into scenes with her Hollywood crushes, including Me and Billy Bob and the recent Staring Contest with Brad Pitt. The exhibition examines the incongruous side of male-female relationships; from the banality of dating to the narcissistic pull of celebrity.
Susan Bozoic is a visual artist who lives and works in Vancouver, BC. She received her BFA, with distinction, from Concordia University in Montreal, majoring in photography and minoring in cinema. Her work has been exhibited in Canada and in the USA in non-profit, public, and commercial galleries. Working primarily in black and white, her subjects have included the male body, nature and taxidermy animals. She is interested in producing work that questions the viewer's perceptions by creating artificial constructs within familiar settings. The cycles of life, death and rebirth are also prevalent themes in her images. She is a recipient of both Canada Council for the Arts and BC Arts Council grants. She was recently listed as "one to watch" by the Houston Center for Photography, TX, USA.
Eliza Griffiths practice is centered on an exploration of psycho-socio-sexual themes through the creation of character-driven visual fictions in painting and drawing. Like made-up B-movie actors, her subjects perform indeterminate, immobile, campy distillations of identity, emotional life, and existential questions.
Griffiths was born in London, UK, and immigrated to Canada at the age of eight. She studied Studio Art at Concordia University and did graduate studies in Art History at Carleton University. Griffiths’ work has been exhibited throughout Canada and internationally including Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Centre (Buffalo); Mercer Union (Toronto); the Saidye Bronfman Center (Montreal); the Dunlop Art Gallery (Regina); Platform Gallery (London, UK); the Art Gallery of Alberta; APEXart (NY,NY). Her work has been featured in Canadian Art Magazine; Border Crossings; C-Magazine; NYArts Magazine among others and has been extensively collectedboth privately and publicly including the Canada Council Art Bank and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Griffiths lives and works in Montreal where she is an Associate Professor of Studio Arts at Concordia University.
Jillian McDonald is a Canadian artist who divides her time between New York and Canada. She is an Associate Professor of Art at Pace University, teaching performance art, video, and studio seminars. She is hopelessly in love with northern places, snow, fog, and the ocean; and since 2006 has watched a healthy amount of horror films. She spent much of the past year living and working in Northeastern Scotland.
Solo shows and projects include the Esker Foundation in Calgary; Moti Hasson Gallery, Jack the Pelican Presents, and vertexList in New York; The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery and Rosenthal Gallery in San Francisco; Hallwalls in Buffalo; La Sala Narañja in Valencia, Spain; YYZ in Toronto; Video Pool in Winnipeg; and Edge Media in Newfoundland. Her work has been included in group exhibitions and festivals at The Chelsea Museum and The Whitney Museum's Artport in New York; The Edith Russ Haus for Media Art in Oldenburg, Germany; MMOCA in Madison, Wisconsin; Onsite at OCADU and YYZ Gallery in Toronto; The International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Mérida, Venezuela; The Sundance Film Festival in Utah; La Biennale de Montréal; and the Centre d’Art Contemporain de Basse-Normandie in Caen, France.
Her work was featured in a 2013 radio documentary by Paul Kennedy on CBC's IDEAS. It has been reviewed in The New York Times, Art Papers, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Border Crossings, and The Village Voice, among others. A discussion of her work appears in several books including Better Off Dead, edited by Sarah Juliet Lauro and Stalking by Bran Nicol.
McDonald has received grants and commissions from The New York Foundation for the Arts, The Canada Council for the Arts, Soil New Media, Turbulence.org, The Verizon Foundation, The New York State Council on the Arts, The Experimental Television Center, and Pace University. She lectures regularly about her work and has attended numerous residencies including The Headlands Center for the Arts in California, Lilith Performance Studio in Sweden, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Workspace Program in New York, The Western Front in Vancouver, and The Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta. In 2012 she represented Canada at the Glenfiddich international residency in Dufftown, Scotland.
Andrea Vander Kooij is an Ontario artist who holds an MFA degree with a concentration in Fibres from Concordia University in Montreal. Her practice incorporates traditional craft-based mediums such as knitting, crocheting, embroidery and quilting as well as elements of performance. Her work addresses gender issues and the body, as well as challenging notions of art, craft and labour. She enjoys working with found and reclaimed materials. In 2006 she received the Lilianne Elliot Award for Excellence in Fibres, and her work has recently been published in “Experimental Pattern” (Rockport Publishing, 2010) and “Push: Stitchery” (Lark Publishing, 2011). Her most recent work will be exhibited in Toronto at the Gladstone Hotel as part of the Hard Twist 7, Touch Me, Feel Me show from November 2012 to January 2013. She lives with her Husband and two sons in Bradford, Ontario.
by Ivan Jurakic, Curator, Queen's Square.
Young Romance promises true love and delivers a swift kick. Picture the cliché of the attractive couple strolling hand-in-hand down the beach, the sun cresting on the horizon, their hopes and dreams unfolding before them like a warm summer breeze. In the uncensored version, the same woman finds out her partner has been cheating on her and savagely slugs him across the jaw. This heroine finds precedents in paperbacks and cheaply printed periodicals from the 1940s and 50s. She is a love child of the pulps.
The first issue of Young Romance was an unexpected hit that established a dramatic formula that married mature themes to material marketed to a teenage audience. 1 Leaning heavily on the melodramatic contrivance of so-called “True Love Stories” packed full of backstabbing, heartache and unrequited love, the stories wrestled with themes of adultery and betrayal. Their sensibility paralleled the mature content found in many period crime and horror comics, and inevitably, censorship during the McCarthy era in the 1950s lead to their neutering and homogenization. While aimed squarely at a then largely untapped younger female audience, the romance comic was sophisticated enough to have crossover appeal and despite a relatively short interval of popularity these periodicals have been repeatedly copied and parodied.
This exhibition borrows its title from these readymade concessions to youth fads and culture. The artists in Young Romance play with the same basic elements as the classic romance comic, and their content parallels many of the same clichés; including the search for true love, the blossoming of romantic obsession, and the inevitability of breaking up.
Susan Bozic’s The Dating Portfolio is a satirical photo-essay documenting her perfect relationship. Featuring a set of fifteen meticulously staged compositions, the artist casts herself in the lead role as an attractive, well dressed girlfriend. Ironically, a mannequin named Carl has been cast in the role of her attentive boyfriend. The series pokes fun at dating conventions by substituting the perfect man with an ideal; a perfectly coifed, well attired, athletic and apparently successful dummy. Bozic pokes fun of the tropes used in advertising and fashion that sell lifestyle as a consumer brand. She takes these fictions one step further by making her boyfriend the ultimate accessory. While the artist’s role-playing winkingly uses sexual innuendo, she remains firmly in control of the means of production and perception of the work. The Dating Portfolio cleverly deflates the impossible ideals that far too many women, and men, frankly, fall prey to.
The paired oil paintings, Incitement and Inclination by Eliza Griffiths, are an intoxicating blend of film noire and nightcap. Griffiths’ females are implicit stand-ins for the artist, and she casts her alter ego in over the top scenarios ranging from raucous parties to salacious couplings. The artist freely mixes and matches paintings to suggest new narrative combinations, and when paired, Incitement and Inclination elicit a strong before-and-after narrative contrasting a rather ferocious break-up with its apologetic aftermath. The wish-fulfillment of the scenario, which finds a somewhat bloodied male serving a drink to the reclining female, leaves little doubt as to who is in charge. While the subject of Griffiths’ paintings references cinema, paperback romances and teenage rebellion, her women are the key. They are innately powerful and share a luminous inner glow. The men tend to be bit players. Her women look at the audience, regardless of the sordid fiascoes they are often embroiled in.
At face value, Jillian Mcdonald’s videos deconstruct Hollywood films, but they have a lot in common with love letters. Having built a rather significant body of work examining her personal obsession with actor Billy Bob Thornton, Mcdonald has also appropriated the films and likenesses of other well known actors; including her recent work Staring Contest with Brad Pitt. By inserting herself into scenes digitally, the artist co-stars alongside her celebrity crushes as a way to rewrite film narratives to suit her own desires. Equal parts fan fiction and film critique, Mcdonald’s work addresses the increasing sway that celebrity has on our lives. The work reflects a common desire to step outside of ourselves while addressing our seemingly insatiable yearning for fame and celebrity. Instead of internalizing these desires, McDonald gives in to them. She casts herself at the centre of these fleeting cinematic moments, and in the process gains ownership over the images she is bombarded with.
Garments for Forced Intimacy is a body of work by Andrea Vander Kooij that surprisingly combines tenderness with terrorism. The main portion of the series is composed of three balaclavas, each of which has been hand-knit by the artist. The difference between these and the typical winter accoutrement is that Vander Kooij’s are expressly made to be worn by couples. Paired with a photo-triptych demonstrating their use, when worn the wearers are conjoined like Siamese twins and their ability to interact independently is restricted. For instance, Balaclava For Kissing features a shared aperture at the mouth. Balaclava For Looking In The Same Direction limits the couple to sharing a similar point of view. As a metaphor for codependency the work is double-edged. Besides being worn during cold weather, the balaclava has a history as a mask often used by criminals, terrorists and protestors to shield their identities. Vander Kooij subversively links intimacy with a potential for hostility.
Young Romance examines the incongruous side of male-female relationships by contrasting unremitted longing with an underlying need for entanglement. The internal conflicts between passion and mania fuel our obsessions. The artists toy with expectations, from the banality of dating to the narcissistic pull of celebrity. Each flaunts her internal yearnings and demands that we either put up or shut up.
1. “Young Romance #1”, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Prize Comics, Sept-Oct, 1947.