The Drawers - A Selection Of Heads   Headbones Commentary

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Results Of The Headhunt

It feels important, as if the grand art historian is taking notes from on high. There are heads that are already in the limelight. Chuck Close is present with his hand having cut the lino-blocks for a self portrait and a frizzle hair rendition of Lucas Samara. Alex Katz is part of the company with an etching, his definitively spare head shot, cropped at the top and bottom, of a woman with dark hair. The same cropping is spookily echoed in the large portrait of the girlfriend of the most nascent exhibitor, Mehrad Meraji, done with a Chuck Close bravado. He has rendered himself, staring out with more confidence than his young years would signal. Hanging beside him, his father, also an artist, confronts with the same uncompromising gaze. Then Mehrad went the self assured step further, even bigger and more objective when he cropped and rendered his girl friend, Amy.

Fred Tomaselli's silk-screened dissemblance, with eyes flying about, sum up the overall impression of the gallery. Many eyes fly out, many mouths open and close as noses wiggle and hair curls and cascades or bristles at baldness.

Gertrude Kearns, known for her strong abstract work, turned to portraits with commitment this year with the John Bentley Mays portraits. The well recognized visage of the art critic, whose eyes have scanned so many Torontonian art works, now locks with frontal formality. Cherry Hood is another luminary. Her large watercolor heads of bleary eyed children clutch at the heart strings. Angus Bungay, whose small heads had been scoped by the Headbones’ headhunters were stolen (by a rival tribe?) the very week of the opening. His life-size, leather-clad, rubber-tube-trussed head stuck on a pole summed up the images usually conjured of the results of a headhunt. It was the only head left behind by the marauders, perhaps too intimidating to be swiped. Another head that causes an arresting step backwards is the portrait by Daniel Lee. A cross between a well known local personality’s face and a donkey, the result stares down on the room with a semblance of disapproval.

Headbones artists from previous shows or shows yet to come are also part of the roster - Jesse McCloskey, Alphonse van Woerkom, Billy Copley, Cynthia Karalla, Daniel David, Malcolm Poynter, Phyllis Godwin, Charles Yuen and Oliver Girling. Michaele Jordana Berman’s sketches for her famous whale paintings from her equally famous face hang in contrast to Lorne Wagman's sketch of an infamous man, a serial killer portrayed against a backdrop of roses.
From the original Headbones Gallery (open in British Columbia from 1994-2000), there is Andy Grafitti, Ann Kipling and Daniel Anhorn whose “Gollum” holds his own head in his own hands as his eyes 'bug out' with horror.

A close-up of the 1998 series, Autistic Cocoon, by Malcolm Poynter, reveals the admired detail as a blanket covering of cars like a parking lot from nightmares or the traffic jam of the twentieth century. This is common man, stuck going to work or coming home. These heads are occupied by vehicular congestion. The eyes, that from a distance read as television screens are also cars, this time seen from above with the roofs forming rows of blank boxes with slightly rounded corners. The associations are numerous: mankind lost in the business of his comings and goings, the eventual choking pollution of progress, the scurry to stay in the game or, just like the never-ending background of motor vehicles - the impossibility of comprehending modernity. And this is only the ground, the skin on the head. The eyes are clichés, open or closed, the nose - a cartoon slash and with a tongue lolling out - or is it a deflated balloon? - man's dehumanization is capped. Yet, these are not overly depressing pictures. The childlike rendition of a big simple head, in story book colors or black and white with newspaper-transfer blur make it palatable (as it is, simply there). Mankind is caught in his ability to get there.

The very fact that the head is a three dimensional object makes the extrapolation from paper works to sculpture a natural addition. Even though the artists might not have been known for their heads - Tom MacKenzie, for instance is best regarded for his exquisite furniture - the artist ‘tries on’ the head format. The expressive gestures of the head, close to the mind, the seat of emotions, are ruggedly presented in Gord Smith's heads, rife with clawing torment. Jennifer MacKlemm's head is marked on the crown with a symbol like an alien signification. Lorraine Pritchard's heads are more like masks or totems, dealing with the visage more than roundness. Allesandra Exposito's signature chicken skull fashioned as a bull’s head, bejeweled and bedecked like a czar's Easter egg, is a counterpoint miniature, not human, but a head none the less.

Sir Joshua's appearance was advertised as dubious because the authenticity of the piece is questionable. Oakes addresses the history and subsequent search through Sotheby's and various Reynold's experts with a depiction of the portrait from the back of the canvas, in infra-red examination.

The featured artists were also cosmic finds. Harold Klunder, a giant of Canadian abstraction, pulled out a treasure trove of tribal heads, wild and zany mixtures of color and emotion. Gord Smith walked into the gallery one day and introduced himself. His heads, his work, have been embraced with ferociousness and squeezed to the bosom like a warm puppy. Lorraine Pritchard caught the Headbones’ buzz that resulted in a studio visit to Montreal - more heads! The sad black and white portraits of Joslyn by Rae Johnson, consistently explored, are psychologically sensitive and astute. Sergio Finamore's contortionist liaisons of heads-overwhelming-their-bodies are a contrast to the passive/aggressive depictions of Judith Page's “Finalists”, gawky and willing to please. And Jenny Wing Yee Tong takes the subject in another direction - by masking her heads and mythologizing their contents.

With thanks to the generosity of the Jain family, and Gykan Management in conjunction with Atria Developments, The Gykan Project Room, an important component in the presentation of paper pieces too large for the main venue, featured the work of Rae Johnson with digitally altered images. Zachari Logan's large graphite renderings of historical settings peopled by handsome men with gay affiliations met Srdjan Segan's long ropy figures as they grasped the ceiling with their outstretched hands and extended their toes along the gallery floor. Jenny Wing Yee Tong complimented the dramatic interplay with a languid hand to the forehead as her heroin swooned on the lap of a donkey.

Copyright © 2006,  Headbones Gallery, The Drawers