Mickey Meads at Drabinsky Gallery
Until May 7, 114 Yorkville Ave., Toronto; www.drabinskygallery.com
Mickey Meads’s new suite of photographs at Drabinsky Gallery, Assume Nothing, couldn’t have less in common with Gilligan’s work. Although both artists indulge in an unmistakable melancholy, Gilligan roars while Meads ruminates. Neither, however, trusts what is before their eyes.
Meads photographs seemingly harmless, even pleasant spaces, with a wide-eyed, John Ford-style vista view. He captures desert plains, massive but still traffic intersections, purpled lakes and cattle ranges – often allowing the centre field of the image to hold the focus of the shot as the top and bottom halves melt away, de-compose. This focused/unfocused dynamic, especially as used in his images of traffic, makes the cars and the people guiding them appear toy-like, unreal, too tidily defined to be moving objects in an otherwise busy landscape.
That effect alone is worth the visit, but it’s only when you begin to ask about the photographs, to find out where or why they were taken, that the truly spooky stuff slithers into the frame. For instance, that cattle range: The cows are grazing in an abandoned housing project, a kind of prison barracks created specifically to warehouse American aboriginals. Or, the lake: It’s eggplant purple because it’s full of run-off chemicals from a mine.
In Meads’s world, the lovely and the malevolent are intertwined, but Meads presents no determining clues, no visual “talking points” that allow the viewer to gain access to the images’ second, third, or 50th readings. Such intent opacity gives the imagery a pulling, nagging weight that you can feel, a low level of anxiety, but that you cannot identify, or, rather, verify, without the back-up information.
This blind-siding is a strategic choice on Meads’s part that some viewers may find delightfully tantalizing, and others may simply ignore, content with the knowledge that something weird is going on.
Personally, I’m all for asking questions in galleries. I worry that too many people feel they are not allowed to ask questions in art galleries, and/or are afraid they will appear uninformed.
Meads’s work, however, practically begs you to nag away at the gallerist, plays against the informed vs. the uninformed hierarchy by not giving the viewer, any viewer, solid information.
Fight the power, Mickey Meads, fight the power.
BA History, Fine Arts: University of British Columbia
BA Anthropology, Honours: The University of Western Ontario
Advanced Diploma Honours: Emily Carr College of Art & Design
Canada Council Art Bank
Alberta Art Foundation
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
Assume Nothing: a primer for Mickey Meads, Drabinsky Gallery, Toronto, ON, April/May 2011
Mickey Meads, James Gray Gallery, Santa Monica, CA, June 2009
For Instance, Group Exhibition, Isabella Egan Gallery, Vancouver, BC, March/April 2008
bioGraphics Botanica, Alice Mansell and Mickey Meads, Evergreen Cultural Centre, April/May 2004
bioGraphics: Staged Practices, Alice Mansell and Mickey Meads, Richmond Art Gallery, July/August 2000
Courbet"s "Venus and Psyche" a Painting Lost by Alice Mansell and Mickey Meads, in the Body Missing Web site by Vera Frenkel, 1995-6 (http://www.yorku.ca/BodyMissing), the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, 1996
bioGraphics: enGendered Positions, Alice Mansell and Mickey Meads, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, May/June 1996
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