Alison Cooley is a critic, curator, and educator currently based in Toronto. She holds a BA in Studio Art and Art History from the University of Saskatchewan, and an MA in Art History from York University. Her research deals with art and the nature–culture divide, socially engaged artistic practice, epistemological tools such as Google search and internet memes, and experimental critical and curatorial practice. She was the 2014 recipient of the Middlebrook Prize for Young Canadian Curators, and a 2015 resident in the Banff International Curatorial Institute’s Critical Art Writing Ensemble. Her writing has appeared in FUSE, Canadian Art, Blackflash, and the Journal of Curatorial Studies. She is the host and producer of What it Looks Like, a podcast about art in Canada.
Industry Expertise (3)
Areas of Expertise (7)
Middlebrook Prize for Young Canadian Curators (professional)
Awarded for the exhibition I'm Feeling Lucky.
Banff International Curatorial Institute Residency (professional)
Research-based "Critical Art Writing Ensemble" thematic residency at the Banff Centre
University of Saskatchewan: B.A., Studio Art and Art History 2010
York University: M.A., Art History 2013
BY ALISON COOLEY, AMY LUO AND CAOIMHE MORGAN-FEIR
Taking a cue from the recent circulation of gallery breakdowns—including revisitations of the Guerilla Girls’ original gallery report card and the Art Newspaper’s findings that one-third of solo shows in the US go to artists represented by five galleries—we began to look into the demographics of solo exhibitions at Canadian public institutions. This accounting also has its roots in the work done by Joyce Zemans, whose infinitely more methodical and extensive research has offered quantitative data about the careers of female artists in Canada. Taking a more restricted focus, we have collated information on institutional solo exhibitions, as we feel that these shows function as a critical measure of artistic success, a marker of establishment and a necessary step in an established artist’s career.
Who are Sarah Anne Johnson’s images for? When Winnipeg photographer Sarah Anne Johnson’s most recent Toronto exhibition, “Wonderlust,” opened in the spring of 2014, she stated that her goal was to “explore the internal world of sexual intimacy. To show what it looks and feels like.” Johnson promised an exhibition of something private—personal, vulnerable, risky—an ambitious attempt to transmit a sense of this tenderness through the media of the photograph.
How does the body disappear? Perhaps you were taught this way, as I was: Do you have a compost at home? What happens when you put a banana peel in your compost? It breaks into tiny pieces which become the soil. Bacteria, worms, and fungus chew it into smaller and smaller pieces, so that soon it looks just like everything else. We call it decomposition. This is what happens to the body. It goes away, but we remember. In the work of Tatiana Grigorenko and Zoë Heyn-Jones, the body disappears more insidiously. As the body is made absent, so too is memory: the archive of physical presence is expunged.
It’s a bit of a tease. As winter clings to Toronto, spring begins to emerge underneath. In our fortress of concrete and skyscrapers, grasses force their way through cracks in sidewalks, pollen threatens its return, traces of bird calls are heard amid raccoons screeching, and road salt continues its inexorable chewing-through of boots, pavement and cars.
In this way, spring is a return of the undead. And in MOCCA’s latest exhibition, “Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque,” the infringement of the environment on human infrastructure, both menacing and majestic, is made material.