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Multi-lateral

Multi-lateral

November 12–December 20, 2009

Curated by Barbara Fischer

Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

Multi-lateral is the first major solo exhibition of Toronto-based artist Will Kwan. Born in Hong Kong in 1978, Kwan’s work examines diverse cultural practices as impacted or resurrected in the flows of historical and contemporary economic relations. Involving intensive research and collaboration, the works presented in the exhibition map patterns and traces of colonialism as they persist within the global economy.

Will Kwan’s work often takes the form of searing iconographic formats. The exhibition includes Flame Test (2009), a series of flags imprinted with images of burning flags culled from the international press, installed in the Great Hall at Hart House. Inside the gallery, the artist has installed a large spiraling neon sign using NATO phonetic code, while a series of clocks indicate the local time in mostly obscure, but critical and hyper-specialized manufacturing centers of the global economy (Toyota City, Kibera, Halawa Heights and others) the way a wall behind hotel desks offers travelers the current time in Paris, London, Tokyo and New York.

Visually powerful, through photography, earth art, performance, and video, Kwan’s work often focuses on types of exchanges fostered within the multi-national banking system. For instance, Endless Prosperity, Eternal Accumulation (2009), presents a monumental series of photographic images of eighty varieties of hongbao—commonly known in North America as Chinese red envelopes. Containing money, and offered during festivities and social occasions, this Chinese cultural form has been appropriated by transnational financial corporations in North America, the European Union, East Asia and China for circulation to Chinese clientele. The envelopes suspend corporate insignia with the crenulated finery of chinoiserie consumed in both art historical and colonial references. Examinations of encounters between cultural identities are here staged through items that navigate the decorum of financial transactions with the graphic imagination of cultural history.

Opening Reception

Thursday November 12, 2009, 6-8pm
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

Panel Talk

Sunday December 20, 2009, 2-3:30pm
Featuring Annie Onyi Cheung and Minna Lee
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

Media Coverage

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the project support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Toronto Arts Council.

Title Image: Installation view of Will Kwan: Multi-lateral, 2009. Will Kwan, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu, 2009. 3 wall-mounted neons, hanging hardware, cables, transformers. Approximately 12 feet diameter each. Image credit: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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