Kapwani Kiwanga, still from A Primer, 2017. Co-produced by The Power Plant, Toronto and the Logan Center Exhibitions, University of Chicago. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Tanja Wagner, Berlin, and Galerie Jérôme Poggi, Paris.

A conversation with the curator and director of the gallery’s winter opening party

On January 27th, The Power Plant hosted their annual Winter Opening with the presentation of three solo exhibits by Jonathas de Andrade, Maria Hupfield, and Kapwani Kiwanga. Latifa Echakhch’s Cross Fade opened last October and remains on view this season.

Prior to the opening, The Strand had the chance to speak with Director Gaëtane Verna and Curator Carolin Köchling about the winter exhibits. Concerning the relation between the exhibits, Verna explains “how four artists from completely different backgrounds—how these artists without knowing each other are exhibiting and sharing the space of the gallery, while their individual work speaks of the issues that they each choose to explore, while in the end there’s a certain harmony [with] shared ideas that unite them within the gallery’s winter 2017 program,” and the significance in this.

De Andrade’s On Fishes, Horses and Men is comprised of three parts. The first is a film entitled O peixe (The Fish), with ten vignettes of various men catching fish and killing them in their arms. The film is described as “brutal and tender,” however, the brutality is at the forefront. The images are disturbing and any sentiment of compassion is tarnished by the overt depiction of death. The intention was to represent a power imbalance between predator and prey, but the unsettling nature of the images made it difficult for this message to be appreciated. Köchling says, “Visitors can bring their own experiences and associations to it, [the work] becomes political,” and in this sense, de Andrade succeeds. On this subject, Verna explains “as spectators, we can see one object, but see it from different views.” The gallery’s purpose is “to be the bridge between this work.”

The second part of de Andrade’s exhibit includes O Levante (The Uprising) and Cartazes para o Museu do Homem do Nordeste (Posters for the Museum of the Man of the Northeast). The latter features portraits of local workers from Brazil’s northeastern region. These portraits were staged in response to the Museu do Homem do Nordeste, a museum in Recife, Brazil, that was established to represent multiculturalism as “a positive force.” De Andrade’s portraits aim to criticize the museum’s failure to acknowledge the history of racial discrimination in Recife through this portrayal. “Working on the binary of fact and fiction, [On Fishes, Horses and Man] helps us to reveal the reality in a very interesting and enriching way, also addressing universal issues,” explains Köchling.

Hupfield’s The One Who Keeps On Giving is centered around an oil painting by the artist’s late mother, connecting past narratives with the present.

Although visitors encounter Echakhch’s Cross Fade upon first entering the gallery, the concept of the work thoughtfully links the works of de Andrade and Hupfield, by presenting a sky that is common to all people. “[It is] astonishing and great for us to see how the work stays in the center of our gallery with all these changing neighbours and still addresses issues of the sky,” says Köchling.

Kiwanga’s A wall is just a wall feels incompatible with the other exhibits, as it does not present a human narrative, and the harmony that Verna speaks on becomes less clear. The coloured walls and lights simply served as a backdrop for people’s selfies.

The Power Plant is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, and Verna’s main goal is to “keep the gallery going for another 30 years and more—it’s true that I really feel a shared responsibility to keep building on the work of my predecessors at the helm of this gallery by contributing to its legacy— everyone that has worked here before is part of that history.” Through their unique programming and presentation of diverse voices, visitors can be expected to share this same hope for the future of the gallery.

The exhibits by de Andrade, Hupfield, Kiwanga, and Echakhch will be on view until May 14th. On February 21st, join Curator Carolin Köchling for a talk with Maria Hupfield.