Monday, January 26, 2009


He shoots! He scores! It’s a shut-out against mediocrity. Art rules!

I am referring to Andrew Pink’s art show at La Galerie Espace, 4484 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal. The show is on until the end of this week. Entitled Cold War, it is a series of paintings depicting hockey players in iconic action postures, the way Canadians have been perceiving them since our Cream of Wheat childhoods.

Big deal, you might say, and you’d be correct to think such based on such a prima facie description. After all, many of know of the iconic image of The Goalie painted by Ken Danby. Pink utilizes this hockey iconography in an entirely direction.

The direction is so seductively and brilliantly simple that it amazing that no one has ever explored this dimension of hockey: cold war propaganda iconography. Pink has rendered the hockey players with generic clothing -- no corporate teams are referenced. There is only the need to depict two opponents, distinguished from each other by the colour of the jersey and five-pointed star on their chest.

They are portrayed as warriors, proud, noble, strong. Pink explained that the faces he utilized were largely an amalgamation of actual hockey players and people he knew. Two paintings did utilize the typical Soviet socialist realism face, the square jaw, jutting chin, uplifted head, bloated pride and they were effective propaganda.

The paintings were contextualized as propaganda posters, each image blazoned with minimal motivational sans serif words. The colours were primary and loud, edged enough to make an effective blend of photo-realism and illustration. Interestingly, Pink portrays the hockey players with less protective gear than what is currently used on the ice today. This adds a touch of nostalgic retro to the paintings.

The NHL seems to have sacrificed the commonality that hockey once had, for the pumped up cash cow that it has become. We are propagandized to believe that (Our City) team is ours and represents (our city) us. It does not. Each team is explicitly a corporation. It is not a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. It has become like a game between Pepsi and Coke, or Chrysler and Ford. Rinks are filled with fans of a commercial product.

It is very telling that the only real hockey being played now is during the Winter Olympics, where hockey is played with all that the propaganda asks of us: valour, pride, skill, heart and soul. It produces a victory that an entire nation can rise up and from the pit of their soul, enjoy the ephemerality of being Number 1.

Hockey is a game, a proxy for war. It is far preferable to the lethal thing. It’s rough, fast, dangerous, and exhilarating. Wouldn’t be a better world is we could all turn in our AK47,s, rocket launchers, missiles, stealth bombers, MIGs, etc. and be armed only with hockey sticks.

With this exhibit, Andrew Pink has pulled off an elegant hat-trick. He shot. He scored. Big time.

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