Contemporary Artist Julia Dault Shows Us a New Way to Love the ’80s

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What does greased lightning look like? What is a freshmaker? Is heavy metal as dark as it sounds? Ponder pop culture long enough and these are the kinds of questions that take over your mind. Thank goodness, then, for Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based artist Julia Dault, who answers them and more in her exciting new exhibit, “Color Me Badd.” On display at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery through January 4, Dault’s textured paintings and improvised sculptures are a pleasure to behold, so if your significant other enjoys contemporary art as much as you do, put on your walking shoes and head to Harbourfront Centre for an eye-opening day date in Toronto.

As you wander the spacious rooms of the old industrial plant–it onced housed the heating equipment for the massive Toronto Terminal Warehouse–you find yourselves feeling a bit off balance. The names you see are familiar, yet they don’t match the images they represent … at least not at first. Over time, though, it begins to click, as Dault takes the ideas represented by names such as Kissyface, Moon River, and Rico Suave and twists them into something that’s at once novel and familiar. Each work triggers a different memory, some just hours old and others buried farther back in your brain.

The pictures of intersecting colors and swirling patterns, when paired with a familiar name like Indecent Proposal, spark conversations that are part art criticism, part trip down memory lane. What’s more, the gallery room is a mirrored space, so you and your date keep catching glimpses of yourselves as you stroll the floor, temporarily becoming part of the exhibit. An environment like this is sure to bring up some surprising realizations.

If you want to get playful, try to guess which piece belongs to which song. Here’s one spoiler: Greased Lightning is rich with colour and shapes that appear to be changing right in front of your eyes, zigzagging in front of you. It’s both clever – it makes sense on a literal level – and unexpected, and you circle back to give it another appreciative ponder before moving on.

A series of untitled sculptures adds texture to the exhibit. Neon-coloured sheets of Plexiglas are rolled, folded, and rippled. They seem to be sliding down the wall onto the floor. Make sure you check out these structures from all angles, because you might be surprised at how they transform from side to side. Does it look like a waterfall? Science class rock candy? Either way, the shiny bright colours inject the gallery with a youthful energy.

After the show, follow the harbour path to Bar Milano, a romantic restaurant perfect for post-show cocktails and conversation. It boasts a spectacular view of the harbour, as well as a long drink list and delicious pasta. Sip on a negroni and watch sailboats zip across the lake as you and your date discuss Dault’s work … as well as MC Hammer’s early period. He’s no contemporary artist, but it’s clear that his era is still providing inspiration.

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The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

231 Queens Quay West Toronto ON M5J 2G8

(416) 973-4949

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