Axe Head is a program of exchanges and exhibitions between Basque and Canadian artists and art institutions.

In this exchange, Toronto artist Micah Lexier will exhibit his work at Artium, a museum and cultural centre in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Country. Concurrently, the Basque artist Joseba Eskubi will show at The Koffler Gallery, a museum and Jewish cultural centre in Toronto.

Micah Lexier



A coin in the corner (2014 - ongoing), installation, dimensions variable.

Since the mid-1990s, Toronto-based artist Micah Lexier has often used coins as a means of conveying a sense of time and life’s passage. An early example is the sculpture A work of art in the form of a quantity of coins equal to the number of months of the statistical life expectancy of a child born January 6, 1995 (1995), which consists of 906 copper coins and two metal boxes. One coin represents each month of a life expectancy of 75.5 years. On the sixth day of each month, until July 6, 2070, a coin will be transferred from one box to the other. In the first box, the coins are neatly ordered. In the second, the coins fall where they may, reflecting the random nature of many life events. This monthly transfer is undertaken by staff at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which has the work on permanent display.

Lexier’s project for the Axe Head exchange, A Coin in the Corner (2014 – ongoing), originally commissioned for the survey exhibition of contemporary Canadian art, Oh! Canada at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), is more lighthearted. Consisting of custom-minted coins that picture the means of their display on the face, Lexier’s coins play on the bilingualism of his home country – the French-Canadian word for corner is ‘coin’ – and serve to subtly draw attention to the architecture of the space in which they are installed. At MASS MoCA, 100 coins are situated throughout the galleries, offices and even non-public areas – the museum has kept them as a permanent installation – and visitors are provided with a map of their locations.

Lexier has mounted over 100 solo exhibitions and participated in over 200 group exhibitions in Canada and internationally during his 30+ year career. His practice has embraced virtually every artistic medium, including large-scale text-based installations, dance performances, sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs, artist book and magazine projects, and multiples. In Toronto, he is represented by Birch Contemporary. A generous and animating force in the Canadian art community, Lexier was a 2015 recipient of a Governor General’s Award, one of the highest honours given to individuals in Canada.

Joseba Eskubi



Untitled (2014), Oil paint on paper, 41 x 33 cm.

Joseba Eskubi uses painting, photography, collage and digital techniques to create deceptively contemporary artworks. The soft and diffuse forms that characterize his gestural paintings reconstrue convention through their material quality and resignified spaces. The area on the canvas is generally occupied by a particular, central mass that is supported by a horizon line. The horizontal plane, the relationship between the figure and ground, and the use of old master colour palettes all refer to the traditional genre of "still life". However, the ductile construction and the celebration of the organic and the carnal in his pictures recall contemporary painters like Giorgio Morandi or Francis Bacon, admirers in turn of the great masters of painting.

There is a surreal delight in the work of Joseba Eskubi, a sense of mystery and concern evoked through shadows and mutated entities composed of various twisting textures. With wet and loose brushstrokes, Eskubi gives his compositions contradictory feelings; weight and lightness, firmness and fluidity, realism or fantasy. The pictorial language that they characterize celebrate "painting" in its own material synthesis. In all of his expressions, be they collage or painting on canvas or photography, there is something of a pictorial ritual that looks both toward and from within painting itself. The scenario that frames his figures is not arbitrary or fortuitous, but the space where pictorial gesture is relocated as the protagonist of its own image.

Untitled (2014), presents a figure that seems part rearing horse, part Punchinello. The desire to discern and decipher induces to our eyes to scan the image in search of meaning, trying to find something recognizable in it. A set of strokes firmly establishes a painting that denies the satisfaction of being recognizable or figurative. The work thus opens a door to the knowledge of the unconscious, that amorphous place where our fears and desires are fed.

Joseba Eskubi was born in 1967 in Bilbao, where he is currently a professor of painting at the University of the Basque Country. He has exhibited widely throughout Spain and Europe, including his latest individual exhibitions at the Sala Rekalde (Bilbao) and Gallery Paula Alonso (Madrid). In 2014 the editorial Belleza Infinita published a series of his collages titled “INSOMNIA". This is his first exhibition in Canada.

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ARTIUM is a museum and centre for cultural activities, engaged in the collection, production, research and dissemination of the art of our time. Its aim is to promote art and to develop the critical awareness of society. To do this, ARTIUM has three essential tools; an extensive, coherent and singular collection of contemporary art, an ambitious programme of temporary exhibitions, and an intensive programme of educational and cultural activities.

The ARTIUM Collection is made up of over 3000 works by artists who have written and continue to write the history of art of the 20th and 21st Centuries in the Basque Country, Spain and internationally. The building that houses the ARTIUM Collection, the Basque Centre-Museum of Contemporary Art, was inaugurated in 2002 in collaboration with the Provincial Council of Alava, the Basque Government, the Ministry of Culture and the City Hall of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Since then, ARTIUM has constituted an essential part of the cultural fabric of Vitoria, of Alava and the Basque Country, and represents one of the fundamental assets of the art scene in Spain.

Established in 1977 as a not-for-profit organization, the Koffler Centre of the Arts is a Jewish cultural organization that presents a contemporary cross-disciplinary arts program encouraging inquiry and exploration. It promotes an inter-cultural dialogue that engages Jewish identity with diverse perspectives and global voices through a rich array of visual art exhibitions, as well as literary programs, theatre projects, educational initiatives, public engagement and digital content.

The Koffler Gallery’s year-round series of exhibitions, publications and related programs foster the production of new works by Canadian and international artists in all stages of their careers. Reflecting diverse cultural, material and aesthetic orientations, the program highlights the contemporary Jewish experience in a unique framework that invites a comparative examination of narratives among people of varied heritages within a larger discussion of identity, memory and place. The gallery has organized solo exhibitions by key emerging and mid-career Canadian artists, including Kristiina Lahde, Adad Hannah and Lyla Rye, as well as solo exhibitions by international artists like Sigalit Landau, Adi Nes and Isabel Rocamora.

Apart from the generous support from the participants, volunteers and friends, the Axe Head Art Exchange is financially supported by Eremuak, a space set up by the Culture Department of the Basque Government to implement the context of artistic practices in the Basque Country. Eremuak’s main aim is to create a platform for artists and designers and to establish a work place that operates like an observatory of the art scene, in which notions such as "system", "context", "community" and "institution" become unavoidable paradigms.

Since it was set up in 2010, Eremuak has sought to socialise contemporary art and other artistic and discursive practices with an emphasis on the necessary correlation between production and dissemination. In this way, Eremuak is an open, continuous event that includes the production of creation, interpretation and mediation proposals.

Likewise, one of the main aims of Eremuak is to help generate an atmosphere of debate and understanding of public policies for art and other priority subjects for contemporary practices in the world of culture, through the organisation of conferences, seminars and commissions. Eremuak mainly targets the public sphere and aims to foster a participative, public policy.

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LINKS

Micah Lexier

Joseba Eskubi

Artium

The Koffler Centre for the Arts

ARMAR

Bill Clarke

Eremuak

PDF - Axe Head #05 booklet