July 11, 2020

20° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Close this


Advertise With Us

Looking at the world through X-ray specs

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/3/2010 (3762 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Robert Pasternak’s work is nostalgic, novel and a treat to behold.


Robert Pasternak’s work is nostalgic, novel and a treat to behold.

For a sugar-rush that goes straight to the soul, check out Robert Pasternak's new show at the Martha Street Studio.

Offbeat, ingenious and joyful, Visual Chew is an eccentric emporium of ideas and objects. Drawing on pop art and its transformations of everyday items, the Winnipeg-born Pasternak has created a "store" packed with faked-up candies, reworked novelties and wonderfully weird dime-store toys. A lot of the surfaces look familiar -- Pasternak's work in graphic design has helped him nail the hard-edged, two-toned look of cheap 1960s packaging -- but unpack these goodies and you'll find a fresh, funny view of the world.

A bubblegum vending machine offers "62 Secrets of the Universe," from the subatomic to the cosmic, for the bargain price of 25 cents. A toonie gets you packages of Love Capsules (cinnamon hearts) or War Capsules (bullet casings).

Backing up these pop culture jokes, Pasternak brings a kooky attention to detail and a meticulous finish to all his pieces. While there is a feeling of affectionate homage to childhood treats in the candy colours, cartoony drawing and old-school logos, Pasternak -- who also works in film, painting and comic art -- always adds a subversive twist.

His Booklets, for example, look a lot like Chiclets, but in place of gum Pasternak offers unbelievably teensy-weensy artist books. In one booklet, Pasternak invites viewers to "Enjoy the Long Lasting Visual Flavours" in a compendium of Warholian images of famous faces -- Marilyn, John Lennon, Jesus, Picasso and Warhol himself -- all smaller than your fingertip.

A satirical take on marketing to children, Sgt. Smokes offers not candy cigarettes but five "fully poseable" nicotine-stained butts in a package. "Seems real 'cause it is real," reads the unrepentant slogan.

In what is partly a spoof of green-washed consumerism, the Nature's Own line consists of grape stems, dried-out crabapples and seed pods packaged up with boosterish slogans ("super," "fantastic!").

Components for Mechanical Landscapes are a series of stapled and labelled plastic pouches containing the kind of haphazard junk you'd find in any Winnipeg basement or garage -- bits of wire, raggedy scrap wood, broken pieces of mysterious plastic parts. These works get a comic kick from the juxtaposition of the random contents and the serious, standardized hardware-store packaging.

Pasternak is working in the tradition of modern artists who have created faux retail environments to blur the boundaries between art and life. In 1961, American artist Claes Oldenburg created The Store, an installation project made up of messy painted plaster replicas of consumer goods. ("I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all," said the artist.)

In the 1960s and '70s, the Canadian artist collective N.E. Thing Co. Ltd. used labelling, packaging and branding techniques to celebrate the ordinary ("Art is all over"), while Toronto trio General Idea cheekily underlined the economic realities of the '80s art system with a boutique shaped like a dollar sign. Here in Winnipeg, artists Shawna Demspey and Lorri Millan ran a "food for thought" Grocery Store at Aceartinc. in 2002, looking for practical solutions to working and living downtown.

As an artist who's always been drawn to the mystical, Pasternak and his storefront exhibition tilt to the spiritual side of things. By packaging up visual tidbits, metaphysical treats and "secrets of the universe," Pasternak reminds us that we spend a lot of time and money on material stuff when we could be consuming so many other things -- ideas, emotions, experiences, insights.

Visual Chew is a delicious celebration of art, creativity and wonder.


Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

Read full biography


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us