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On the Prowl

Hunter and Cook search for interesting new work

By Derek Winkler

“There are two different kinds of artists working. One is like a hunter, who goes and bring things up from the depths, but isn’t necessarily good at refining things. Then there [are] cooks, who are good at mixing up the pot for public consumption. We iden­tify ourselves as one hunter and one cook.”

So says Jay Isaac, co-founder with Tony Romano of Hunter and Cook, an art magazine with a gallery attached to it. Or is it an art gallery with a magazine attached?

“Definitely a magazine with a gallery attached,” says Isaac. “The gallery is an afterthought.”

The afterthought of a gallery is a small square space in the back of a vintage clothing store on Ossington Street in Toronto, but it will host only three more exhibitions before closing in April. The magazine is a handsome, oversized object just coming up to its fifth tri-annual issue. Both share the same primary mandate: to display the work of artists that Isaac and Romano like.

“It’s what catches our eye,” says Isaac. “We don’t accept submis­sions. There’s no statements over here. We usually go for stuff that doesn’t need statements attached. You just walk in and respond to it. Mainly visual stuff. It’s purely subjective. What we like. Why not just show what you like without making excuses for it?”

Rather than troll through submissions, Isaac and Romano in­vite artists to participate, offering them four to six pages each and a suggestion to do whatever they want. As a result, about half the content of the magazine is original work never seen before.

It was a perceived lack of support in Toronto for such work that inspired Isaac and Romano to create Hunter and Cook; the feeling that the infrastructure of collectors, writers, curators and galleries is no match for the output of local artists.

“The support here is really weak, which is too bad,” says Isaac. “There was a niche for this kind of thing. We’re both artists. We wanted something that’s made by artists with visuals in mind. Considering the other magazines that were around, it seemed that they definitely were not doing Canadian art any justice. We took that as a cue to get something going.”

According to Isaac, Canadian art magazines are too objective, too institutional and too concerned with what people might like rather than the search for interesting new work. Hunter and Cook hopes simply to show people what’s there and to foster a sense of scene.

“We get people contacting us every day from all over the world,” says Isaac. “They know if a magazine is happening, something is happening here. The more stuff like this, the better for Toronto. Some people are always saying there’s nothing good going on in Toronto, and if you’re one of those people who say that, you should probably leave. Do something. Do something good.”

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