Recently I had a memory come back to me—the type of memory that comes to the surface seemingly out of nowhere, one I imagine would be considered so very mundane that any brain, in an attempt to conserve space, would erase immediately. But there it was, collapsing time, a visceral scene from childhood of me squeezing into the small space beneath my bed. I remembered the tightness of the space, so tight my child-sized head could only fit in sideways. I remembered the smell of the dusty cambric from the boxspring, and the feel of the carpet on my cheek. Close and containing, this small space gave me the experience of disappearing entirely from view, complete with the contradictory desires to both remain hidden and be found.
A labyrinth is distinguished from a maze by its lack of dead ends and by its unicursal paths. The traveler is easily disoriented by the winding path, moving against their intuition and sense of direction. In the concentric circles and hairpin turns, the walker moves along a line that bends in on itself. Traditionally, one starts their walk on the outside of the labyrinth moving circuitously toward and away from the centre until they arrive, almost by surprise. Similarly, Julie Oh’s work moves with the turns of the labyrinth, but it starts at the centre. It takes you along in looping turns toward and away from the specificity of the heating blanket or the prescription bottle until this known thing is strange, known, strange, and known again. The work of the labyrinth is embodied work; it makes an internal world into physical space. Similarly, so is navigating Oh’s Tunnel, Air, Mother—a body of work that confounds, conflates and takes pleasure in the already messy binaries of mother-daughter, parent-child, caregiver and receiver, intimate and communal, personal and public. Rather than imagining a spectrum—a straight line—between fixed positions, the work in this show travels the curves and loops between them.
As I walked through Agouti Sky, Georgia Dickie’s solo exhibition at Oakville Galleries, I kept hearing my dad’s voice in my head. “Let’s see what’s in inventory,” the phrase he habitually announces before hastening off to his basement workshop to find something. Though my father would argue otherwise, the room is shambolic, muddled with tools, his exercise bike and innumerable things. These things are of some mysterious origin, known only to him, and they’ve been saved as “inventory” for moments just like this—the moment when “this might come in handy” is realized. So, as I came face-to-face with Dickie’s most conspicuous, centrally-placed piece, Reef (2019), a multi-part installation of found objects, my mind began swanning through the familiarity of it all: this was an inventory. Reef, in sum with the eleven other sculptural works in the show, is an assemblage of items: wooden boxes, satellite dishes, a leather belt, metal frames, cash registers, metal wiring, a tensor bandage, tubing, ropes, cut paper, candles and a baby seat. A jumbled group of things, with some mysterious origin, known only to her.Read More
You know this surface intimately. Walking past a window, you catch your reflection walking with you—an intangible body double, flat and eerily transparent, skimming the line between interior and exterior until you reach the building’s edge, and the reflected “you” disappears. In Gabriel Peña Tijerina’s more., the architectural glass surface is at once screen and mirror; an invocation of the ghosts of its own mass production. Glass and plastic invite looking at and through their surfaces at the same time, and a window is never just a window when your reflection is also blinking back. Both architect and artist himself, Peña Tijerina’s research into the modality of glass examines Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s adopted aphorism “less is more” (1) in Tap Art Space’s final exhibition, siphoning out the sticky substance of capitalism from our ever seductive mirrored selves in glass. Read More
If you’ve spoken to me recently, I may have told you my (unresearched and unsubstantiated) theory about dreams and déjà vu. I usually proceed to explain that while I rarely remember my dreams, I am regularly struck with quietly disorienting bouts of déjà vu, something like once or twice a month. I like to speculate about these things as if they exist on a spectrum of cause and effect—the idea that sublimated dream imagery, while consciously inaccessible, bubbles up elsewhere in one’s perceptual life, grafted briefly onto shapes and colours and other structures of the world we move through. (1) That uncanny doubling, a sudden familiarity: it’s a sensation we all recognize, but one that quickly dissolves the very second you try to focus on it, let alone attempt to put it into language.
The mid-century modern across the street, now composed, perfectly centered within the window of the storm door, appeared angelic and fantastically distant in its miniature state. (1) Unassuming power poles and trees were mirrored in the wetness of the street, and they seemed to extend forever, piercing the top and bottom of the frame. Paralyzed there, like a moth under glass, the image of the house was a reality unto itself. All power lines and branches led back to its door, its half-open windows. “Thus, in minuscule, a narrow gate, [had] open[ed] up an entire world,” in which details were all that mattered. (2) The silhouette of a radio, a spider plant descending in pairs. This was all I could focus on as I came face to face with the Intruder. Read More
The day before visiting Cairo-born artist Nadia Gohar’s Mudstone at Erin Stump Projects, I read in the news that Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically-elected president of Egypt, had died in court—or rather, was forced into living in prison conditions that may have led to his early passing. Morsi had eventually betrayed the same democracy that brought him into power, and with it, the hope that many had following the events of the Arab Spring. As if in response to this symbolic event, though only a timely coincidence, Gohar’s exhibition uses material as an embodiment of democracy. Through this keen interest in objecthood, an environment is created where every being, every thing, is granted a voice, and the importance of each material radiates. It is through this material vibrancy that Mudstone gestures toward the role of humble objects: the exhibition is a call for democratized symbols, vernacular value. Read More
Last winter the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts held a retrospective on Alexander Calder, which offered a rare chance to share space with his famous mobiles, arguably the precursors of kinetic art. Breaking the threshold between abstraction and figuration, Calder’s suspended creature-like objects were born from subtle mechanisms with slow reactions and a geometric formulation that lures and lulls, favouring a contemplative spectator. The American artist marked modern art with his conception of these performative sculptures, and continues to be an important influence on new generations of sculptors who have succeeded him. As part of this succession, the artist-run OBORO centre invited Toronto and Brooklyn-based sculptor Sherri Hay to produce new sculptural activations in their space during the fall of 2018. Calder and Hay—who seem to be working with, at times parallel and at others, divergent motivations—position their practices as a kind of metaphysical response. Equally preoccupied by contemporary concerns, Calder is interested in the phenomenon of movement and the relativistic notion of “space-time”, while Hay inclines towards a neo-materialism that helps unsettle some of the more entrenched conceptual limits of the Anthropocene. In both cases, the idea of a mechanical object’s agency compels a kind of radical empathy towards the material and confronts us with our imperious relation to the object. Read More
Capriccio, or Caprice—as it’s been anglicized—refers to a historical genre of painting developed over the 16th to 18th century. Artists of the genre proposed, for the first time in Western history, that ruination architecture be ushered from background to subject. Immediately preceding this, architectural depiction in the Roman tradition of painting was relegated to ceiling frescoes, illusioning space to elicit divine wonder in God’s house. With this understanding of symbolic potential, artists began fantasizing architecture—assembling disparate buildings and monuments in pictorial space, or imagining new buildings and circumstances altogether—as a sort of visual poetry. At the genre’s height, the most notable caprices depicted dilapidation. Read More