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Terence Dick
Illusion of Process at the Art Gallery of York University
February 08, 2017

The trio of artists currently exhibiting at the Art Gallery of York University are perhaps better addressed as a series of solos than a three-part composition. They are all from Toronto, roughly at the same stage of their careers, and probably shop at Home Depot more often than at Curry’s, but any further comparisons run the risk of muting their unique attempts to make obdurate material express something akin to poetry. Miles Collyer and Maggie Groat are two of the three most likely to be mistaken as a duo. He riffs on rebar, cinderblocks, exhaust vents, and the detritus of destroyed architecture through aluminum reconstructions and photocopied representations. Sculptural scaffolding supports these signs of a somewhere else only hinted at in cryptic titles, but their sterile decontextualization leaves one wanting a little levity.


Groat supplies this with her actual (not simulated) junk. A series of her assemblages fill the shared gallery space not unlike Collyer’s objects, but she works with a magpie’s eye for found fragments and has just the right sense of humour for someone who repurposes the gallery’s own rejects for her big show. She also has an appreciation for colour that comes through to optimal effect in her pastel grid of carpet swatches on the AGYU’s project room floor. In fact, there is a general sense of optimism in her work that stands in stark contrast to Collyer’s mute metal. The process hinted at in the exhibition’s catch-all title (Illusion of Process) is the artist’s improvisation with the things that surround us to somehow create meaning where before there was none. She’s the type to make it look easy, like it’s just a matter of throwing up some haphazard wallpaper offcuts and arranging the knick-knacks from the back of your garage in a grid; however, this impulse to bring order to the modern world’s trash is both rare and necessary for those of us haunted by remnants of relentless renovation.

Marvin Luvualu Antonio, Death is a Tunnel, 2017, detail

Marvin Luvualu Antonio’s contribution is concerned with both literal and metaphorical remains. He’s an artist who moves comfortably between painting, sculpture and installation, but here the focus is on a performance that took place at the exhibition’s opening. The props, soundtrack, and accompanying video projection are all that’s left and the sense that something is missing is inescapable. Since the work is concerned with death and the video documents the artist’s mother’s funeral, that absence shouldn’t be surprising. When I finally got a chance to see some footage of the performance, the jarring intensity of the music (heard through wireless headphones supplied on entry) finally fell into place. There was smoke, rhythmic noise, and a shadowy figure dancing, pacing, and writhing through sand piles lit by images of a burial procession for someone who died far too young. The exhibition text explains that this work was the “most unscripted” and Antonio’s himself says in his recorded monologue: “Death is a tunnel will be an in between space.” Process is everything and the twinned acts of creation and destruction, with all their ties to life, death, ceremony, matter, and spirit, while alluded to elsewhere, are central to this final act (though, it should be noted, the first part you see) of the AGYU’s seasonal trilogy.

Art Gallery of York University:
Illusion of Process continues until March 12.

Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.



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