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Calgary
Lindsay Sorell
Collin Brown at Marion Nicoll Gallery
April 11, 2018

Collin Brown’s Further Reductions at the Marion Nicoll Gallery strikes me as a somewhat mournful rejection of the colourfully political, portrait-saturated Internet-age. Most of the track lights point to March 3 – April 3 (31 exposures), which rests alone and off-centre on the ground. It is a mobile-looking brown dais constructed from scrap materials with carry-holes in its sides. Stationary on the box is a rectangular piece of hardwood carved to hold tightly a smaller piece of limestone. In this womb-like arrangement, the limestone and hardwood have both been coated with cyanotype precipitate every day for one month and exposed under the ambient light of the studio. Without the usual subsequent rinsing with water that turns the chemicals bright blue, the limestone and hardwood have turned a glistening black, which drips gently onto the wooden box below. I can see traces of a brush or fingers on its side. It sits oddly, like a miniature holy ark or sarcophagus awaiting its next transportation.



Collin Brown, March 3 – April 3 (31 exposures), 2018, sculpture detail

The second and final of the two works, two sides of the same stone, sits pristinely on a small wedge-shaped shelf low to the ground. It too centres on the fitting-together of two materials, this time using bronze and black stone. A familiar shape, something that could be a burnt cigar or a stick of dynamite or an ancient drawing tool, it is a tube of bronze cast to fit seamlessly with the ragged piece of black stone core-sample on its end. This tiny phallic pillar of power continues the black and brown dichromatic mode of the first work; they sit with a mute politic. The objects in the room call to mind the “strong and silent” “masculine” Minimalist sculptures so corporately popular in the 1960s and 1970s during the Vietnam War – except they are tiny.

Robert Morris, a key Minimalist with a psychosexual bent, believed that detail belies intimacy and steals away the power of art, saying also that “the new sculpture” avoids relationships between materials because relationship is weakening (cf. Anna C. Chave’s Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power). If so, Brown’s Further Reductions is a rejection of power and a fascination rather with that intimacy which so weakens. Brown’s further reduction has elided scale, expense, and aggression from the Minimalist operandi, failing to perpetuate their oppressive Imperialist ideology. The scale and pathos of Brown’s works, rather, are a comedy of power. The limestone sits like a baby or a clitoris, incubated within its little pouch. Placed low to the ground, his works look up to the viewer rather than fall on them. The viewer flies above, as in Google Maps, unable to decipher between one material or another, histories, processes, and significance, without dropping themselves in.


Collin Brown: Further Reductions continues until April 13.
Marion Nicoll Gallery: https://marionnicollgallery.wordpress.com/
The gallery is accessible.


Lindsay Sorell is an artist and writer who recently collaborated with the Advanced Toastmasters of Calgary for the IKG Live 1 performance festival and completed two solo exhibitions of new work: Exercises in Healing at Contemporary Calgary and Buddha, Why Am I Alone? at AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a large-scale watercolour painting of food and is the editor of Luma Quarterly. She is Akimblog's Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram.

 

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