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Toronto
Terence Dick
Kerri Reid at Mercer Union | Kristine Moran at Daniel Faria | Arnaud Maggs
November 20, 2012

My subway read this past week has been Lawrence Weschler's book on LA's enigmatic Museum of Jurassic Technology. Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder tells the story of this modern day throwback to the early years of Wunderkammer, those eccentrically organized assemblages of life science and art that presaged the birth of the museum as we know it. My memory of visiting the MJT about a decade ago has faded with time, but I still pine for the vertigo of having my epistemological assumptions pulled out from under me. Ydessa Hendeles' exhibitions made for a few local instances of this experience, but now that she's shuttered her King West operation where can one go in search of wonder?



Kerri Reid, Souvenirs (California), 2012, left: rocks found in California; right: copies of rocks found in California, stoneware with underglazes and acrylic paint

Imagine how happy I was to discover half a dozen specimen tables lined up inside Mercer Union with what seemed to be an assortment of minerals ready for categorization. The impulse to make sense of the world that many artists share with scientists is taken to a mind-blowing extreme in Kerri Reid's As the Dusts Settle. Each sample on display is, in fact, doubled: one being the original (stone, pile of gravel, scattering of sawdust), the other being the pencil sketch or sculpture. In a Borgesian attempt to make a perfect map, Reid fabricates replicas of the pebbles she has found on her travels. As an attempt to account for our experience, to present the clearest window on nature, it is both ambitious and futile – just like every single creative human endeavor from the greatest artwork on down.



Kristine Moran, Lilies in Midnight, 2012

It's a testament to our resilience and/or bullheaded nature that we don't let this futility stop us. Case in point: Kristine Moran continuing to kick at the can of abstraction in her exhibition Between Life and Death at Daniel Faria Gallery. I approached the work with dread, never knowing what to say about such formalism, but was pleasantly surprised to discover how lively they were. They shift dramatically from first impressions garnered at a distance to those espied on close inspection: space opens up and layers slowly reveal themselves, details float into view and then recede, shapes accelerate with the trace of the artist's gestures. Moran manages the alchemy of pigment on canvas with a magi's touch. With a radically different method, she reaches the same end as Reid, instilling awe in the viewer by working just beyond the limits of comprehension.

Finally, a note of appreciation and admiration for Arnaud Maggs who passed away this weekend. Rather than discuss his art, I'd like to acknowledge the untouchably cool way in which he embodied the role of the artist. Apart from the dapper duds and his gentlemanly air, it was his late in life career shift that inspires me and should continue to inspire all of us who value the wonder that art provides in life. Maggs proved it's never too late to act on your imagination, and his recent self-portraits as a playful clown-photographer are a more than fitting last call to join in the fun.


Mercer Union: http://www.mercerunion.org/
Kerri Reid: As the Dusts Settle continues until December 1.

Daniel Faria Gallery: http://danielfariagallery.com/
Kristine Moran: Between Life and Death continues until November 24.


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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