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Terence Dick
Les Rassembleurs at MKG127 | Softening the Corners at Birch Contemporary
August 12, 2014

I had been mulling over a theory of group exhibitions that compares them to social gatherings and then, lo and behold, MKG127 puts on a show that fits my model to a T. Curated by artist/party host extraordinaire Dean Baldwin as the 2014 edition of the gallery’s semi-regular artist-curated summer exhibitions, Les Rassembleurs resembles the aftermath of a party rather than the party itself, but its success as a unity of distinct things has a lot in common with what makes for a memorable bash: first, there’s the inspired host; second, there’s the guest list; and third, there is the magic of serendipity. Baldwin’s talent for the relational is well established, but it’s the international array of artists who he invited that give this shindig its spice.

Radames "Juni" Figueroa, Tropical Readymade, 2014, shoe, soil, plant

The purported theme is intoxication, so it’s not surprising that most of the work clusters around a bar. While some, like Sarah Peters’ bronze Head of a Boy Vessel, directly reference drinking (as does the guest of honour: a 17th Century Delftware tankard on loan from the Gardiner Museum), others are a bit subtler – though no less memorable – in their evocation of a spirited evening. Michael Dumontier’s wonderfully minimal depiction of eyelids held up by toothpicks has a special meaning for me, given my tendency to fall asleep in front of company when the night goes on too long. Roula Partheniou’s Monument is a fabricated coaster, bottle cap, chewed up piece of gum and half-burnt match that speaks volumes about boredom, creativity, our provisional communities, and the make-do/makeshift spirit that turns garbage into art and a gathering of lost souls into an event to remember. Radames “Juni” Figueroa’s absurd but practical readymades could have been inspired by the stoned epiphanies that emerge during such festivities, and Kristan Horton’s Bronze Roach is exactly what it says it is while also serving as another monument – this one to the vague memories of parties past. It goes without saying that if you remember them you weren’t actually there.

Lili Huston-Herterich, Butlers Pantry, 2014, tufted cushion with dye sublimation print, custom buttons

Another party is happening concurrently at Birch Contemporary; however, while the guest list is nothing to sniff at, it doesn’t have the same celebratory spirit. The rationale for this get-together – something to do with the body and its surroundings – is harder to get excited about and the works don’t manage to generate an engaging conversation. Only Renee Van Halm’s Privacy Screen is playing along, but it’s stuck on its own on the floor with a couple freestanding quasi-modernist constructions in glass, homasote and metal by Abby McGuane who are speaking a different language. Lili Huston-Herterich’s tufted cushions printed with domestic interiors have something to say about what goes on with the people in those homes, but they don’t have a lot in common with Colleen Heslin’s collaged fabric wall panels that do a great job of mimicking the paintings they coincidentally deflate by making the seam between different areas of flatness literal. That fabric connects with Josh Thorpe’s faint wall painting of an unwound toga, which, as it wraps around a corner to avoid being seen in one piece, admittedly has some thoughts to share about the mapping of bodies into space and the way our physical forms connect with seemingly abstract shapes in different eras. Someone should introduce him to Van Halm.

Les Rassembleurs continues until August 23.

Birch Contemporary:
Softening the Corners continues until August 30.

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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