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Winnipeg
Steven Leyden Cochrane
Micah Lexier at the Winnipeg Art Gallery
July 29, 2014

If “conceptual” art has become everyday shorthand for the kind of work that people “just don’t get” or just can’t be bothered with, the term has become something of a disclaimer among artists themselves. A dangling modifier loosely affixed to a range of mediums and practices, “conceptual” too often implies an ambivalence about form and not much else, a sheepish insistence that “it’s the thought that counts.”



Micah Lexier, This One, That One, 2013

In that light, Micah Lexier starts looking like a standard-bearer for a “classic” conceptualism – cerebral, reductive, and a touch obstinate but still self-evident, playful, and above all genuinely engaged. This, That, Those, his pocket-retrospective at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, comes as both a breath of fresh air and an endearing throwback, a celebration of ideas that work as well on the back of a bar napkin as they do in a rarefied white cube or dissected in a catalog essay. In the video This One, That One (an alternate version of which debuted in his recent Power Plant survey) Lexier rifles through scraps of printed cardboard and other found objects with the deft movements of a shell game huckster. Stacking printed cups, ordering found numbers, and connecting cardboard dots, Lexier’s contextual sleight-of-hand effects momentary transformations that result from years of careful collecting and sustained attention. He turns that same magpie focus to his own practice in a built-in vitrine opposite the projection. Playfully negating any distinction between the two, he exhibits a half-dozen or so small works alongside a further collection of found objects. Lexier’s painted wooden blocks (“38 cubic inches”) and letter-size aluminum tangram puzzles sit comfortably alongside a set of vintage letter dice and a brown cardboard tube. Small-scale and open-ended, each component seems to invite new observation, interaction, and play.

More than any other form, conceptual art is a game (and sometimes, literally, a joke). This, That, Those is a welcome reminder that the rules can be simple and anyone can play along.


Winnipeg Art Gallery: http://wag.ca/art/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/display,exhibition/152/micah-lexier-this-that-those
Micah Lexier: This, That, Those continues until August 4.


Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimblog’s new Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.

 

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