Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art lit a rocket under curator Camilla Singh’s latest exhibition Friday night with a lively opening reception that gave the city’s art set plenty to chew on. Titled Ineffable Plasticity, the show features an all-Toronto slate of artists whose works consider “the experience of being human.”
The title is intentionally poetic and ambiguous, explains Singh, as she leads me through the show: “It invites you to put your own take on it rather than being a really descriptive thing that nails it down.”
Like Rogers and Hart’s “Funny Valentine,” some of Ineffable Plasticity is unphotographable, either because it’s too explicit (Mat Brown, Jordan MacLachlan, above) or too experiential (Sherri Hay).
Brown’s All Within the Circle of Willis (2009 – 2011), above and below, consists of 29 framed works (ink on mat board) of impossibly complex scenes capturing Homo sapiens at various points on the evolutionary continuum. The works are colourful, fanciful and grotesque, usually all at once. To properly digest a series of this magnitude requires real attention – I hope Friday’s party-goers return for a second helping.
Hay’s Blind Passage Pure Land, below, defies two-dimensional representation because it requires the viewer to observe it while moving through space. Composed of hundreds of taut, painted strings that form a sort of 3D histogram, the work shimmers, shifts and transforms as you walk around it — I was dazzled by the piece.
And then there’s Jordan MacLachlan’s 18-foot long sculpture/installation, Unexpected Subway Living, in which the artist imagines scenes from the new Depression played out in underground, public spaces that offer the only shelter left to a cast of economic refugees, below.
What’s so surprising about Ineffable Plasticity — Faith La Rocque, Anders Oinonen and Susy Oliveira also contribute — is the degree to which one work speaks to another; gestures, materials, subject matter, ricochet through the show like a pinball. There are even shared references between the main space works and those curated by the gallery’s Artistic Director, David Liss, in the NGC@MOCCA studio space in a show called Human/Nature.
The serendipitous overlaps are purely coincidental, says Singh. The artists are channelling the collective zeitgeist in their own practices so there’s bound to be some duality. Even Singh didn’t know exactly what she’d end up with because many of the works were still being created when she invited the artists to participate.
“With every show some risk presents itself,” says the curator. “When it’s all up and running it doesn’t look risky but during the process the risk is huge. I didn’t know sizes, I didn’t know colours; this came together extraordinarily intuitively.
“There was a lot of trust at work,” she continues. “The institution trusted me to do my thing, and I trusted the artists whose individual practices I’m very familiar with even if the actual works were yet to be realized.”
“There’s a lot of breathing space in the exhibition,” Singh concludes, “but it’s also a really packed show because of what each work is. It’s dense.”