The August summer show at Cooper Cole Gallery, stripes down to the core of humanness: the body. In it, seven artists grapple with the notion of what makes us up, in term of our figure, form, material, and content. It’s an interesting concept, and fits in with this gallery’s cutting edge approach to showing contemporary art. “As a Body” is curated by Kari Cwynar and features work by Mira Dancy, Olivia Dunbar, Allison Katz, Lauren Luloff, Jenine Marsh, Jody Rogac and Camilla Wills.
The overall installation of the show ranges from text-based work in a collaged scroll, to conceptual mixed media photography and video art, to conventional portrait painting and photography with a twist. There is also a sculptural installation that sweeps across the entirety of the gallery space by visually punctuation the walls with swipes, and twists of air-dried clay that has then been glazed to produce an effect that is intriguing while also, a little disconcerting. A friend who came along to see the show thought it looked a little like poo streaks around the walls, I didn’t disagree. The two standout pieces that dominated the show were Mira Dancy’s “Psychic Pillow Charm” and Lauren Luloff’s “Purple Alex”. I would have almost been satisfied just seeing those to works set at angles against opposite corners as they were shown, in a dialogue between nude female forms and naked male both painted in gestural stains on fabric or canvas. The feminine triangle of Dancy’s “Psychic Pillow Charm” references a small amulet/pendant, but holds its own through scale and thickness with a surprising and refreshing authority. Her brushwork is ballsy and present. In the opposite corner of the room, Luloff’s larger-than-life nude male figure is soften, made more feminine and rendered translucent by the strong life coming through the front window of the gallery. The work’s patchwork of stitched fabric supports the loosely rendered modern guy, with his scruffy facial hair, and scrawny limbs he feels like he could be any dude, unveiled in this Matissian way. Besides being stunning works, these two pieces also remind us that the viewer is no longer defined exclusively through the male gaze. Thank God.
“As a Body” through September 6th at Cooper Cole Gallery, 1161 Dundas Street West, Toronto, Canada.
written by POVarts East Coast Editor: Kit Franco