You never know how you’ll react.
The cohabitating exhibitions that just opened at Galerie Clark, for example, couldn’t have been more contrasting in their effect. Greeted by Anthony Burnham’s Overlap and Rewind in room 1, I was surprised. Burnham is well known locally for being one-half of the Flators, an artistic association between himself and Suzanne Déry based on their shared passion for inflated entities. You may have seen their work at Quartier Éphémère last year; their parachute-material structures invade urban spaces with air-filled dominance, a mix of feather-weighted daintiness and overwhelming presence that warps environments. But Burnham as a painter? That was news to me.
The selection displayed numbers five recent painted works. On the right as you enter the room is hidden a small abstract piece, blotches and swatches of colour, pigment globules on a plain background. Nothing particularly subtle or exciting, to be frank, but apparently "a look back on the central concerns of non-figuration, such as the treatment of space and transparency."
The exhibition, says the flyer, is based on the theme of heterogeneity, an exercise aimed at debunking the art world’s need for consistency within an artist’s practice or process. The other paintings shown support this in their disparate relationship: large figurative pieces of a burning building (more precisely The Smithsonian Melting 1865) and a motocross trick jump performed over what looks like a potato field (titled In 1966, a handful of lady racers participated in desert racing, but it was not until 1968 that a large number of lady racers showed up at one event that indicated "the times-they were a changing") contrast in both format and raison d’être with their surroundings. But where on paper this contrast is purported to be contentious, or intellectually stimulating, in practice it is unmoving. The postmodern idea of making representation out of the processes of abstraction is just that, a postmodern concept. Burnham’s use of colour is interesting at times, namely in the case of the piece with the interminable title, which emanates a pleasantly surreal aura, mildly Winnipegian in feel. But Burnham’s stroke is brash and his pigment watery. Also, too much emphasis is put on format, the pieces depending on size for an impact that should come from elsewhere.
Make your way through this, though, to room 2, and you’ll walk into a work that’s unequivocally evocative. The Wild Size, Brazilian Montrealer Marcio Lana-Lopez’s first solo show in Quebec, is a humorous riff on Wittgenstein, a tasty mix of philosophy and rock’n'roll.
The installation fills the entire room, with crooked stairs leading to a tilted platform dividing the space horizontally in two. At the door there’s a short text, something about how the head honcho of a Mexican band called The Maybers (who bears a surprising likeness to Wittgenstein in a sombrero) died tragically and inexplicably in a hotel room that was inordinately filled with vomit. Dancing happily over the line of truth and fiction, the piece invites viewers to enter and to walk on the mezzanine, which represents a distorted rock-show stage, melting monitors and elongated drum kit and all. It’s a disorienting experience, with the visceral simulation of a bad trip; the surface is slippery, and in the space below, left visible in some spots, there lies a recreation of the scene of the crime. The cheesy hotel bed lies filled with disturbingly realistic human discharge, threatening to engulf us if we lose our footing.
It’s a very moving piece.
Anthony Burnham and Marcio Lana-Lopez
Galerie Clark (5455 De Gaspé)
until Feb. 28