Critics’ Picks

Blue Republic, Somewhere #8 (Georgian Bay) (detail), 2019, digital print, coins, stamps, 41 3/8 x 56 1/2".

Blue Republic, Somewhere #8 (Georgian Bay) (detail), 2019, digital print, coins, stamps, 41 3/8 x 56 1/2".

Toronto

Blue Republic

Georgia Scherman Projects
133 Tecumseth Street
October 18–November 23, 2019

Previous exhibitions by Blue Republic, a collective based in Toronto and Krakow, have involved ephemeral drawings, sculptures, and video works that speak to transience and fragility. This more focused presentation of thirteen discrete works, incorporating photography, sculpture, and installation, enriches and expands these themes through references to the family histories of the collective’s artists (Anna Passakas and Radoslaw Kudlinski) and allusions to oppressive conditions around the globe. This weighty content is counterbalanced by the aesthetic playfulness of the artists’ use of found materials.

Haunting the gallery are totemic ready-mades that metonymically represent either anonymous soldiers or specific family members. One of two World War II–era helmets on display, for example, is covered in numbers encircling its exterior that might count either the days or the dead (Untitled [Italian Campaign], 2013/19); drawn lines on the other mimic the sutures of a skull in utero that harden upon entering a world that rationalizes war (Untitled, 2010). Two of five human-scale witches, constructed from found domestic and military materials, refer directly to female kin whose strength helped them survive while imprisoned in the gulag. They are hobbled, their parts dislocated and broken, yet their shamanistic power persists.

Elsewhere, two large color photographs of sublime waterscapes are decorated with international currency and stamps (Somewhere #8 [Georgian Bay] and Somewhere #9 [Georgian Bay], both 2019). Here, as with the other works, interpretive possibilities abound: The imagery highlights the contradiction between nationalist aesthetic mythologies regarding land and wildlife, so often depicted on coins and postage, and the destruction of such creatures and their environments through unbridled resource extraction. Open choppy waters recall another contradiction: that financial capital glides freely over the same boundaries that make migration a grave danger. Blue Republic poetically charts the historical and international terrain of these dialectical struggles.