Critics’ Picks

Attempt at an Inventory of the Liquid and Solid Foodstuffs Ingurgitated by Me in the Course of the Year Two Thousand and Six (After Perec) (detail), 2007, 2,042 digital C-prints, dimensions variable.

Attempt at an Inventory of the Liquid and Solid Foodstuffs Ingurgitated by Me in the Course of the Year Two Thousand and Six (After Perec) (detail), 2007, 2,042 digital C-prints, dimensions variable.

Toronto

Dean Baldwin

Mulherin | Toronto
1082-1086 Queen Street West
July 17, 2013–May 13, 2007

Dean Baldwin’s exhibition “Attempt at an Inventory” reflects the Toronto-based artist’s preoccupations with the themes of consumption and self-documentation. Small photographs of food and drink are displayed as an enormous grid covering one gallery wall. The work indicates almost everything ingested by Baldwin during the course of 2006. Recalling the long-term duration and diaristic intent of Stephen Shore’s photography, each item in Baldwin’s culinary journey is depicted from above; this uniformity provides the project with a subtle flavor of rigor that is enhanced by the arrangement of material: noodle soups, desserts, and bowls of cereal are organized by type, suggesting both the influence of morphological research and the desire for comfortable gastronomic consistency in life. But the repetitive placement of alcoholic beverages and sweets refers to the representation of compulsive behaviors that were the meat and potatoes of the performance-art movement. Some of the groupings—sushi, oysters, elaborate cocktails—connote the sociological study of elites or luxury lifestyles.

Other images seem relatively playful or whimsical in tone. A lobster is shown before and after being cooked. Apples are partially eaten and held in the artist’s hand. Baldwin’s orally oriented themes are expressed again in Serviette taken from a restaurant after a meal of linguine al nero di seppia (pasta with squid, cooked in its own black ink), 2007. The cloth napkin—pinned proudly against a white background, a bit like the sheets after a traditional Italian wedding night—has an array of dark smudges of squid ink and saliva, as well as other less identifiable brownish stains, presumably oil and/or wine, which compete compositionally with creases in the cloth. Baldwin serves up imagery of the about-to-be-devoured, the half-eaten, and the aftermath of consumption that seductively reconstructs an earlier bodily experience.