Critics’ Picks

Kara Hamilton, Slippery Progress, Low Tide, 2018, brass elevator panel, silver-plated tuba, aluminum duct, concrete, LED, 30 1/2 x 32 × 55".


Kara Hamilton

Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West
December 15, 2018–June 23, 2019

Kara Hamilton’s “Water in Two Colours” consists of three biomorphic sculptures, a delicate human-size crown, and a takeaway text by writer Raimundas Malašauskas, each of which explores what the artist calls “jewellery for architecture.” Hamilton draws on her training in both architecture and design to pose questions about value and its representation; her works are made of brass, aluminum, silver, gold, fool’s gold, diamonds, pearl, and concrete. The large-scale pieces are fleshly: Two brass elevator doors are reconfigured into forms reminiscent of cetacean tongues in states of repose (Purple Dialect Surge and Mother Tongue [Whale], both 2018). Their bent and crinkled metal shows signs of having been heated and reworked by human hands using traditional silversmithing techniques. Across the gallery, in Slippery Progress, Low Tide, 2018, a silver-plated tuba bell emits a milky LED glow. Another sculpture pivots toward the idea of cultural value—the room’s diffuse illumination can be traced to a glass case that contains Crown for Ina after Beyoncé, 2008, a headpiece featuring gold chains, name plates, and phrases like “I want I want I want,” “I love Jesus,” and “I love beer.”

Together, Hamilton’s works frame value as a conspicuous yet ineluctable property. Lustrous metals surely cannot be so precious when they are large and mottled; nevertheless, these works retain a sibylline mystery, containing light, implying sound, and evoking baroque-cum-pop nobility. The artist’s unconventional sourcing methods—of working with pre-smelter gold-picking assembly lines and acquiring brass instruments discarded by Ontario school boards—only enhance the enigmatic qualities of the resulting objects. In creating “jewellery for architecture,” then, Hamilton shows us an ornamentation for the spirits.