Critics’ Picks

Simon Starling, Musselled Moore (Reclining Figure, 1950), 2008, gelatin silver print, 19 x 20 x 1 1/2".


Simon Starling

Rennie Museum
51 East Pender Street
November 18 - March 25

Henry Moore once said, “A sculptor is a person who is interested in the shape of things.” Simon Starling is an artist who is interested in stories, and, as evident in his exhibition here, they often involve the twentieth-century sculptor. Starling’s photograph Musselled Moore (Reclining Figure, 1950), 2008, depicts a maquette that riffs on a Moore sculpture—Warrior with Shield, 1953–54—acquired by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in 1955. In 2006, Starling submerged his steel copy of Moore’s work into Lake Ontario, where it became covered with a foreign species of mussels. The creatures, introduced to the lake by trading ships in the 1980s, were intended as a metaphor for the tension following the AGO’s purchase of a work by a British artist, when many felt the Canadian gallery should be focused on supporting more local artists.

In 1963, Moore was commissioned by the University of Chicago to create a public artwork commemorating the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. The shape of the bronze work, Nuclear Energy, 1966, suggested an atomic cloud, but Moore’s later guilt for exalting a destructive technology led him to suggest the form was more innocent. Starling’s eight spotlighted masks in Project for a Masquerade (Hiroshima), 2010, all made in collaboration with a traditional Japanese Noh theater mask-maker and facing a mirror, represent various characters in the sculpture’s history: the sculptor himself, scientists, and even a likeness of Colonel Sanders, who has the most unlikely connection to the narrative. Opposite this plays a video with an actor’s voice-over recounting Moore’s conflict about his own piece, reminding viewers that art is often used as a smoke screen for troublesome objectives.