Critics’ Picks

  • Anne Low, Dust bed, 2018, handwoven silk, cotton, 52 x 16 x 16".

    Anne Low

    Franz Kaka
    87 Wade Ave Unit B1 (basement)
    May 3–May 25

    Anne Low’s exhibition at Franz Kaka, a basement-level gallery, is sparse and winsome. At once obliging and testing the parameters of a subterranean space, her works—which include a maple-and-basswood chair with carved zoomorphic details (Chair for a woman, 2018); a handwoven rolled mattress (Dust bed, 2018); and a car tire shrouded in hand-dyed, handwoven pink silk (Tire bag, 2019)—feel half-forgotten, as if they were left behind in a storage unit.

    The title of Low’s show, “Bletting,” describes the process whereby fruit softens, ripens, and eventually rots, which aptly summarizes the atmosphere inside, where objects languish in a kind of purgatory, slumped in a corner, draped on the floor, or suspended high on walls. The titular framework also suggests that Low is interested in how objects perform and mature when undisturbed by human contact. Still, many of her works mime man-made utilitarian objects: Chair is un-upholstered, with stunted proportions and clawlike embellishments; Dust bed’s detailed woven covering slightly differentiates it from blobby synthetic futons; and the luminous pink sachet of Tire bag does not entirely conceal the rubber wheel within. And while some of the newer works are indeed ripening—being shown for the first time—the remaining objects are growing into new identities altogether. Chair, for example, previously displayed on a plinth at Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery, is newly hung with handwoven, cream-colored ropes made of dimity. The subtle humor and peculiar details of Low’s carvings, print, and textiles work together to uncannily distance her pieces from the associated objects viewers might know from repeated use.

  • 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–June 23

    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.