Toronto

Mark Gomes

Isaacs Gallery

Mark Gomes’ show is comprised of two large works connected in theme. Untitled is an 8-foot high, roofless passageway made of wire-mesh fencing. Its door is a mass of twigs encased in the same fencing, and framed with untreated lathing. The piece is like the skeleton of the walls of a passageway, a pared-down hallway missing its plaster clothing.

The Narrows is also a passageway of sorts—two “parenthetical” fences, placed back to back, form a funnel. In the middle, a large oxidized-steel box suspended between the two fences rotates on a central axis and blocks normal passage. One side of this box is faceted, like a jewel. When this side faces down, the box looks like a cradle, and when it faces up, the box becomes a coffin. When it is in motion, the changing aspects suggest a birth/death continuum.

Metal fencing is an uncompromising material; it usually keeps people in or out. Entering the work is a claustrophobic experience. Passageways are inevitably metaphors for life, but in Untitled Gomes strips this one of its symbolic meaning by not distinguishing the beginning from the end. His focus moves from metaphor to materials—to the anatomic walls and the fetishistic door and to the awkward tension between the wood and the steel.

Sucking its audience in with the centrifuge created by the whirling coffin/cradle, The Narrows is a sort of black hole—except that when you enter you are quickly forced back out the way you came; there is no way to get to the other end.

Neither of these pieces fulfills the expectations they set up. Untitled is reduced to an engineering feat, in which the materials are more interesting than the piece. The Narrows falls short because the piece is too intimidating: the spectator is not encouraged to enter the passageway and spin the box. And if this isn’t done, the point remains hidden.

Martha Fleming