Toronto

Lorna Bauer

YYZ Artists' Outlet

Humble and spare, yet offering surprising nuance, the video Four Glasses (all works 2010) is a typical Lorna Bauer production. It begins with a view of four wineglasses on a weathered plank, precisely lit so as to be surrounded by total darkness. Almost ecclesiastically poised, these vessels anticipate a narrative incident that eventually happens: The glasses—all four at once—explode, providing the only sound and the only motion of the ninety-second work. The action barely lasts a moment but effectively sparks a full spectrum of associations, from technical experiment (were the glasses rigged to test the camera’s ability to describe this split-second event?) to corny painterly iconography (innocence lost) to a stab at the absurd (normally wineglasses offer alcohol, not anxiety), mixed with the impression that Bauer wishes to play with the notions of integrity and coherence, and not only with regard to aesthetic form.

This was further demonstrated by the exhibition’s titular digital photograph, What Is Not But Could Be If. From a distance the grainy, gray image appeared to depict sea and sky and little else. However, on closer examination, shadows and scuff marks emerged, ultimately revealing the wall and floor of the artist’s studio. The subject of All the Material, another Bauer photograph, similarly appears to change state as what first seems a haphazard accumulation of shattered glass—the aftermath of so many exploding experiments soon to be swept into a dustpan—comes into focus as a sculptural body that had been handled with meticulous care: Some overlapping central shards register as opaque white; others offer transparent or translucent shades of brown, green, turquoise, and blue. The periphery of the pile is dimly rendered, creating the illusion of expansion well beyond the reach of our vision and the illuminated area registered by the photograph.

Reflective surfaces added another layer of optical transfiguration in Untitled, a diptych composed of two separately framed photocollages hung in one corner of the gallery, perpendicularly, so that their edges physically met. The product of a series of experiments using studio lights and strategically placed mirrors, here a host of jagged planes generate fragmented views of a Jack Daniel’s bottle. Within this heated and disorienting topological space (evocative of Robert Smithson’s Enantiomorphic Chambers), the bottle shattered into glowing, spectral fragments of curving glass and printed label. Here, haunted by the formal experimentation of Cubist café scenes, the work’s glaring and ghostly afterimages generated a lasting, albeit fragile, sense of wonder. Whether by flashes of light, controlled acts of violence, or shots of whiskey, Bauer ruptures the neutral, pushing us to reconsider the material reality of objects and the limits of our own perception.

Dan Adler