toronto

Vanessa Maltese, Capacity for Self Control, 2016, oil on panel, painted steel, plastic hair clip, 65 × 65 × 2".

Vanessa Maltese

Cooper Cole

Vanessa Maltese, Capacity for Self Control, 2016, oil on panel, painted steel, plastic hair clip, 65 × 65 × 2".

A bright scarlet, life-size aluminum cast of an overturned Converse All Star lay on the floor, somewhat incongruously, below four large, circular oils on panel in Vanessa Maltese’s recent exhibition, “Birds flew down to peck at the painted grapes.” The show’s title referenced the story of Zeuxis, the legendary Greek painter whose lifelike rendering of grapes fooled birds into trying to eat the fruit, according to Pliny the Elder. Between the ancient grapes and the modern shoe, Maltese let us know that she’s playing the art-historical long game. Perhaps the appeal of this richly allusive work, which evokes Renaissance tondi and Cubist collage as well as traditional textile arts, is that it provides endless strands to pull, all of them bearing fruit. One association recurred throughout my viewing of the paintings, the steel frames of which resemble giant embroidery or quilting hoops:

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