Toronto

Zin Taylor, A Vase, a Knife, and a Piece of Fruit (Repeated), 2018, acrylic paint, epoxy clay, ink, plaster cloth, wood, dimensions variable. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Zin Taylor, A Vase, a Knife, and a Piece of Fruit (Repeated), 2018, acrylic paint, epoxy clay, ink, plaster cloth, wood, dimensions variable. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Zin Taylor

Susan Hobbs Gallery

Zin Taylor, A Vase, a Knife, and a Piece of Fruit (Repeated), 2018, acrylic paint, epoxy clay, ink, plaster cloth, wood, dimensions variable. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

“Cut Flowers,” Zin Taylor’s first solo show at Susan Hobbs Gallery, featured an inventive, intriguing range of sculptural statements: Works performed semantic slides between functional product and absurd abstraction. Incorporating Taylor’s trademark vocabulary of dots, lines, patterns, textures, and reductive shapes, the show playfully provoked speculation about how (and why) abstract elements can take on tentative character traits, sometimes striking notes of existential dread or whimsical wonder. Taylor’s approach is to arrange objects with particular qualities—the same scale or palette, for example—in clusters, as though he were testing a range of new products, implying the potential for expansive production (and display). In his hands, however, this potential is complicated, as it intersects with other material associations—sometimes spiritual or social, sometimes erotic or ethnic—that compete with each other in ambiguous ways, and that may therefore not directly serve the demands of efficiency and profit. His work courts, yet does not conform to, prevailing cultures of the commodity and the consumer. 

Positioned on opposite ends of the weathered concrete floor, Slab (Green) and Slab (Blue) (all works cited, 2018) came across as retail plinths, household trays, or altars. Roughly rectilinear in form, the white-painted forms seemed to have been painstakingly made with burlap soaked in plaster, and were apparently also available in a range of colors, as the titles indicated. Though they appeared to be supports for products, here they served as bases for handworked, customized curiosities and artifacts: a miniature vase with a dried daisy, a sinuous sculpture resembling a snake or perhaps a snow pea, multihued shimmering eggs, and a bright-white little lump that looked like a stone.

Cut Flower (Lavender Knife) took a different approach to the language of commodities and tools. The piece featured four elements strung together with string: a black ball, a painted wooden knife, a white orb that recalled a Ping-Pong ball, and a black hook. All were hung on the wall in a manner that implied a kind of grammatical interdependence. As propositions or statements, the objects were just connected enough to imply narrative. The weighty black sphere, for instance, was potentially pilfered from a pendulum; freed from its mobile (and rhythmic) context, it dangled there, suspended in a semantic holding pattern that may have been cut short by the not-so-sharp-edged instrument it was tethered to. A viewer may have been surprised to intuit the logic of this game, given its radically reductive elements. And yet this work may still have registered as an appliance with practical or spiritual associations: It could be a storage unit for ritualistic implements or a site for arranging (and editing) thoughts and reminders—a device existing definitively in the realm of the empirically real.   

This process of stringing together disparate shapes and formats of objects matters more to the artist than any static and slick finished product. Taylor appeared to take pleasure in mocking the pretensions of authorial ego, as in works such as Five Eyes: Fastened to the wall, the frieze consisted of five white balls that had each been anointed by the master with a blue thumbprint, and thereby had become painted Taylors, suitable for sale. Taylor’s approach recalls Marcel Broodthaers’s odd and subversive materialism, which similarly mixed measured doses of satire, repetitive accumulation, and a commitment to sculptural experience—as in Pot of Mussels, 1968, which involves a strikingly simple (but never simplistic) combination of shells and a painted (and hence unusable) vessel.

Taylor’s methods encouraged the viewer to slow down and listen to objects, to understand their differences and their relationships to obsolescence—in ways that challenge preconceptions of value, relevance, and worth.