After more than a decade reviewing art exhibitions, there are still only a handful of works I’ve ever wanted to buy. It’s partly because I see art most often in public places and that’s where I think it belongs. It’s also because I have a hard time committing to things (says the remaining member of his generation not to have a tattoo). And with some works, like Lili Huston-Herterich’s divine A Curtain for Clint (to funnel the sun), even if I had the money to buy it, I certainly don’t have the wall space. So, until the time comes when my lifestyle increases financially and architecturally, I’ll have to make-do with the private collection of memories I curate in my head.
Lili Huston-Herterich, Men on Vacation, 2017, shirts, jewellery chain, porcelain, copper patina on steel rod
Memory is a perfect segue into We of the Middling Sort, Huston-Herterich’s current exhibition at Zalucky Contemporary. She solicited donations of old clothes from people who live near the gallery and used these remains to refer in a roundabout way to the history of this strange neighbourhood called the Junction (due to the railroad stockyards along its northern border). Some of the worn fabric is used to make photograms (camera-less photographs) that highlight their seams and frayed surfaces. Just as each image is a record of the light passing through the clothing onto the paper, each piece of clothing is a record of the person who once passed through it. And just as the light-sensitive paper relies on empty space - the holes both big and small – to allow the light to land, Huston-Herterich relies on the openings (collars, cuffs, and tears) to indicate the missing people who haunt this story.
To paraphrase Misha Glouberman, the holes are where the people go – or where the people were. Every piece of used clothing is a short history of whoever wore it. A frayed cuff is all that’s left of a lost childhood. A collection of dress shirt collars is all that’s left of years spent at an office. The seams are all that remains when everything is paired away, like the skeleton of a fossilized animal. The photograms resemble x-rays, and the small ceramic lumps hanging from some of the framed works look like bones. They were molded in gloved fists and represent another hole – this one the space within a fist. They could be tiny grenades or little hearts, but they also remind you that unclenching your hand reveals an open palm – changing a symbol of resistance into a gesture of greeting.
Lili Huston-Herterich, Jean Leg, 2017, jeans, jewellery chain, porcelain, copper patina on steel rod
When a piece of clothing is cut, isolated and reassembled, it becomes abstract. Huston-Herterich’s pushes her materials into this zone. Sometimes all that’s left is a faint outline like a rough sketch of an idea. Paired down to threads that link person to object to person, hers is an art of suggestion: lines and shape, light and shadow, but also shirt and fist and impress of living bodies that have worn these things and worn them down. Those particular people are out there somewhere. The donors have come by to visit, according to the gallerist, but they don’t always announce themselves, preferring to remain anonymous instead. Perhaps it has something to do with possessing things: our possessions are only ever temporary, but they remain with us even after they pass through our hands. The experience, more so than the object, is where the meaning lies.
Zalucky Contemporary: http://zaluckycontemporary.com/
Lili Huston-Herterich: We of the Middling Sort continues until March 25.
Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.
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