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Terence Dick
Marla Hlady & Christof Migone and Chloe Lum & Yannick Desranleau at Katzman Contemporary
October 04, 2017

The four artists who collaborated on the current exhibition at Katzman Contemporary could easily be considered a Canadian contemporary art supergroup. Marla Hlady, Christof Migone, Chloë Lum and Yannick Desranleau all have extensive exhibition CVs (as well as, not coincidentally, art practices that extend into the realm of sound). They have come together as the second iteration of Marianne Katzman’s in-house August artist residency (VSVSVS occupied the gallery last year). Like the concept of a supergroup (i.e., a bunch of old rockers who have gathered to try – but usually fail – to create something greater than the sum of their parts), there’s something nostalgic about this year’s result. Standing Under Mis harkens back to a past that isn’t simply historical, but also personal. The former rearward gaze results in a tendency towards art that looks retro, whereas the latter has more to do with how one might have first thought about art and its making at an earlier, more innocent time.

Marla Hlady, Christof Migone, Chloë Lum, Yannick Desranleau, Standing Under Mis, 2017, installation view

I’ve noted this before, but it feels even more evident now, that at a time when the most urgent artistic expressions are coming from those who have been historically marginalized, all that is left for the privileged of the past is to retreat into abstraction and formal play. This isn’t a criticism (though it could be interpreted as one) so much as an observation. Though, if I wanted to get hardcore, a case could be made that it perpetuates the so-called pure/timeless/ahistorical practices of past avant-gardes. Suffice to say, that this work – and Standing Under Mis is a good example of it – is a reflection of that history and an extension of it.

Which means that there’s a lot that’s familiar in the large biomorphic shapes that hang off the gallery walls alongside and in combination with patterned paper, coloured tarps, and splattered combinations of the above. There are references to abjection and the body, and pop art. The sculptural components are shown to be open for recombination in videos where the black clad artists work silently, collaboratively and, one assumes, in an intuitive and improvisational manner. Kinetic works reflect that removal of individual intention with the foregrounding of random results generated from circular daises that rotate throughout the exhibition. There is no greater privilege than the freedom to relinquish authority.

Marla Hlady, Christof Migone, Chloë Lum, Yannick Desranleau, Standing Under Mis, 2017, installation view

Documents of the process of making become works unto themselves as they are incorporated as prints on vinyl that hang in folds off the walls and onto the floor. Image becomes object becomes material becomes art, as if everything is up for grabs in the creative process. Nothing refers to the outside world in this insular collection of creations seemingly generated by the quartet sealing themselves up in the gallery with a bunch of stuff and making what they will of it.

There’s something innocent and exciting about that. Freedom and imagination are great, and play is a wonderful and essential mode of actively interacting with your world. But on a day when the real world seems to be going to shit (currently on my newsfeed: Las Vegas, Catalonia, Myanmar, Puerto Rico, North Korea, etc.), is art like this a necessary escape? A respite? Or is it an evasion? A denial? For those who can afford the luxury, it is the former. But for those who can’t, what else are they going to see here but child’s play?

Marla Hlady & Christof Migone and Chloë Lum & Yannick Desranleau: Standing Under Mis continues until October 28.
Katzman Contemporary:
The gallery is partially accessible.

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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