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Kim Neudorf
No Boys With Frogs at DNA Artspace
December 10, 2013

The latest exhibition space to open up in London, DNA Artspace is a privately owned gallery run by Allison and Damir Matic, partially modeled after spaces such as Toronto's Scrap Metal Gallery, and interested in connecting the public with pockets of London's art scene through various collaborations and art-related events. Before their official opening in the spring of 2014, the Matics wanted to introduce DNA to London by asking thirty-six local artists to respond to its three-story, pre-renovated space for an inaugural exhibition.

Parker Branch, búr, 2013 (photo: Brad Isaacs)

Previously occupied by Fodemesi Shoes, the site is currently a partially gutted series of carpet-covered display floors, concrete expanses, and cavernous storerooms that are heavily tempered by the sagging, weathered ghosts of a decayed 1980s interior. Several artists claim a space with confident sprawl (Kim Moodie's drawings upon drawings), territorial abandon (Jason McLean's endless wall of personal items and collections), or preferences for escaping the surrounding space outright (Wyn Geleynse's wry projected video Guilt). Other artists prefer tactics of mimicry and co-authorship, such as Kelly Jazvac's Optimist (with Portrait of a Former Pessimist), wherein a "faux textile" wallpaper pattern on the main floor is both imitated and paid homage to in a small framed watercolor. Kyla Brown's Place Markers follows the logic of stains, cracks, and halos left in the concrete by now absent equipment with delicate islands of painted color. In Tegan Moore's Cracked cracked ice with relative visibility, light diffuser panels insinuate themselves into the ceiling. In this context, they imitate the growth of large water stains, but their materiality – simultaneously like ice, lace, crust, and sugar – encourages the colonization of matter-of-fact hosts of material equally as camouflaged. Conversing with the basement's partially carpeted rumpus room vibe, Maryse Larivière's soft felt painting with fringe hung across from a suspended pink pool noodle with red chain and wind chime combine the easy attitude of romantic lyrics with the melancholy grey of felt and the fleeting cheeriness of iridescence and neon foam.

Amidst crammed and competing installations in the upstairs space are much needed zones which distinguish themselves from the sprawl in other ways, such as the collaborative sound work by Giles Whitaker and Chris Myhr called Clamour. In a drab kitchen space, noise from every direction (spewing out of the doorway, across the floor, within the walls, out of cupboards, and beneath the ceiling tiles) accompanies startling bursts of energy from kitchen equipment seemingly operating on its own. Water boils, a blender revs, coffee grinds, and a cacophony of sounds in the key of kitchen behaves like an active volcano. Quite opposite in tone is an installation by Parker Branch called búr found in a room of wall-to-wall shelving which, now empty, is reminiscent of the sleeping quarters of an eerie, unearthed bunker. Four blue containers (encrusted as if freshly extracted from a deep freeze) stamped with numbers and the words "Windsor Salt" sit upon a dark animal pelt in the middle of an enormous wooden table. A helpful exhibition guide explains that this work links the room's former use as a "leather room" to "the story of Au∂umbla, the primeval cow of Norse mythology, said to have given form to Búri, grandfather of Odin, by licking blocks of salty ice."

Other artists respond to the temporary state of DNA's space with various degrees of success and invention, but mentioning each is beyond the space and length of this singular review. As an introduction to and partial survey of a moderately large number of London's practicing artists, No Boys with Frogs, as the exhibition is titled, is just that. I would recommend more than one visit as several works are easy to miss, such as a collaborative piece by Brad Isaacs and Kelly O'Dette just past the entranceway. Looking for the source of a distinct pine scent, bird sounds, and the generic ring of a cell phone, visitors enter into a completely dark zone at the bottom of a stairwell. Surrounded by vegetation, a path or tunnel, which at first appears free, is blocked. Feeling and listening for the source of other sounds – wet munching, flapping, power tools, a cat's meows – is a fun (or frightening) experience depending upon your temperament. A glowing red exit sign tries to draw visitors back into a more comfortable orientation, but I prefer spending time in these spaces that, seemingly held at bay, bite back.

DNA Artspace:
No Boys with Frogs continues until December 15.

Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta, including the Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Stride Gallery, and Skew Gallery in Calgary. She has contributed writing to FFWD,, Prairie Artsters, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Stride Gallery, Truck Gallery, and most recently Susan Hobbs Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.



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