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Toronto
Terence Dick
Laura Kikauka at MKG127 | Kotama Bouabane at Erin Stump Projects
November 11, 2014

He lived on Utopia Parkway in Queens and she lives on the Funny Farm in Meaford, but Joseph Cornell and Laura Kikauka are kindred spirits when it comes to redeeming the mass-produced detritus of the 20th Century (he, the first half; she, the second). Neither of them is cool in the art world sense of the term. Both are outsiders who aren’t as outside as they’d have us believe. Both are obsessive builders and ill at ease in the world, so much so their ongoing creations are generated as defense mechanisms to insulate the artist while also functioning as symbolic and literal tools for dealing with the conundrum of being human (or, at the very least, give us something to do as we wrestle with that very challenge).



Laura Kikauka

Kikauka’s collection of boxes currently on view at MKG127 numbers in the dozens and is nowhere near as anal as Cornell’s. She’s post everything that he was pre, mostly notably Warhol (another inside outsider with an obsessive streak). Her glue-gunned dioramas are populated by the pop culture effluent that lurks in the nether regions of junk stores, thrift shops, and garage sales. It’s easy to mistake the trashy aesthetic born out of an unholy union of John Waters and Martha Stewart as simply camp, but there’s also a sense of wonder and play (and darkness) that comes from a sincere connection to the material, be it stuffed animals, toy violins, or a Mr. Potato Head stripped of all of its features. She’s been mining this territory for long enough, so no one should be questioning her authenticity. This is who she is and how she expresses herself. Once you’re cool with that, you’ll see rubber worms are as effective as cadmium red in painting a picture.



Kotama Bouabane

Kotama Bouabane’s Outdated, Updated, Renovated at Erin Stump Projects could just as well be called Hall of Mirrors or, better yet, Home Show of Mirrors. It’s a photography exhibition that foregrounds the surface of the image over and over again so that any sense of the real – the lie that simplifies every snapshot for our tired eyes – is undercut by artifice both within and without the frame. The standalone photographs depict the loose edges of display surfaces in the real world, either being pulled away or left unfixed, so there’s no central subject, only glimpses into the constructed environment we call home. A long shelf supports an overlapping collection of pictures of surfaces, panes of glass, mirrors reflecting the works on the far wall (not to mention the viewer), and an image of what looks to be the actual shelf you’re looking at pasted in behind everything else. The viewing options proliferate and in doing so defeat any search for a true sightline or unified object.

In the end, or better said, the middle, since there is no end, Bouabane’s exhibition title describes the constantly shifting world of surfaces which our ever present camera-phones are constantly one step away from capturing. We are always too late or not there. This endless deferral is a fundamental truth in photography, if not all representational art. Maybe even all art? That’s too big a question for the time being. Better you make your way down to Dundas and Dufferin, and catch this exhibition before it closes this weekend in order to see what you’ve been missing.


MKG127: http://www.mkg127.com/
Laura Kikauka: What Box? continues to November 15.

Erin Stump Projects: http://erinstumpprojects.com/current-exhibitions
Kotama Bouabane: Outdated, Updated, Renovated continues to November 15.


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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