Thursday, June 19, 2008

Virulent, McLeod Building, Curated by Ania Sleczkowska, June 12 - 26, 2008

Presented by Art and Life, and featuring works by Sandra Bromley, Catherine Burgess along with Zimbawean sculptures from Mark Kumleben's collection, Virulent proves to be true in the exhibition's title, culling an infectious power over its viewers. The pairing of Bromley and Burgess, who collaborated on the Big Rock sculpture just down the street on Rice Howard Way, along with large stone-based sculptures perched on top of natural trunks, Virulent presents an sobering holistic feeling inside of this forgotten historical storefront.

Carefully guiding the viewer first to a piece by Bromley, who continues to persevere as a globally active social artist, the face and body of a living individual is transfer ed onto a scorched door and frame, just barely separating you from objects of media and entertainment, the source many of us receive our global information from. Haunting in its conception, the work faces Burgess's "Forgive," an elegy perhaps on the dance surrounding the basic necessity of water, as a spiraling bronze tube arching from a colonial era water jug and pedestal streams into a gathering wash basin on the floor. As you move down through the room, with its aged marble floors, 20 ft ceilings and original crown mouldings, sculptures from the private collection of Kumleben, a doctor based in Africa, stand perched in a half-enclosed formation. Grand in conception and formally symbolic, one piece in particular, "Pregnant Lady," emanates a conceptual elegance through its glistening serpentine stone that is darker than night and yet radiates a glow from within.

Burgess' "Have" continues her use of space and dimension that creates a liminality with the simple frame of wrought iron. A round empty basin pot mirrors its antithesis, a void sinking in or growing out from the ground, and you can only wonder if leaping into one you will come out the other. Standing guard along the back are key pieces from Bromely's "Collosi" series, saved and imported from gardens in England, the core of great oak trees have been hollowed, and the trunks re-configured and consequently re-born.

With stellar works exhibiting alongside each other, the most impressive part of this entire exhibit was still the space. With plenty of natural light in the form of a skylight and east facing front, their use of floor based spot lights added to a haunting intimacy. The McLeod, formerly a Vespa shop, soon a hair salon, was the grandest art space for the shortest period of time. Lasting just two weeks, it breaks my heart to see people walk by on the street level, and to know that this place will soon be yet another inclusive high end low pedestrian business. Located directly from the front entrance of the Westin, near the central public library, art district, City Hall, public transportation, and the general downtown business and shopping corridor, with so much potential revealed through this exhibition, the McLeod would have made the perfect artist-run-centre that never was. As smaller galleries and art spaces continued to be pushed out and away from the general public, let's not forget the importance of aesthetics and history when we talk about the need for space.

Image credit: W. Rydz, 2008

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