Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kristi Malakoff, Blazzamo, Latitude 53, until Nov 13*

Image credit: Kristi Malakoff, Polyhedra Series.
Running the length of the North wall in the main exhibition space of Latitude 53, Kristi Malakoff's "Swarm" explodes as a material intervention against the flatness of the gallery walls. Meticulously hand-placing 6000 colour-transparency butterflies of all different shapes and makes, the illusion of "Swarm" supersedes a simple colour arch or a heightened interest in lepidoptery; the sensation one gets when walking along "Swarm" is that of an erasure of the gallery boundaries, outlined by each butterfly frozen in mid-motion, lining door frames, baseboards, heat ducts and roof beams in its own line of motion.

As an artist with a very visible mathematics background, Nelson-based Malakoff time and time again impresses viewers with her astounding sense of detail. Her hand is visible in everything, from the adhesion and placement of each acrylic peg in "Moon Dog" to the surgical cuts made to foreign stamps to enliven them into narrative spectacles.

Her "Polyhedra Series" comes from a line of works she made using foreign currency, folding and re-valuing these pieces of paper money into a new value and purpose. There is also a conscious naiveté going on in taking currency from all corners of the world, from Bolivia to Zambia and folding them into exact symmetrical shapes that intersect and build new meanings together. There is a leveling of arbitrary values into equally arbitrary shapes and symbols, but one that engages in a completely new assemblage of meaning, free of exchange values and limits.

Some of her newer works in Blazzamo include the "Untitled (Fruit Loop Tower)" which stands at eight feet in height, a circular structure made entirely of glued fruit loops. One forgets how fragile cereal could be in looking at this construction, and while the design was inspired by the texture of Islamic architecture, its looming rainbow spiral could easily fit into all sorts of imaginations. One could only wish to walk all the way around the tower, which perhaps for logistical reasons, was sectioned off against a wall.

Image credit: Kristi Malakoff, Detail from Stardust
Anchoring the room against "Swarm" on the opposing wall is "Stardust," which renders the demolished Stardust sign off of the Las Vegas Strip hotel of the same name. Malakoff re-envisions the faded bright lights in colourful tissue paper and backlit, but to anyone familiar with the original iconic neon sign, the use of negative space is rather complicated. The majority of bright graphics have been mounted onto dozens of individually precut MDF to give space between each star, which are then individually attached to float off the wall. While the neon sign uses light and darkness to contrast each graphic, here the demarcation of graphic is weighed down by the material as object rather than subject.

Working on a similar piece during a recent Moscow residency that takes on a similar fascination with garish text in re-creating Russian graffiti using crepe paper, Malakoff there appears to have adhered each tissue directly to the wall, or to have at least achieved that illusion in its documentation. The difference, besides one being far more precious and time laborious in site specificity, is the illusion of the graphic subject being transferable between mediums, which is one of her most appealing traits as an artist who uses everyday objects and commands us to see them anew. Malakoff's greatest power as an artist is her ability to move us beyond the limitations of the gallery walls through her evocative transformations, blasting our spatial logic through a sense of retinal wonder and exactitude.

Artist talk on Saturday, November 13 at Latitude 53, 2 p.m.

*First published in Vue Weekly

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