>>> Animal instinct

Liz Magor evokes a fragile material world


LIZ MAGOR at Susan Hobbs (137 Tecumseth), to December 5. 416-504-3699. Rating: NNNN


Liz Magor, who won the Iskowitz Prize last year, is a Vancouver-based sculptor specializing in the subtle drama of the abject and the ordinary. Casting perishable everyday objects made from paper, fibre and cloth in resin, she lends an eerie sense of permanence to things we use and discard.

This show at Susan Hobbs is a more intimate counterpoint to her concurrent prizewinner’s exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario (running to November 29). In the series here she skilfully contrasts resin-cast cardboard boxes with taxidermied songbirds from a turn-of-the-century ornithology collection and resin casts of toy stuffed animals.

The formal visual rhetoric is precise: each animal lies on a cast-resin “cardboard” box like a strange ornament. We’re used to formal mounting for taxidermy here birds lie as if newly un-packaged, sometimes atop another object like a gardening glove or wrapped in translucent cellophane. 

Her cast puppies and piglets engender the same brand of uneasiness. The coy and the cutesy are eerily preserved (the resinous fur of one puppy verges on eeky) but retain just enough of their vulnerability to make their positioning on the boxes that much more intriguing. 

Such juxtapositions leave us unsure if we’re witnessing a process or have just happened on the clutter left by an obsessive collector. Hoarding and the ongoing messes we create are a constant theme in Magor’s sculpture. 

But the precise staging belies any neglect. Magor is creating a dialogue between each animal and its supporting box, oftentimes using another discarded object as the intermediary. 

Most interesting in this age of shiny, emotion-resistant sculpture is Magor’s use of small scale and palpable effect. In these small, almost tender cosmologies of objects, she evokes the fragility of the material world as well as its susceptibility to the passage of time.

art@nowtoronto.com

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