Rebecca Anweiller at Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects (1080 Queen West), to February 11. 416- 537-8827. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
It was only 40 years ago that science was the new religion, gender and sexuality were sharply codified, and queers were almost invisible on the big screen.
Rebecca Anweiller 's show of paintings cannily addresses this era and its aftermath, contrasting flora and fauna from 60s encyclopedias, couples from the classic big screen and images of lesbian intimacy. Some of this content still requires a warning sign on the gallery door.
Anweiller plays cannily with the double standards of mass cultural and scientific representation. Painted in a flat, neo-realist style reminiscent of Mark Tansey, each work groups several small paintings together, showing a deft use of subtext and a sly sense of humour. In Nature Lover, she contrasts images of orchid pollination, animals, a seascape, lesbian sex and a black-and-white still of Johnny Weismuller's Tarzan with his Jane.
Concealed anomalies in the overly perfect nature and film images become apparent when contrasted with raw snapshots of intimacy, always painted in lush monochromatic reds.
Anweiller's animals are stiffly unnatural, closer to taxidermies, suggesting a nature strained under a rigid, hierarchical taxonomy. Her classic movie stills of broad-shouldered leading men and vulnerable heroines play it straight, masking the Hollywood Babylon that had been in full swing since the 30s.
It would be too simple to say that these groupings are an attempt at political subversion, with intimacy winning out over repressive cultural artifice. Though that can be easily read into her work, she is also expressing a love for the aesthetics of the 60s and the great screen classics.
It's always interesting to contrast our private experiences of nature and sexuality with the way they are portrayed for us by the culture as a whole.