Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky at Pari Nadimi Gallery (254 Niagara), to October 15. 416-591-6464. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
By placing non-monumental monuments and arcane references to the year 1977 inside the Pari Nadimi Gallery, Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky have composed an eerie fugue on permanence, matter and mortality. Mostly using symbolic transitional artifacts like wedding bells, disco balls and hearses, the two UBC fine arts graduates, who've forged a collaborative relationship over the last few years, concoct an environment that is both monotone and ambivalent almost to the point of neutrality, yet still shows keen thought and a unified ethos.
The six works are set minimally through the space like stark pieces of evidence. A disco ball, signifier of glittery, carefree excess, has been covered with black felt, snuffing out its mirrored surface and turning it into a light-absorbing neutron star or an old-school anarchist bomb.
Next to it is an equally ominous Darth Vader helmet, totem of pure negation and death. Later in the show, both objects reappear in giant photographic prints, the helmet transmogrified into a wedding bell and the disco ball brilliantly mirrored but named "Death Star."
They seem to be pointing to 1977, the year of the release of Star Wars and of disco's popper-fuelled peak, referring to their impact on childhood landmarks and youthful rites of passage.
In front of these photographs are the two sculptures that make the show: two giant hearses cast and reconstituted in black photographic backdrop paper.
Monumental in scope yet too fragile to be touched, they're oblong heaps recognizable only by the shape of their front-end grilles. Because of their visual weight, they resemble failed sculptural casts, but they eschew all monumentality. They retain the right level of low-grade radioactive threat, setting the whole show's ominous tone.
Through their juxtaposition of light-absorbing and mirrored surfaces and their evocation of cultural clichés spliced with signifiers of death and union, the artists spin a web of statements and negations that follows you out of the gallery.