Mitch Robertson at the Koffler Gallery (4588 Bathurst), to September 26. 416-636-1880 ext 268. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Mitch Robertson is running a souvenir factory. For S&P 100, he's divided the Koffler Gallery into a factory, office and souvenir shop, letting visitors watch as he manufactures row upon row of cute-as-a-button gypsum figurines.
Handsomely cast from kitschy vintage salt and pepper shakers, each pair represents a different nationality and sells for 30 bucks. For $300, you can get the full set of 13 pairs.
Robertson has a reputation as a young upstart conceptualist. He's sold plaster casts of his wallet as Mitch Souvenirs, made his own deck of local Art Star trading cards, even converted a mobile home into a Mitch Hall Of Fame, which he parked in front of museums across the country.
He's pulled the sort of punchy self-promotional stunts expected of an artist who's provocatively aware of art as product (or by-product). Unlike a few other artists in this ruthlessly self-promotional era, however, his work is adroit and playfully well observed.
There's nothing groundbreaking in Robertson's send-up of art as industrial commodity, his critique of national stereotypes or his nose-thumbing at crass globalization.
But the exhibit does show how our current concept of the "real" has less to do with authentic experience than with our fantasies of the ultimate travel destination. How many of us haven't dreamt of seeing the "real" Mexico?
The office installation, with its cubicles, lockers and lunch tables surrounded by vintage tourist postcards and digital watercolours, left me disoriented and wondering. Was I intruding on community-centre workspace or was I sitting on art?
I'll also be more thoughtful the next time I hit a souvenir stand.