ROSS BONFANTI at Xexe Gallery (624 Richmond West), to April 28. 416-646-2706. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Torontonian Ross Bonfanti's cur rent solo show at Xexe Gallery is a herd of 40 "concreatures" - bear, penguin, panda, moose and rabbit teddies cast in concrete and incorporating parts of discarded plush toys found in thrift stores or trash.
My immediate response is puzzled amusement at the dead stares of this teddy squad. Their postures are a bit like snapshots of breakdancers - static seriousness and dynamic joy at the same time. Some are petrified in impossible physical positions, doing spins and helicopter moves on heads or shoulders.
While one of their intrinsic qualities is humour, the plush fur sticking through their concrete skins is a remnant of the previous lives of these teddies, and creates a scary undertone. It's a classic recipe for startling moments: the juxtaposition of hard and soft, funny and frightening.
This is all clever enough, although a smidgeon too deliberate to be truly ingenious.
The idea is perfectly legitimate - Bonfanti mixes surprise, joy and a pinch of fear - but once you've scratched this surface, no other emotions reveal themselves.
Inspired by the same principle, cartoon-style paintings of adult bodies in work clothes support distorted concrete baby heads. While humorously naive, these images deliver a critical commentary on bling-bling and iPod culture.
In Concreatures, what you see is what you get. There's no mysterious code waiting to be deciphered. Still, the work is honest and quite funny.