FLEETING FACE at A Space Gallery (401 Richmond West, suite 110), to July 21. 416-979-9633. Rating: NNNN
A Space Gallery presents Fleeting Face, a small group show of emerging Canadian artists addressing issues of ethnic and racial identity.
Dominating the show is Sandra Brewster's powerful Cool Pose series, large charcoal portraits of black faces, each paired with a drawing of the same head wearing what appears to be an African mask. Which is the real mask? she asks: her subjects' faces remain warily neutral, while the swollen eyes and downturned mouths of the masks seem to express their grief, pain and anger.
Ceramic tiles, each bearing an image of a person lifted from an Asian newspaper on a yellowish old-newsprint-coloured background, make up Ritian Lee's Fashion Series. One wall is a mosaic of crisp photos of brides and businessmen, while a small arrangement of faces torn in transfer suggests the trauma of displacement.
Paper cutting, a folk craft in China and elsewhere, gets mixed up with pop culture and media imagery in Joyce Lau's Cut-Outs. Iconic photos from the Vietnam War and the faces of Anne Frank and Aileen Wuornos appear in black, cut into a background of tacky printed giftwrap.
The passport, as used by Erika DeFreitas and Shiva Shoeybi, may be a bit obvious as a symbol of identity (though it's interesting to note in Shoeybi's fading Iranian and Canadian passports that her Iranian document contains her father's name as well as her own).
The black hijab worn by Iranian women, however, has a deeper resonance. Fariba Samsami's photo booth takes a picture of your face and produces a print of you wearing this garment, a potent demonstration of how a religious and cultural artifact can erase personal identity.