Clint Neufeld pairs mechanical engineering with antique decor in One Yellow Rose.
CLINT NEUFELD at General Hardware Contemporary (1520 Queen West), an offsite show of the Koffler Gallery, to March 2. 416-821-3060. See listings. Rating: NNNN
Burly workhorses step into the parlour for tea in The Pipe Dreams Of Madame Récamier, Saskatchewan artist Clint Neufeld's first Toronto solo show, curated by the Koffler Gallery's Monica Filip.
Neufeld, a farm boy who tried the Canadian Forces and firefighting before turning to art, makes casts of machine parts. The objects of his affection include engines, transmissions and axles from pre-fuel-injection-era vehicles, as well as tools and heavy equipment.
These utilitarian forms beloved of gearheads and garage tinkerers are not usually thought of as beautiful by the rest of us. The workaday originals would be covered in grease, but Neufeld civilizes them by glazing his ceramic versions with shiny dinner-service colours - white, green, turquoise - and adding occasional sprigs of floral ornament.
He then sets them out on pieces of Victorian-style furniture, pairing old-school mechanical engineering with antique decor to unite the masculine and feminine spheres of rural life. In their shiny ceramic incarnations, the agglomerations of pipes, lugs and nozzles take on new personalities as they rest on upholstered seats like visitors on their best behaviour or stand in for proudly displayed household knick-knacks.
In the entrance, Are You My Mother is the one work cast in wax, the scoop of an excavation shovel sitting like a strange maw on a chaise below a chandelier, while shelves of ceramic replicas of its extracted teeth line the wall. An assortment of furniture-mounted pieces turn the spacious back gallery into a peculiar parlour where you're a guest at an unusual party.
The three light boxes with images laser-cut into black vinyl - a chandelier, Trans-Am and peacock - that hang in the basement probably wouldn't stand on their own, but offer a commentary on the mix of retro aesthetics at work in the show.
At once playful, nostalgic, gender-bending and surreal, Neufeld's work stays with you after you leave the gallery.