Two important young curators bring two important shows to Toronto that feature a pack of important young artists. Paul Butler , a busy Winnipeg-based artist who has made a name through his own work and his collage parties, also finds time to assemble shows in other parts of Canada by means of his Web-based gallery, othergallery.com.
In his Another Other show, currently on at Gallery Neubacher , he brings a group of young Winnipeg artists to town.
Everything on display follows in the slipstream of the Royal Art Lodge , the 'Peg-based collective that has achieved international success (and recently a Power Plant show) with its cut-and-paste works and "You know my name is Simon"-style drawings. It's naive and whimsical stuff that's a lot of fun.
Adrian Williams , a founding member of the Art Lodge, sets the bar with a series of storyboards depicting simple tales with collaged characters. Other strong works follow Williams's, but the show is a bit uneven, revealing cracks in the sheen of the Winnipeg scene.
Over at Virus Arts , Olivier Fuller has cobbled together a very tight and impressive show. Don't be frightened of the big words in the title - it's really just about artists taking everyday ideas and stuff and recycling them in creative and thought-provoking ways.
You'll miss the first work before you even enter the gallery. Derek Barnett has placed a series of dots on the windows, simply giving an existing art idea his own spin, like a DJ sampling another's song.
Luis Jacob 's Superscotianova welcomes you just inside the door. It's a cube containing slats of clear acrylic; Jacob has bored holes into the panes to mimic the footprint of the Scotia Tower, Toronto's tallest skyscraper. The holes seem like bubbles floating in space, the building's shape remaining eerily visible from any angle.
A steel bar protects Jacob's piece from Christian Giroux's and Daniel Young's huge steel-and-rubber globe. The object, which can be entered and rolled by gallery visitors, looks like the Ontario Place dome and behaves like a spherical bike tire.
Wolfgang Berkowski 's work is very formal. A small wall swings free from the gallery wall ,while two series of line drawings mounted beside it seem to act as planning sketches for the object and its range of motion.
Three Vancouver artists play with the whole phenomenon of exhibiting artwork. David Carter creates a pile of blueprints, each a copy of the last, and then shrink-wraps them so you can only see the drawing on top - you must trust the artist that the work is what he says it is.
Brandon Thiessen has made a shipping box that contains six identical paintings of a car jack. The work is unpacked and all the foam and the box are part of the piece.
Robert Arndt sees no point in having a show at all. His exhibitions appear to have existed through forged documentation but in fact have never taken place. As he says in a displayed letter to Fuller, "You could just describe the show and have no show. I think everyone would understand."
Ken Ogawa has re-purposed various off-the-shelf items to make some sort of weird torture device. When you pull at the shackles, a commercial hairdryer emits light, sound and the smell of tea. It's a bit off-putting to look at, but quite fun.
Another work that appears unapproachable at first is Daniel Borins 's and Jennifer Marman 's Presence Meter. The huge 8-by-10-foot white wall-supported work looks like the sort of minimalism that can trigger fear and/or rage in gallery-goers. However, far from arrogant, this piece is actually responsive and welcoming. As you approach, the indicator arrows on hundreds of small meters begin to waggle back and forth. The closer you get, the more animated the installation becomes, like a happy puppy.
And that, for certain, is the first time minimalism has been compared to a cute, cuddly dog - one of a dozen reasons why this show is so damn good.
Prefabricating Postproduction at Virus Arts (624 Richmond West) to July 16. 416-203-3577. Rating: NNNNN
Another Other at Gallery Neubacher (81 St. Nicholas) to July 19. 416-963-5138. Rating: NNN