KITSCHY, GAY, AND OVER IN A SECOND at Magic Pony (694 Queen West), to October 26. 416-861-1684. Rating: NNN
I'm seeing a trend: art that resembles charged fantasies from a teenager's notebook or otherwise wallows in the weirdness of childhood and adolescence.
Contributing a queer quality to this aesthetic is Team Macho, five guys - Nicholas Aoki, G. Stephen Appleby-Barr, Christopher Buchan, Lauchie Reid and Jacob Whibley - who collaborate and share a Toronto studio. Their small works, ranging from postcard to tabloid size, hang close together in Magic Pony's backroom gallery. A thick coating of clear resin adds a cheesy, basement-rec-room sheen to many of the pieces.
Several team members are illustrators. and though they don't take credit for the artworks, you can separate out certain hands and themes.
Intentionally poorly rendered sci-fi babes pose before van-painting-style airbrushed galaxies; picture-plane-filling collages incorporate assorted pop culture imagery; deadpan, realistic, sometimes homoerotic paintings depict youthful athletes in situations that often turn bloody (the work of Appleby-Barr, judging by his magazine illustrations); a ghost gets collaged into thrift-shop landscapes; Asian subjects like Chairman Mao with bats are delicately painted. Whiskeyboots, a recurring character with a blobby, angry face that makes me want to call the art therapist, pops up frequently.
Like Japanese art that plays with kawaii (cuteness) or the child's-nightmare world of Marcel Dzama, the work of Team Macho is hip and fun. I appreciate that it's affordable and that Magic Pony's stock of mass-produced artists' toys, postcards and graphic novels is accessible to those who can't invest in one-off art. But in a store full of this stuff, Team Macho's oeuvre can feel like an irony overdose in an ironic candy shop.
Takashi Murakami explains his nation's kawaii obsession by claiming that the atomic bomb infantalized Japanese culture. What's everyone else's excuse?