MOBILE HOMES at A Space Gallery (401 Richmond West, #110), to February 9. 416-979-9633. Rating: NN Rating: NN
The Mobile Homes exhibit at a Space Gallery raises a fundamental question about art practice.
What is successful art? Artist Craig Leonard's exhibit is boring in an intriguing way. It's based on his odyssey to Newfoundland, where he dug up documentation of the government-administered resettlement of fishing communities between 1954 and 1972. The show presents his findings: photos from private collections showing two-storey homes being towed across water by small fishing boats, an impressive Esso map describing the prior location of hundreds of communities, and samples of statistical data about the resettlement.
Leonard ads his own documentary video about the intricacies of towing homes through the sea and his unofficial Maritime History Archive uniform, an ironic Beastie Boys-style training jacket.
Problem is, it's barely art - if, that is, you conceive of art as something that challenges and provokes or touches on elusive emotions.
The antique photos tell the first few lines of a touching story of mass migration in Canada. But the artist breaks off from this potential drama, keeping the show mundane by presenting stale statistics. The exhibit lets its own theme down by its reluctance to explore and lack of emotion.
Can a few photographs and photocopied map of Newfoundland be art? Sure, if they channel new thoughts in strong ways.
None of this can be said of Mobile Homes.