ILAVSKA: A CELEBRATION OF THE LOST ARTS & CRAFTS OF GRANDMOTHER at Magic Pony (694 Queen West), to March 18. 416-861-1684. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
When Ilavska sneak-premiered at the alternative design smorgasbord Come Up To My Room at the Gladstone Hotel February 23 to 25, it had the all-encompassing feeling of your grandma's living room. Handkerchiefs, embroidered pillows and a stand-in grandma in a rocking chair. It was all there.
At Magic Pony, where the show's continuing, Ilavska's nostalgic qualities are less evident. Instead, the politics of the show have surfaced. Contemporary artists dive into the tradition of grandma's crafts, celebrating cross-stitching, sewing machines and hand-knitting. Alongside these tongue-in-cheek tributes, the show launches a paradoxical social commentary on how we lack appreciation for things truly memorable.
Most of us live in a sleek culture of manufacturing, all of our personal possessions conveniently disposable. Noel Middleton takes a stab at this idea with his hobbit-size grandma figure, Babka, shaped by salvaged wool artefacts. At first glance the figure's fairy-tale posture is menacing, but eventually grandma coziness eclipses fear.
Fashion designer and artist Lydia Klenck's 3-D Sacred Heart argues the textile crafts' ability to challenge technology as a strategy for the arts. An intricately sewn heart is the centre of a flutter of textile techniques.
An unexpected comic moment occurs in Stephen Appleby-Barr's painting First All-Witch Acadian Hockey Team - 1933. It's a mock antique team painting representing the fearlessness of the Acadian witch players.
Ilavska isn't daring. Its strength is its appreciation of the modern artist in conjunction with older sensibilities, a quiet reflection on the parameters of art and design.