Christian Eckart at Clint Roenisch Gallery (944 Queen West), to December 18. 416-516-8593. Rating: NNNN
You may not think that high renaissance religious painting and the gleaming bodies of low-rider muscle cars have anything in common, but art critic Dave Hickey made the link. He reasoned that lacquer, used exclusively to highlight the body of Christ in Renaissance devotional art, similarly heightens the sacramental body of the Kustom Kar in low-rider culture.
Our objects of devotion may change, he suggested, but our transcendental fervour remains the same.
In Christian Eckart 's fluid aluminum strips with lustrous surfaces of high-wattage car paint, the parallel makes sense.
Bands of bright colour, configured into gently suggestive lingam-yoni shapes, combine organic form with machine-tooled polish, evoking carnal minimalism while taking an un-ironic stab at the sublime.
It's an intriguingly odd attempt to make genuine religious art out of the materials of contemporary culture the Word made shiny, industrial flesh. No coincidence that the artist changed his last name in honour of Meister Eckhart, the famed 13th-century Christian mystic.
Painters like Barnett Newman or Mark Rothko sought transcendence in lofty abstraction. Eckart seems more interested in imparting a spiritual dimension to the profane images and surfaces of mass culture. His three veiled paintings lend a numinous quality to a drag racing accident, a blue-movie still and a skull tattoo. The reflective surface of mirrored steel works pulls us into a Renaissance perspective space.
Some might express scepticism over the possibility of an interesting meeting ground for devotional art, the forms of modernism and our current hyper-profane culture. If the original Meister Eckhart is to be believed, however, the transcendent often appears where it is least expected.