YAEL BROTMAN at Open Studio Gallery (401 Richmond West, #104), to February 3. 416-504-8238. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
There's something metaphysical about Yael Brotman's room-sized installation, Black And White Seeking Azure, at Open Studio. It could be the way the two wall-sized women's faces scrutinize the heavens for some type of acknowledgement or sign, as if they need to be reassured or approached by something divine and numinous.
The central panel, a neatly delineated rectangle of graded blue, suggests a brief, tantalizing opening onto something transcendent. Blue is the colour of serene infinity and of celestial bodies that are moving toward us. (Galaxies moving away from our our appear red.)
Each profile, made of a grid of individual etchings, is surrounded and punctuated by tiny holes reminiscent of those made by pouncing, the pre-photocopying method of transferring drawings to canvas or plaster.
Overlaid with a faint blue, they join the faces to the central blue panel in an understated way. A fourth panel of copper plates containing brush stokes and fragments used in the rendering of both faces is a testament to the labour-intensive technique of etching, and also serves as a concrete reminder of Brotman's artistic process and the passing of time.
Much installation art is glib, but here the severe and formal set-up contrasts interestingly with the organic, patiently handcrafted textures of the etchings. In fact, this work has a solemn earnestness that might make contemporary art lovers scratch their heads as they look for the subversive punchline. They won't find one here. This is an unusual and thoughtful exercise in print installation.