featuring close to 80 works by 15 contemporary artists from six Latin American countries, Ultrabaroque is the biggest, most flamboyant show of its kind ever to hit T.O.And it does pack a punch. It's as if you've arrived at some ultra-over-the-top fiesta.
There's María Fernanda Cardoso's vertical garden of plastic lilies stuck in the wall, Jamex and Einar de la Torre's decorative blown-glass vaginas and crosses, and Franco Mondini Ruiz's wedding-table assemblage of yellow sponges and dollar-store collectibles -- a hybrid of Portuguese bakery window and traditional ofrenda (altar).
But while the power of Ultrabaroque's initial impact comes from spectacle, the works take us well beyond salsa stereotypes. They're subtly humorous and outrageously disturbing, full of irony, double entendres and a rich iconography derived as much from globalization and pop culture as from Catholic/Indian mythology.
Well designed, the exhibition leads the viewer from culturally specific works like Mexican painter Rubn Ortiz Torres's Bart Sanchez through to fellow Mexican Yishai Judisman's sad, beautifully rendered portraits of psychiatric patients.
This is not art made for gringos. But for anyone who's spent time in Latin America's cities, Miguel Calderón's photographs of beige-uniformed cleaners posed with their brooms, a la Velásquez, on a museum rooftop, will hit the nostalgia nerve.
If there's a common thread, it's the abundance of traditional forms gone awry -- Mayer Vaisman's "dressed" stuffed turkeys come to mind -- and art that challenges our notions of what's authentic.
ultrabaroque: aspects of post-latin american art at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West), to April 28. 416-979-6648. Rating: NNNN