DANIEL OLSON at YYZ Artists' Outlet (401 Richmond West, suite 140) to December 17. 416-598-4546. Rating: NNN
Scalpel-sharp artist Daniel Olson 's video series Distinct Means, in his show Diamond In The Rough, loops 24 distinct but related videos from the past four years.
Projected large onto the wall, they include cuts from old movies, simple fixed-frame performance-type pieces and a few with scrolling text. Often encompassing a single action or event, they run from around 10 seconds to 10 minutes.
All have their strengths, but some need repeating to melt their opacity. A clip of Gary Cooper from the cowboy flick High Noon goes by faster than one of his bullets, but you have to wait 90 minutes to see it again.
Crowd pleaser Sad Eyed Lady is set to the Dylan song Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands. A man's motionless head is shot from the back as he smokes under an old framed picture of a woman. As the sweet tribute plays, he exhales gorgeously drifting, incandescent tendrils of smoke like ghostly memories of the woman. The frame fills with smoke that dissipates as Dylan winds down.
The body becomes central in the hilarious, less cerebral pieces, such as Elephantile, in which a close-up of Olson's crotch with a plastic elephant trunk on his penis is accompanied by the artist breathlessly trumpeting on a party horn.
In a more self-conscious mood, In Memoriam features the slowly fading words "Daniel Olson (1955-)" as a sunset-pink cloud drifts offscreen.
It's a shame that few people who go will get a glimpse of them all. If these videos could be viewed simultaneously and repeatedly allowing the rich references to flow between them their significance would open up both individually and as a body of work. Watching them sequentially holds no special meaning besides pointing out how uncomfortable folding plastic chairs can get.
Viewed this way, the whole becomes unfortunately less than sum of its excellent parts.