Excess to the max

Baroque show is that and more

MISLED BY NATURE: CONTEMPORARY ART AND THE BAROQUE at MOCCA (Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, 952 Queen West), to April 6. 416-395-0067. Rating: NNNN

This entertaining, eye-popping show brings together six artists who believe that more is more. The concept of the curators from the National Gallery and the Art Gallery of Alberta is that these artworks channel aspects of the baroque: a love of theatricality, accumulation, excess and extreme emotions.

Canadians contribute two big, immersive installations: Tricia Middleton’s expanded igloo-like structure made mostly of pastel-coloured, translucent squares of wax is a fragrant, girlish wonder, at once fragile and sheltering. David Altmejd places the decaying body and exposed internal organs of a hairy white giant on a platform landscaped with trees and crystalline mirrored structures, combining assorted forms of artifice – movie prosthetics, retail decor, cabinet-of-curiosity specimens – into a creepy yet pleasing whole.

A shimmering, chandelier-like fantasy island made of twisted metal festooned with chains and other costume jewellery components by Korea’s Lee Bul supposedly comments on the trade in cheaply made Asian export products but mostly functions as a dramatic piece of extreme bling.

Found materials also inform the painterly practices of Mark Bradford and Bharti Kher. Bradford builds up surfaces from multiple layers of street posters he collects in Los Angeles, here adding a basketball “globe” and hair extensions to his interpretation of an old map of trade routes to Africa. On a large panel, India’s Kher creates a pulsating cosmos made entirely of bindis, the tiny forehead dots forming swirling, exploding patterns.

Britain’s Yinka Shonibare wittily sends up Western colonialism by staging scenes from European paintings – here a Constable – with headless, racially ambiguous, life-sized mannequins dressed in period costumes sewn from Dutch Wax textiles made for the African market.

Though not everything here has a clear connection to 17th-century art or plays with ideas of nature, that shouldn’t interfere with enjoying the show’s glittery, colourful aesthetic.


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