Chris Curreri’s recent exhibition, Unruly Matter, at Daniel Faria Gallery embraces the symbiosis between image making and clay sculpting. As the title suggests, chaos reigns supreme as dark indeterminate clay forms bend and coil, creating an almost orgiastic first impression. The show centers around Sixes and Sevens, a series of twisted ceramics that, at first glance, appear wet and “fresh”. Standing on five plinths at hip height, it becomes quickly evident that these warped structures are not freshly wet at all, but rather glazed and fired in a desire to embrace the clay’s inherent unpredictabilities. Speaking to the material’s intrinsic malleability, the clay sculptures resemble deflated bowls or vessels that appear undone as if frozen in motion – a constant state of stasis. The series is also reminiscent of the satisfaction of post-coital rest, of exhausted penises and spent nights. Deflated and unrealized, these suggestive and intimate forms build on the idea that things in the world are not defined by essential properties, but rather by our relationships and interactions with them.
Kiss Portfolio, a series of eight framed black-and-white extreme close-up photographs are dispersed around the perimeter of the exhibition space – capturing the act of two men kissing in time. The images, intended to disorient, tempt the viewer to see “an asshole” or the spreading of labia, ultimately unhinging photography’s inherent connection to the real. Both confusing and arousing, the series leaves the viewer to encounter the work through varying lens, emotional associations and lived experiences. Kiss Portfolio is followed by Seem, an inverted photograph of a couple’s face. Eyes peering out in a strong mutual gaze, the shadow of the brows and the concavity of the lovers intertwined produce the shape of a heart that speaks to contemporary theories of love and desire.
Tucked away in the back gallery is Curreri’s final photograph, Lifecast – a lone image of a plaster cast of a young boy with a large neck tumor cradled by two white-gloved clad hands. This image is striking, and you are at once confronted with conflicting pain and pleasure. You are acutely aware of the swell of emotions running deep within you as you gaze onto the young boy and his pained expression. The tumor almost acts as a well, a repository for your conflicting feelings as you move through the final exhibition space. Perhaps the most heartbreaking is the gentle touch of the gloved hands as it cradles the young boy’s head. Eyes closed, the pained figure leans into the embrace of the supporting palm revealing a tender moment that is both peaceful and ominous.
Chris Curreri’s Unruly Matter excites and delivers through the artist’s poetic investigation of form and material. Strange abstract visual forms assume an unexpected autonomy and form a fluid space where meaning becomes contingent on encounters and relationships. Dislocated from their original contexts, Curreri forms a deeply erotic aesthetic system, making explicit questions of material control and instability; of sexed bodies and the unbinding potential of queer sexualities to produce new ways of looking and seeing.
*Exhibition information: May 5 – June 10, 2017, Daniel Faria Gallery, 188 St. Helen’s Avenue, Toronto. Gallery Hours: Tue – Fri, 11 – 6; Sat, 10 – 6 pm.