Niall McClelland at Clint Roenisch Gallery

Hot Takes, No Sax doesn’t want your devil’s advocate argument. The show greets you with a piece by McClelland that is unlike the rest. A stained canvas loosely coated with what seems like stucco resembling a crumbling wall taken on by an angsty teenager with spray paint. It reads, ‘TOURIST GO HOME.’

The works further into the show are quite aesthetically different but absolutely related. Pieces that feature metal poster frames like the ones seen in movie theatres are especially nostalgic, each with the key attached and hanging from it, a metal chain reminiscent of one worn by a teenager working part-time at the movie theatre. Retro horror movies like ‘Chucky’ and ‘An American Werewolf in London’ are covered with Metal and Rock n’ Roll band stickers. Nowadays, you learn more about a person through their internet history than you do through talking to them, and this is no different. This is not just pop art, these stickers are worn like a badge, collected and curated to distinguish and connect. How else were you to find your tribe?

These stickers permeate the exhibit, reminiscent of long road trips through the American mid-west and rural country, it reads like a biography of an adolescent growing up and through their beliefs and ideologies. The yearning to resolve the various deep issues that influence towns of people, solutions discussed in bars, living rooms and studios. There is a relic aspect attached here, at first everything seems very 90’s but the show is relatable through at least three recent generations. Pop culture reflecting dissatisfaction and angst with the capitalist machine leaves deep-rooted populations sort of powerless. Certain pieces remind one of protests that have come and passed, juxtaposed with references to issues and conversations happening today and although at first it comes off subtle and fun, these issues are realities for people.

Driving through canyon country, red dirt, static on the radio, bumper stickers on the backs of trucks and family cars connecting people through statements that signal a certain hometown pride and rock n’ roll mentality.

The gallery space is broken in two by the line-up of aluminum touring crates running down the middle like a single highway cutting down the rural country, hundreds of miles long. All are covered with band and bumper stickers seemingly collected along the way. Standing on ether end of this line-up will give you a familiar one-point perspective of this single highway. Especially exciting, considering this would be the perfect road for drag racing the 60s/70s American muscle car represented in the screen frames on the wall.

One screen shows Sharon Tate, with references to the Manson Family and ‘Healter Skelter’ is especially touching. The screen is propped away from the wall by a single red apple. The bumper stickers on the side quietly read, ‘Eve was Framed’ and ‘Women’s equality is economic equality.’ Fights lost to corruption, a yearning for political change that did not come as promised. That’s the thing about hot takes, they disappear; they’re catchy but superficial.

With references to racing culture, Sharon Tate, band touring, Shel Silverstein, the silk screen frames covered with images of a Finish flag, and stickers that read, ‘I’d rather be gardening,’ create a visual biography of a person that is sort of endearing. This is not as superficial as the mediums’ may make it out to be, these are issues spread out across a vast landscape, lives and generations felt on a deep level. It’s nothing to walk in and out of with ease, rather something you grow with, and understand only through the real lived experience of the culture.

Nazli Nahidi

Images are courtesy of Clint Roenisch Gallery

*Exhibition information: Niall McClelland: Hot Takes, No Sax, March 8 – April 14, 2018, Clint Roenisch Gallery, 190 St Helens Avenue, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat, 12 – 6 p.m.

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