The exhibition celebrating Robert Kananaj Gallery’s anniversary spans the past, present and future. It involves many works from Kananaj’s artistic oeuvre from the past few years, displays current works from international and local artists and opens a window (that is actually a bed) into the future, the upcoming exhibition — an interesting mixture. As the press release states, “openness, inclusiveness, and unconventionality are the streams that create this show.”
It is open in every meaning, as while the new garage door is rolled up, the old, metal one has literally become part of the exhibition. The show also expreses an “open” mind by placing artists with different styles right beside each other; providing a conversation that is unusual. It is a single installation on one hand but also has intimate corners and wall space for some works on the other hand.
A huge wooden structure of Kananaj’s guides us deeper into the gallery’s interior. As the artist says, living in Canada for a long time he has always admired wooden cabins, and their structural perfection. They protect the home fire; they protect life in a cruel climate. He wanted to build a wood structure for a long time, but his work is not functional. Its upper part somewhat reminds us of bonfires in the way the wood blocks are crossing each other. Wooden structures sometimes can catch fire and fire is one of the elements that lead us into the Circle of clays.
Installation view with Robert Kananaj’s wooden structure
This circle is so simple that it makes it exquisite. The artist’s handprints in clay are organized into a large circle; large pieces in the outer rings joined by smaller ones closer to the centre. They are all similar, showing the artist’s fingers. The idea is old, clay has a long history and it is also one of the artistic materials that children play with. It is personal, it suits everyone. It is very physical, as Kananaj wrote, “I free my energy and clay receives it, imprinting the squeeze permanently.” He sees the experiment with clay as an embodiment of a world, a gift received, his vision as a maker.
Installation view with Robert Kananaj’s clay circle
The old metal garage door stands against the back wall of the gallery, creating a neutral surface. The installation is a tribute to the old garage door’s historic size, its magnitude. A cut mirror in the middle of it opens the space giving an entrance into another world, or into ourselves if we stand right in front of it, looking at our distorted image.
Installation view with the old garage door by Robert Kananaj
A portrait, titled Progress, by Daniel Segrove, a San Francisco based artist, depicts a young man in a thinking position. In a mostly realistic representation, his mouth seems to be erased. He doesn’t want, or can’t, talk and that attitude gives the portrait an unsettling expression. Juxtaposing the meditativeness of Segrove’s painting, Emilio Villalba’s semi-abstract composition, Reclining Figure with its fragmented body parts and objects is rather chatty and loud.
Daniel Segrove: Progress, 2019, oilstick and mixed media on paper, 22″ × 18″
Emilio Villalba, Reclining Figure, 2019, oil on canvas, 30″ × 40″
Oscar Figuera, a returning artist to the gallery, is represented by his signature slides. The slides are non functional but very colorful, reflecting the light in a playful beauty.
Installation view with Oscar Figuera’s slides (on the wall)
In one of the corners of the gallery there is a bed, nicknamed Cage of Wonder, a real bed where artist Tess Martens slept for a week throughout her residency at the gallery. Her exhibition, Living Diary opens on September 19th.
Installation view with Cage of Wonder, 2016-2019, 100″ x 110″ x 62″, plastic construction bricks, aluminum mesh, empty medication bottles on plywood and steel platform
Images are courtesy of Robert Kananaj Gallery
*Exhibition information: August 1 – September 14, 2019, Robert Kananaj Gallery, 172 St Helens Avenue, Toronto. Gallery hours: Tue – Sat, 11 – 6 p.m.