Mist, Foam, Drainage Ditch at Franz Kaka

Franz Kaka’s new exhibition, Mist, Foam, Drainage Ditch, is about the body – however, its artworks are not of the body, but what is around it; the pieces in the show encircle the body, and their materials act as “skeins of tactile interaction”.

The gallery’s website writes about the theme of the exhibition: “Chinese Medicine recognizes an extra organ called the San Jiao, translating to ‘Triple Burner’. Three cavities divided into Upper, Middle and Lower, each burner enacting differing processes of refinement and elimination. Rather than a closed, singular organ, it is a mesh-like network that spans the entirety of the body, acting as a conduit for fluids and Qi. More recently, it’s been likened to fascia. Our connective tissue – the interstitial space around all our viscera, under our skin, between our vessels, cushioning and holding our cells … The body is both a sedimentation and a scatter – a mist, a foam, a drainage ditch.”

Laurie Kang, Fascia, 2021.

In the newly reopened gallery, this show is contained within a single room. The room is small, with white walls, concrete floors, and exposed piping. A quiet, plain space that showcases the exhibition’s vibrant, distinctive works, made in different media, colors, and styles, expertly arranged around the room. Photographs, audio works, prints, installations, and paintings are all at home in this space.

Installation view of Mist, Foam, Drainage Ditch at Franz Kaka, 2021

As soon as you walk into the small gallery space, you notice the bright colors and striking shapes of each different work. The first artwork you come across is Eileen Quinlan’s black and white photograph of a nude woman, or perhaps a mannequin, in a studio, surrounded by glass cases that reflect the camera flash.

Eileen Quinlan, Element, 2019, Courtesy the artist and Miguel Abreu, New York.

Beside this photograph hangs Raque Ford’s installation, made of two connected chains, with plastic add-ons of different colours and shapes: a clear, painted purple and grey panel, pink and purple peace signs, and a gray double spiral motif. This work is both playful and sombre, its colourful, lively plastic pieces contrasting with the heavy, dark grey, somewhat ominous chain.

Raque Ford, evol, detail, 2021, Courtesy the artist, New York

In a corner of the room is a small photograph by Rosa Aiello depicting a burning candle, zoomed in to show just the top of the candle’s melting wax and the flame. Beside it is a list of words related to fire: “crackling”, “flames”, “people screaming”, “black smoke” and so on. Above this list is an infrared motion-activated speaker, that plays a recording of a woman saying insignificant words. The combination of the robotic, emotionless, disembodied voice with these troubling printed words gives this section of the gallery a foreboding atmosphere.

Rosa Aiello, A-Z Soup (fire version), 2021.

The gallery also features Brandon Ndife’s re-creation of compost, with soil and decomposing gourds. Made of wood, cast foam, pigment, and various other materials, it is very life-like. Without close inspection, it is difficult to tell, that this is not made of organic materials. The rotting matter and dark soil are harmoniously and purposefully arranged within the frame, creating a visually pleasing composition that is at odds with the rather grotesque content.

Brandon Ndife, Compost From Weeks Ago, 2021, Courtesy the artist and Bureau, New York

On the other end of the room Laurie Kang’s installation involves a thin thread, hanging from the ceiling and trailing along the floor, with delicate silver metal fish and rubber orange balls attached to it. The fish suspended in the air appear to be flowing along the string as they would in water, while the prone position of the fish on the floor makes them appear lifeless, and limp.

Laurie Kang, Chyme (details), 2021.

Franz Kaka’s Mist, Foam, Drainage Ditch is both ethereal and corporeal. Each of these works are striking, enigmatic, and tactile, each evoking in the viewer their own individual set of reactions and sensations, and creating a unique, varied narrative within the gallery. Despite the wide array of styles and media, these pieces exist together in harmony, just as the different organs and tissues of the body work together as one.

Bronwen Cox

Images are courtesy of Franz Kaka

*Exhibition information: Mist, Foam, Drainage Ditch / Organized by Laurie Kang / Rosa Aiello, Raque Ford, Laurie Kang, Annabeth Marks, Brandon Ndife, Eileen Quinlan, March 2 – April 3, 2021, Franz Kaka, 1485 Dupont St, #208, Toronto. Visit online or book an appointment

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