Inter/Ruptures at United Contemporary

Togetherness, intimacy, and inspiration are on display at United Contemporary’s group show Inter/Ruptures. This exhibition features a motley group of artists selected by the gallery’s own artists. United Contemporary writes, “We asked each of our represented artists to put forward the name of an artist whose practice inspires and excites them[…] Curating a show this way allows the body of work to shape and determine the exhibition theme as it comes together.” The consequence of this is a group of artworks that naturally fall in and away from shared patterns and themes.

Installation view of Samantha Dennis, Rayne (left) and Max Lester, When I End I Begin Again, 2021, latex, plastic mesh, silhouette temporary tattoo paper, chain, giant rubber bands, shower curtain rings (above and right)

Inter/Ruptures, like many recent exhibitions, was cut short by another stay-at-home order. Thankfully, the individual pieces can be viewed in photographs online, yet this does seem like a loss. From the installation view photos on the gallery’s Instagram page, these works appear to play surprisingly well together in the space and I would have been interested to experience this for myself.

Installation view of (L-R) Miles Ingrassia, Tree Line. 2020, oil on panel, 48” x 48”, Samantha Dennis, Focus and Rayne (right) each 2018, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”. Photo: United Contemporary’s Instagram

It is clear that the artists of Inter/Ruptures are those powerhouses who have a near-indefinable quality that makes them particularly inspirational to others. The works of Bidemi Oloyede stand out in this regard. His two pieces are black and white photographs from Toronto’s Caribana, showcasing love, joy, pride, respect, and all those overwhelming emotions that arise out of a shared celebration. Oloyede captures people in mid-movement with sunny women in the centre of the compositions. These are photographs proper, with all the weighty significance of the word. The black and white medium lends the monumental force of a historical document. Yet, some of the beauty is in the everyday. In these photographs, joy and belonging are commonplace and there is so much beauty in that.

Bidemi Oloyede, Caribana Scene, Toronto, 2018. No.1. photography (35mm), 16” x 20”

Painter Karim Machado-Aman also exhibits portrait works. Much like the photographs of Oloyede, these painted portraits display an intimacy between the artist and the sitter. Machado-Aman also imbues his work with historical influences. While Oloyede’s black and white photographs call to the historic black and white captures of the past, Machado-Aman’s portraits call back even further to the grand portraits of the Renaissance. Dark backgrounds, elaborate frames, and richly painted fabrics whisper to us about the merchant and aristocratic sitters of the Renaissance. Broad brushstrokes hint at the styles of great painters in the 19th century. But there is something deeper in these portraits as the poses and facial expressions capture the sitter’s psychology. The viewer feels connected to them while contemplating their situation and state of mind.

Karim Machado-Aman, Saint Serenade (FKA Twigs), 2020. oil on linen, antique frame layered with 22k gold leaf, 18” x 24”

Karim Machado-Aman, Day Off, 2020. oil on canvas, 48” x 48”

Linda Sormin’s “Lai Cha-Lu”, well represents the rather complex nature of the assemblage of artists and works in Inter/Ruptures. Pieces of cut watercolour on paper circle around the centre of the composition, diverging in thin strips away to the edges. Much like the dynamic of this diverse collection of works, Sormin’s composition shows all the interruptions and ruptures that could and do occur in a collective.

Linda Sormin, Lai Cha-Lu, 2020, cut watercolour on paper, 37” x 28”

This medium of cut watercolour on paper works wonderfully well in this exhibition by connecting the eclectic group of two dimensional and three-dimensional works. In the space, Linda Sormin’s “Lai Cha-Lu” compliments Marc Egan’s “Shift” series by juxtaposing the coloured movement of lines with the three dimensionalities of the ceramics. Sormin’s “Lai Cha-Lu” is so honest in its fragility, appearing almost translucent like sugar candies. Next to Egan’s work, it looks like pieces of a bigger puzzle.

Installation view of Marc Egan, Shift #1-3, 2020, each 11.5” x 12.5” x 3/4”, ceramic (stoneware) with polychrome glaze (left) & Linda Sormin, Lai Cha-Lu (right). Photo: United Contemporary’s Instagram

I have a not-so-secret love for improvisations, accidental connections, and artistic happenstance in exhibitions. To me, it centres the viewer’s experience in art. More than that, it is the universe’s way of making art through the convergence of choices, environments, and intentions. It is this part of Inter/Ruptures that appeals to me in particular.

Miles Ingrassia, Lattice Window, 2020, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”

The works in this exhibition appear to have slipped into common themes of emotional intimacy and human connection. I like to think that the environment of invitation has resulted in these themes, that the atmosphere of togetherness has pushed Inter/Ruptures in this direction. It is remarkable how well this collection of diverse works fit together. I only wish I could have seen them together in-person.

Olivia Mariko Hsuen-Ferris

Featured image: Miles Ingrassia, Tree Line, 2020, oil on panel, 48” x 48” (detail)

Images are courtesy of United Contemporary

*Exhibition information: Inter/Ruptures, featuring works by Samantha Dennis, Marc Egan, Mel Hayes, Miles Ingrassia, Max Lester, Karim Machado-Aman, Bidemi Oloyede, Colin Rogers, and Linda Sormin, March 28 – April 17, 2021, United Contemporary, 1444 Dupont Street, Unit 22, Toronto. The artworks can be viewed on the United Contemporary website.

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