Kelly Lycan’s all-white installation WHITE HOT at Gallery TPW in Toronto. One work in particular floored me. It was made out of stacks of commercial-grade carpet shaped to spell the word “save.” Each letter became a kind of profane illumination in white, an elevated sales display that seemed to advertise fragility, ephemerality and nothingness—a détournement or disenchanted commercial image that reverberated with anemic authority and absurdity. It was funny, critical and ironic all at once, and triggered associations ranging from disposable industrial carpet to the drabness of neutral wall-to-wall carpeting in suburban middle-class homes. This piece was just one component in Lycan’s installation of carefully organized, tightly packed, neatly stacked objects and images; it was an invitation to enter an aesthetic of homogeneity and neutrality. I loved how the piece prodded the utopian ideal of an immaculate white environment, whether a suburban living room, a downtown condo or an art gallery. There is a purity to a phrase like “white hot” or “white sale” that is both crass and prophetic.
This is an article from the Winter 2009 issue of Canadian Art.