Canadian Art

Review

Deborah Margo: Sweet Stuff

Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa Jan 7 to Feb 2 2009
Deborah Margo  <i>40019's Ceaseless Transformation</i>  2009  Installation detail  Courtesy Patrick Mikhail Gallery  /   photo Tom Evans Deborah Margo 40019's Ceaseless Transformation 2009 Installation detail Courtesy Patrick Mikhail Gallery / photo Tom Evans

Deborah Margo <i>40019's Ceaseless Transformation</i> 2009 Installation detail Courtesy Patrick Mikhail Gallery / photo Tom Evans

The results of the most recent RBC Painting Competition seemed to signal, among other things, a return to process painting, and particularly the kind associated with 1970s Post-Minimalism. While layer painting and related practices may appear novel to some, they have a rich and complex history in Canada, one that contemporary artists continue to mine. Deborah Margo’s work is certainly among the more interesting branches of this vein, and her recent exhibition at Ottawa’s Patrick Mikhail Gallery takes a provocative new direction.

Building upon her previous work with giant jawbreaker candies, Giant Okeydokes 20085 from 2006, 40019's Ceaseless Transformation consists of hundreds of huge, round jawbreakers that have been partially dissolved, stressed, cut and deformed. At four inches in diameter, these candies seem somewhat beyond the realm of human consumption, but their association with food, and particularly mass-produced confections, give them an interesting pop edge. Indeed, like Pop art, the atmosphere of the exhibition hovers between gorgeous and vulgar, high and low, forces of conformity and powers of resistance.

Cross-sections of the jawbreakers reveal colourful patterns of concentric rings, created by a time-consuming manufacturing process called panning, in which a core of crystallized granulated sugar is dipped in hot liquid sugar hundreds of times. Margo has seized upon this inherent characteristic and exploded it through a variety of deconstructive experiments. For example, submerging the candies in water causes them to bubble and effloresce in spectacular ways, producing random formations reminiscent of celestial bodies and geological specimens.

Carefully arranged in a grid on the gallery floor, these colourful, tactile curiosities fit easily within evolving theories of painting, and especially its relationship to sculpture and performance. It is difficult not to associate her work with Eric Cameron’s “thick paintings,” or even Claude Tousignant’s “targets.” As viewers we are permitted to walk through the grid, enacting a final deformation in which modernist symmetry gives way to phenomenological risk. At once amusing and vaguely grotesque, Margo’s work offers a compelling critique of Canadian painting without ever touching paint or canvas. (2401 Bank St, Ottawa ON)

This article was first published online on February 12, 2009.

RELATED STORIES

 

FOUNDATION NEWS

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

ONLINE

  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem