Canadian Art

Material World: The Stuff Art is Made Of

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax Jan 21 to May 6 2012
Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky  <em>Shopping Cart II</em> 2006 Courtesy Mount Saint Vincent University / photo Steve Farmer  Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky Shopping Cart II 2006 Courtesy Mount Saint Vincent University / photo Steve Farmer

Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky <em>Shopping Cart II</em> 2006 Courtesy Mount Saint Vincent University / photo Steve Farmer

The notion of the uncanny—described by Freud as the feeling of something being strikingly familiar and uncomfortably foreign—comes to mind when considering “Material World,” an exhibition of sculpture at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Organized by AGNS curator of exhibitions David Diviney, “Material World” illuminates the formal and conceptual possibilities presented by commonplace materials. As Diviney puts it, the artists in the show “celebrate the things that shape our surroundings as well as the human impulse to reimagine them,” meshing the readymade with a crafted approach.

Some of the artworks are formed from the very building blocks of consumer culture. Shopping Cart II, a 2006 work by Vancouver-based pair Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky, is a glittering wreckage made of aluminum foil. Equally shimmering is 1,000,000 Pennies, the 1979 work by late Halifax-based conceptual artist Gerald Ferguson, the title of which not only describes the piece, but also its literal value.

Other works make subtler allusions to commercialism. Lucky Me, a 1992 work by Vancouver-based artist Elspeth Pratt, is made of felt, galvanized metal and wood, conjuring the promised riches of a casino table through economical means. Thierry Delva’s 2003 sculpture American DJ features plaster-cast DJ equipment in the colours of the American flag. Michel de Broin, Brian Jungen, Ron Terada and Kristan Horton are among the other artists represented in the exhibition.

This article was first published online on March 29, 2012.

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