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Kevin Rodgers: Middle, End, Beginning

McIntosh Gallery, London Jul 19 to Aug 11 2012

Kevin Rodgers‘ installation “Out of Order” at the McIntosh Gallery in London showcases a strong studio practice paired with insightful interpretations of critical theory—elements Rodgers has honed during his studies at the University of Western Ontario’s Department of Visual Arts.

Rodgers is a doctoral candidate at Western in art and visual culture. His dissertation, of which this exhibition is a component, is titled “Out of Order: Thinking through Robin Collyer, Discontent and Affirmation (1973–1985).” Following Rodgers’ progress through curatorial work, print-based art, publications and residencies, the exhibition “Out of Order” creates a space that confronts the power of form in a distilled, sublimated way.

Wooden platforms and structures that could be modified furniture stand as unfinished talismans around the room. Swipes of paint and a tacked-on piece of an old sign point towards the provisional, a theme that recurs in Rodgers’ work. The most dense of the platforms, low to the ground like a stepping stool, is topped with a product-output diagram, one you might find in an economics textbook. No matter how a given object might be interpreted here—as talisman, stool or product output—it is the forms themselves that attract attention, at the same time prompting questions around why this might be the case.

As a graduate of ACAD (BFA) and the University of Guelph (MFA), Rodgers creates work that is unified by a respect for the encompassing experience of art. Consequently, Rodgers’ sculptures in “Out of Order” are saturated with intent and encourage lingering and questioning.

Seeking answers to such questions, visitors to this exhibition might kneel and crane their necks to read the small shards of old magazine clippings that occasionally peek out from the corners and crevices of Rodgers’ wood sculptures. Even an essay excerpt—from Hannah Arendt’s “Thinking and Moral Considerations”—is artfully framed on the back wall. Rodgers, about to defend a dissertation, is conveying to us the form that he encounters on the page.

Having completed a residency at the Banff Centre with Jan Verwoert entitled “The distance between our minds and thoughts equals the distance between our words and mouths,” Rodgers is conscious that words form images, feelings and inklings in our minds. This is the sculptor as author, or the author as sculptor.

Memories and history, referred to by Rodgers in his artist statement, pop up throughout the exhibition. In the newsprint publication Rodgers created for “Out of Order,” in a comic-book speech bubble coming from the mouth of Brian Mulroney, he relays the former prime minister’s quotation “We must begin by purging the negativism and vitriol from our public life.”

The underlying concept Rodgers conveys with his text references (which, though thought-provoking, can seem overly profuse at times) is the nature and form of memory. Which is the greater illusion, the present or the past? Does the Mulroney quote only grow older as the irony of a cunning politician preaching about respect lessens?

Rodgers questions the presumed relationship between chronology and the established meanings that comprise our memories. If the artist can call these meanings into question and we are left without words to explain away our experience, we are forms in space differentiated only by our molecular makeup—whether we are the gallery walls, the sculptures or the viewer. Is this ultimate loneliness, or ultimate togetherness?

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