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Reviews / January 7, 2010

Mowry Baden: Perception Machines

Mowry Baden (with Mark Alldritt)  Calyx 2008

“Mirroring,” the latest exhibition by Victoria-based artist Mowry Baden at Diaz Contemporary, consists of no mirrors—at least none of the typical kind. There’s no conventional play of looking-glass oppositions among the five recent sculptures gathered for the show. Instead, each of the works takes up the notion of reflection as a tactile experience, using space, sight, sound and touch to amplify and expand the boundaries of perception.

With A Cappella, Baden has fashioned a science-fiction-worthy sound chamber built from the prefabricated pop-up walls often seen in trade show displays. The work’s curved enclosure produces a baffling effect that deadens external noise while reflecting captured sound back to the viewer; its echo subtly distends time and space.

Baden’s wall-mounted sculpture Septum pushes perceptual barriers by inviting viewers to mirror their palms and then run them up and down a scrim of stretched chicken wire. The seemingly straightforward process defies expectation, creating a brain-twisting sensation of soft skin against the physical divide of woven steel. In paired works Upper and Lower Case and Font, the sculptural weight of “mirrored” aluminum platforms is perceptually redistributed. Rather than being defined by hard sculptural forms, it is the negative space between platforms and shadows cast around each work that imbue a solid physical presence.

Baden’s Calyx, a collaborative work with Mark Alldritt, offers the exhibition’s most ambitious test of mirroring perception. The large-scale device captures the reflected image of a single viewer, first in clear Plexiglas and then, as the work’s sensor mechanism slowly adjusts to the viewer’s height, in the inverted distortion of an iridescent, concave surface. Reflections merge as the two planes align, a changing self captured and abstracted in multiple dimensions. (100 Niagara St, Toronto ON)

Bryne McLaughlin

Bryne McLaughlin is Senior Editor at Canadian Art.