Whippersnappers no more? Emergence series with Jannick Deslauriers and Amanda Nedham
The media is pretty good at births and deaths, and not so much at everything that comes in between, so it's a predictable circumstance that the earnestly enthusiasts at Whippersnapper Gallery, upstairs along the hyper-social College Street bar strip, have been getting a little attention lately. They opened about five years ago with the best of intentions -- providing a platform for artists under 30 who might otherwise languish in a vacuum of both obscurity and and the numbing necessity of retail-or-barista funded lives -- and that much, they've delivered, giving hundreds of young artists the opportunity to show publicly.
A little while ago, though, the gallery announced that it would be leaving its permanent home for at least a temporary itinerance. There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is the sadly typical prod that the expiry of a favourable lease provides (theirs is done in the summer). But the timing is lousy. After a half-decade of stop-and-go projects (the creative team, for reasons of financial survival, alternates between self-curated projects and subletting the space to whomever to pay the rent), the past couple of months have been Whippersnapper's first flirtations with institutional officialdom.
You can think of it as an audition, if you lie, for Whippesnapper's eventual goal, of achieving full-fledged Artist Run Centre status: Currently on display is the second incarnation of its Emergence series, funded by the Ontario Arts Council. It features Toronto's Amanda Nedham and Montrealer Jannick Deslauriers, and it's probably the most ambitious thing they've attempted: Deslauriers' piece, called "What is Left," above, has a sad poignancy to it, an elegiac and quiet beauty that somehow supercedes the tempting, easy reading it offers. In the gallery's large front space, Deslauriers has strung a couple of dozen stylized poppies, some in bloom, some still pods; behind them, a giant ethereal tank, rendered from a gauzy fabric, sits quietly, light as air.
The temptation, of a hippie-ish treatise on the disturbingly protracted military engagements in which we're involved, hovers unmistakeably; but Deslauriers' gift for evocative form pushes any sense of the pedantic deep into the background. It's a gentle, quizzical spectacle, and as you wander through the shimmering poppies, the experience is nothing short of lovely.
In a darkened back room behind Deslauriers piece, Amanda Nedham counters the ethereal scene with an installation filled with heavy menace. You might know Nedham from her recent work at Le Gallery on Dundas West. In the fall, she showed a suite of remarkably fine graphite drawings depicting no end of grostesqueries -- bizarrely altered animal specimens, anachronistic machinery fashioned from imaginings of Kafka's torture devices in In the Penal Colony, Nedham appears to have a dual fascination in the seemingly unrelated human obsessions with cataloguing and cruelty -- but in reality, no so much, in the colonial compulsion to regard much of the world as raw material for analysis and consumption.
She carries that forward in full-fledged physical form at Whippersnapper with Generals Always Die In Bed, a rough-hewn installation bashed together of reclaimed wood and leather straps. It would seem an unpleasant place to watch ones final moments slip away, but maybe that's the point -- just desserts for that militaristic urge to take, have and use. Brrr.