Shary Boyle at the AGO
September 25, 2010 § Leave a comment
Having first been introduced to Shary Boyle’s work on BOOOOOOOM (and then subsequently all over tumblr), I was incredibly excited about the opportunity to see her work in person. Housed in the European Galleries, her show was an amalgamation of paintings, porcelains, sculptures, light projections and installations.
Among the most striking of Boyle’s work was her porcelain figurines. The intricate detailing of the people with their reddened feet, knees and hands, the delicate lace skirts, and the small gold details on the bases were simply divine. The piece entitled King Cobra (2010) was my personal favourite, wherein two genderless children sit as an elongated snake weaves between them. The sculpture’s dark humour is both intriguing and disturbing as Boyle plays on the sexual innocence of the children, and the overtly seductive snake-symbol. Boyle continues her dark sensibility in Burden 1 (2010), which depicts a woman carrying on her back an anthropomorphized deer and a swamp creature, hinting at fables, myths, or stories that have long been forgotten.
Boyle presents her paintings in the same room as the porcelains, hung among older “masterworks” as she tries to place herself in an art historical lineage, fusing the modern with the old. This move felt a bit contrived though, as if she were attempting to tackle a concept that Kent Monkman’s work has already realized in a more effective and powerful manner. Boyle’s work is strong enough to stand on it’s own, but her placement of the pieces suggests an uncertainty about her work – as if she wanted someone to hold her hand. It may be argued that Boyle was attempting to critique those works that came before, yet I would point out that her work contained in the European Galleries makes a subtle, yet stronger statement in itself.
Continuing to another part of the exhibition, Boyle has entrenched a room in darkness, which serves to highlight the visual impact of her the pieces displayed there. One side of the room is occupied by a larger sculpture entitled White Light (2010) while the opposing wall is embedded with glass cases containing neon mini-sculptures. The lack of light heightens the glow of the sculptures themselves and creates the distinct feeling of being a moth, as you are drawn to the light of the pieces. The black light focused on White Light in tandem with the neon colouring of the mini-sculptures creates a psychedelic, alien world that is alluring in both its bright colours and macabre subject matter.
This major exhibition of Boyle’s work has come at the perfect time, she is the epitome of the growing trend of multi-displinary artists. Her work has a similar sensibility to David Altmejd‘s (as the CBC already noted), the off-beat humour of Marcel Dzama, Rachel Goodyear, or Chris Kuzma (though the last two are definitely lighter incarnations of said humour), combining it all with the wonder-capturing qualities of Jessica Harrison, or Kiki Smith. Boyle’s work will be at the AGO until December 5th.
AGO is free Wednesday nights 5:30-8:30.
More on Shary Boyle:
The National Post.
The Globe and Mail.
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