Review: Didier Courbot at Susan Hobbs.

November 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Courbot (Susan Hobbs)

Didier Courbot’s collection at the Susan Hobbs Gallery succeeds at a daunting task – presenting site-specific installations in a meaningful way outside of their immediate context. Courbot accomplishes this by showcasing photographs of his works, which remain in Paris.

The photographs are displayed in the gallery without frames or titles. The artist has taken advantage of this sparse environment and placed white paper bags sporadically around the gallery floor. The bags contain materials found by the artist in Toronto – objects such as a twig, a stack of bricks, and raw wood panels that create some kind of dialogue with the works on the walls. This allows us to experience what is otherwise lacking in the exhibition – the real art object. Courbot is effectively engaging us in his process of his art-making. The bags act as a kind of guide, leading us through the two-storey gallery, and paying tribute in some small way to the photographs on the wall. The experience of walking around and peering into the paper bags somewhat mimics the experience of viewing the actual installations; it is an enhancement for viewers who are distanced from the works themselves.

The Parisian installations have a precarious and delicate presence within their environment. In “Tournicotte,” a stunning piece made of intertwined clothes hangers with attached red and white translucent scraps of plastic, the sculptural object seems to mimic the tree it is hung from. Courbot has created an uncertain relationship between the tree and the piece, in which the sculpture both depends upon the tree for balance, but also fundamentally contrasts it in its use of inorganic, found materials. “French Thonet” (a playful reference to the 19th century Paris world fair award winning chair) is created out of what appear to be the arms of wooden chairs. The ends of the arms are ripped apart, revealing the naked wood beneath the varnish. This contrast between the natural and unnatural wood surface, and the screws that hold it all together, create a modestly unpolished piece that lays bare its own process of creation.

Courbot’s works are both meaningfully significant, and delicately beautiful. In viewing this gallery one desperately wishes they could experience these pieces in their intended environment. However, the artist’s inclusion of real objects and materials to accompany his photographs reveals a nuanced understanding of the importance of viewership and environment to installation art and creates a unique gallery experience.

Didier Courbot runs at Susan Hobbs from October 27  to December 3.

– Georgia Erger

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