John Armstrong

Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky, Andrea Nunes, and George Legrady
Pari Nadimi Gallery, Toronto

Drifting, Slowly

Over the past five years, collaborative Vancouver artists Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky have travelled across Canada creating exhibitions with centrepieces of cars “cast” in aluminium foil. The artists created embossed impressions of vehicles that they reassembled as surprisingly accurate and somewhat droopy sculptural renditions. They engaged in this labour-intensive process for each exhibition and, once the shows were over, had the automotive shells crushed into balls.

For Drifting, Slowly, Weppler and Mahovsky brought along a box of bric-a-brac to cast over a five-day period in the gallery. Music of Chance 2 (2008) is an unbroken piece of aluminium foil that links impressions of an ornate metal box and a number of silver-coloured bits and pieces that the box once contained, such as a hash pipe, harmonica, hinge, Eiffel Tower key fob, fancy hand-held mirror, and so on. A set of 30 or so such items is repeated five times over the 17-foot length of the sculpture. As it was with the auto casts, here too the artists’ great industry offers a paradoxical quandary. These modest objects have been painstakingly reproduced, reconceived as budget-rate silver plating, and put into repeat. The title of the work alludes to the 1990 Paul Auster novel that chronicles hidden and pointless labour. Weppler and Mahovsky’s labours, although executed on site prior to the exhibition’s opening, result in a delicate sculpture vulnerably set out on the gallery floor. The artists even foresee keeping this sculpture intact. Where big-ticket cars may fall prey to planned obsolescence, cheap knick-knacks, whether cast for posterity or not, tend to stick around.

The exhibition also included four of their more resolutely permanent sculptures in painted plaster. In a modular fashion, the artists created components for these sculptures that hook together. Each of the sculptures’ elements is covered in lumpy plaster (that considerably alters the familiar objects’ shapes) and then painted in enamel. A section of yellow utility fencing propped up by a brown cane form a structural armature for The Ragged Yellow Net (2007). Hooked through the sculpture’s yellow mesh we find a cantilevered black telephone balancing on its rigid, outstretched cord, two flowers (pink, white), a copper clothes hanger, and a red chain. A red brick on the floor steadies the piece. There are winks to 20th-century precedents here: the prop gestures Richard Serra; the gravity-defying connected forms, Anthony Caro; and the painted expressionist solids, Cy Twombly. But Weppler and Mahovsky, quite intentionally no doubt, do not embody their artistic forebears’ studied gravitas.

Weppler and Mahovsky invited two other artists to participate in Drifting, Slowly, Andrea Nunes (Vancouver) and George Legrady (Santa Barbara). Both of these artists treat the persistence of things in the crush and bustle of time. Nunes’s recent three-crayon drawings depict images such as a splash, a cozy campfire fire with two lawn chairs, a geodesic dome, a textile surface — all of which float in the middle of the paper, and evoke transient, post-1960s moments.

Legrady too is concerned with the mid 20th century: his 1993 An Anecdoted Archive from the Cold War is an interactive CD-ROM that projection uses a floor plan of the former "Workers' Movement" museum in Budapest as a matrix for viewers to navigate through a conflation of authoritative and personal histories. Legrady juxtaposes photographs, home movies and other documents chronicling his family’s life in both Communist-era Budapest and Montreal in the 1950s and beyond. In one slide, we see a 1930s photograph of a family group in a dining room with a decorative ceramic jug on a corner shelf in the background. In an accompanying image, we see the same jug clinically re-photographed in the 1990s.

The artists in Drifting, Slowly all use labourious techniques to marshal the bric-a-brac of everyday life into associative networks — an aluminium-foil chain, hooked-together plaster objects, a grid of drawings, an endlessly variable digital archive. These entwined work-a-day things worryingly imitate the way many such things stick to and ensnare us.

Canadian Art Online: Review. 2 December 2008 <>