Material Tells

Oakville Galleries , Oakville, Canada
23 Jun 2019 - 08 Sep 2019

Ja’Tovia Gary,

Ja’Tovia Gary, "An Ecstatic Experience", film still (detail), 2015. Courtesy of the artist and galerie Frank Elbaz, Paris.

Oakville Galleries is presenting the exhibition Material Tells, a group show that brings together works by Canadian and international artists to explore the social meanings that arise from artist’s use of familiar materials such as wood, sugar, flowers, and cloth.

Taking the politics of making as its point of departure, this group exhibition explores the cultural meanings that emerge from the materials artists use. Drawing on the writings of poet-philosopher Édouard Glissant, guest curator Daisy Desrosiers assembles a selection of works that engage often-overlooked narratives within cultural histories, and consider the itinerant and opaque legacies that surround certain materials. Ideas of belonging, witnessing, domesticity, and migratory journeys are brought to the fore, engaging shared and self-reflective experiences and inviting audiences to be guided by the stories that they tell.

Exhibiting artists include Alvaro Barrington, Kevin Beasley, Shannon Bool, Beverly Buchanan, Jesse Chun, Marie-Michelle Deschamps, Azza El Siddique, Ja’Tovia Gary, Felix GonzalezTorres, Iris Häussler, and Kapwani Kiwanga.

In Ja’Tovia Gary’s film An Ecstatic Experience, for example, the artist slashes, scratches and scars celluloid in order to annotate the story of spiritual transcendence as a means to escape oppression and slavery. The miniature wooden shack sculptures of Beverly Buchanan—made by the artist between the late 1970s and 2015—are similarly embodied with notions of endurance, recovery and care. Alvaro Barrington’s paintings evoke personal memories and collective cultural histories through the formal qualities of sewing, while Jesse Chun uses language as a medium for her work. By manipulating ESL learning methods, Chun defamiliarizes today’s most common lingua franca, fracturing and distorting what we expect to read, see, and hear. Also interested in language and translation, Marie-Michelle Deschamps investigates the properties of vitreous enamel, an ancient technique that is both delicate and durable, and here resembles white sheets of paper filled with potential meaning.

Each of the artists in Material Tells suggests a fluid and nuanced understanding of how objects and images come to be, reflecting on the process by which artworks—and identities—are assembled, dis-assembled and transformed.