Cock Plane, Daniel Barrow, two-sided screenprint on laser-cut balsa wood, 2015, documentation by Larry Glawson
September 9th, 2016 to October 22nd, 2016
Opening: September 9th, 5-8pm
Artist Talk: September 8th, 8pm at Plug In ICA, 460 Portage Avenue
Over the span of Daniel Barrow’s career as an artist and live performer, he has developed a personal language in which he creates and adapts pictorial narratives by projecting, layering, and manipulating drawings – typically on overhead projectors.
In Dark Watercolours, Sobey Art award winning artist Daniel Barrow premiere’s a new body of screen-printed and sculptural pieces. These works expand upon themes from previous works, but also represent more recent internal debates about drawing and sculpture, artwork and medium, artwork and easel, form and symbol, high and low. Barrow’s new sculptures are microcosms of his studio process. They are multifunctional objects that simultaneously act as easels for drawings, paintbrush holders and basins, as well as figurative sculptures that mine the theatricality of display.
Martha Street Studio is pleased to partner with Plug In ICA for an artist talk on September 8th at 8pm at Plug In ICA, 460 Portage Avenue. Barrow will present a survey of his work over the last two decades, showing slides, videos and excerpts from various projected performances. *free
“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
If you didn’t know Daniel Barrow, but were told he was the child of Hieronymus Bosch and Margaret Keane, you would get a sense of his oeuvre. But unlike his hellish and big-eyed progenitors, his work escapes the flatness of the page and, like something from an Edgar Allan Poe story, has a 3D or time-based life of its own.
He is best known for manipulating transparencies of drawings on an overhead projector while telling tales—live performances at once heartbreaking and hilarious, that mesmerize with gorgeous artistry and archaic technology. Barrow’s animated videos likewise favour technology from the a/v cart of history. Amiga anyone? Last but certainly not least, his drawing-based sculptures also reference bygone forms. In 2002, Barrow began making balsawood aircrafts, the kind kids have received as DIY kits since the 1920s! The recent incarnations, created at Martha Street Studio in 2015, have become more disquieting, and possess a campy, gothic creepiness makes you wonder what mischief they get up to while you are sleeping. They are neither birds nor planes, but hybrids, mutants. Theirs is a fabulous deviance—transcendent… after all, they can fly.
German pilots decorated their crafts with snarling mouths during WWI, a mere 11 years after the invention of the airplane. Barrow’s flying objects take anthropomorphization further. We aren’t sure what they are, but the familiar arrangement of two eyes, nose and mouth is reassuring. This, their small scale and reference to childhood model-making makes them emotionally manageable. They are weird, but it is we (hand at shoulder, then arm thrust forward) who propel them. They are extensions of us, and we know planes, even when they have sharp teeth.
The more recent cast-resin pieces in the exhibition, on the other hand, are the true stuff of nightmares. Their disembodiedness—distended feet that seem capable of walking on their own accord—evoke “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and adolescent ghost stories about young lovers, cars and bloodied stumps. But more than that, the real horror they embody is that of the body, of aging. Lumpy, bumpy and wrinkled… the feet of time stalk us all. As our flesh sags and creeps into ever more grotesque configurations, moisturizer becomes meaningless… bring on the glue stick! Eyeshadow and rouge? Give me paint!
These sculptural pieces are caddies that contain basic art supplies. But each bunioned, reaching foot also holds an easel for a small portrait. Maybe in a twist on The Picture of Dorian Gray, it is a mirror, an image of our true selves: just sagging asses.
Fortunately, Barrow’s bite is never without compassion. The artist reveals something so very human (and funny!) amidst grotesquerie. The works are replete with such dichotomies: pathetic/heroic, pretty/ugly, natural/unnatural, comedic/tragic and, perhaps most significantly, a dichotomy regarding art itself. Is it artifice or is it revelatory?
The paint cakes on each toenail reference cosmetics: tools of enhancement, transformation, even disguise. Yet the portraits themselves are without mercy. Perhaps great art can only offer the illusion of illusion. Perhaps great art (and in this I include Barrow’s) cannot lie.
Shawna Dempsey is an aging performance artist.
Winnipeg-born, Montreal-based artist Daniel Barrow uses obsolete technologies to present written, pictorial and cinematic narratives centering on the practices of drawing and collecting. Since 1993, he has created and adapted comic book narratives to "manual" forms of animation by projecting, layering and manipulating drawings on overhead projectors. Daniel Barrow has exhibited widely in Canada and abroad. He has performed at The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), PS1 Contemporary Art Center (New York), The Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), Musée D’Art Contemporain de Montréal 2010/2014, The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art 2009/2013, and the British Film Institute (London). His drawings are in the collections of the National Gallery and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Barrow is the winner of the 2010 Sobey Art Award as well as the recipient of the 2013 Glenfiddich Artist in Residence Prize.