Anchors are typically water-based—most often found on boats, in harbours, or at sea. Not, for instance, in downtown alleyways. Thus, when we were recently tipped off that a “kinetic anchor,” a big and impressive one at that, might be found at a new gallery near Queen and Dufferin, we set off on a nautical treasure hunt.
“Rock Bottom” is the inaugural installation at 47, a just-opened gallery with a bit of an unusual mission. A collaboration between three Toronto-based artists—Dennis Lin, Jaclyn Quaresma, and Jennifer McGregor—47’s goal is to provide both founders and invited artists the opportunity to show their work without any attendant pressure to sell it, thereby encouraging them to create pieces which they otherwise might not. The three started the gallery under their own steam—they have no grants, investors, or outside funding—and though of course they’ll be happy if the pieces they show find purchasers, their aspirations aren’t primarily commercial.
The barebones gallery offers exhibiting artists lots of room for play: when we chatted with him, Lin said that they’ll gladly modify the space if an installation warrants it. The founders hope that artists will find innovative ways to make full use of the gallery’s twelve-foot ceiling and access (via two sets of garage doors) to the outside. McGregor was entirely sanguine at the prospect of letting artists loose in the space: “We have these I-beams and concrete floors, and not much else,” she pointed out, “so it’s basically indestructible.”
“Rock Bottom” is a case in point—there aren’t many galleries that would allow an artist to muck up their floors on opening day, or many installations that would do so to such good effect. The piece, created by Toronto-based metal artist Stephen Richards, is a giant rotating sculpture that inscribes a circle on the gallery floor as it turns, mimicking the slow, labourious motion of an anchor in water. The anchor itself is a stylized reproduction of existing anchors (a real one would have been too heavy), and the gears that drive it were reclaimed by Richards from a ’50s-era tractor. Vaguely conjuring up images of a sailboat, “Rock Bottom” is one of the most compelling installations we’ve seen in ages: it’s a deft juxtaposition of materials (rope against metal); tinged with whimsy (at one point the anchor gets winched up to float above ground); and stuck with us long after we left.
47’s founders hope that their gallery will become a multi-use community space, and are planning film nights and art forums along with future shows. It already feels like a welcoming haunt, and the alleyway locale keeps things relaxed and neighbourly (as opposed to gimmicky, which Cool Things In Alleys sometimes are). As we continued chatting with McGregor over the grinding of “Rock Bottom”‘s motor, her optimism and openness became increasingly evident. All three founders have independent careers as artists (Lin is the best known, with international showings and well-heeled commercial clients), which is perhaps what gives them the leeway to forgo financial considerations with this new venture. If “Rock Bottom” is any indication, that sense of freedom and play may be proving infectious, happily spreading to Richards and, we can only hope, other artists as well.
“Rock Bottom” can be seen at 47 (47 Milky Way) until April 26, Wednesday–Friday 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Saturday 12–5 p.m., Sunday 12–4 p.m., FREE.
Hat tip to Fauxreel/Dan Bergeron.
Photos by Hamutal Dotan/Torontoist.