Word that there’s an interesting show at a suburban gallery can often, sadly, inspire a feeling of dread in the South-of-Bloor art crowd.
While there’s lots to like about the suburbs per se—bring on the greenspace and the lack of downtown attitude, Tim Hortons–loving kin!—transportation to these places is a bit of a headache. It usually takes a couple of hours on the subway, GO, suburban bus, or some combination thereof, and makes the usual gallery-hop trek from the Distillery to Queen West to Dundas West to Bloor-Lansdowne to Yorkville look like a breeze.
But you know what? It’s worth overcoming the transportation dread to go and see Libby Hague’s current show, “One Step at a Time,” at the Art Gallery of Mississauga.
One of the benefits of showing at a suburban gallery is that artists can have more space—both mental and physical—to experiment with their work. And Hague experiments to full advantage here, filling multiple rooms of the gallery with innovative paper-based installations.
In Hague’s hopeful-yet-hellish vision, jewel-strewn chandeliers interweave with graffiti-covered overpasses, and vulnerable deer shrink beneath larger-than-life wrestlers. Corrugated-cardboard storm clouds gather over office towers, while streamer-like rivers flow through alcoves and doorways.
The overall feeling is of an artist trying to grapple with the aggression, darkness, and consumer orientation of contemporary life, while finding both doomsaying and glimmers of light along the way. This is a story, of course, repeated through the work of thousands, if not millions, of artists. But Hague has the skill—originally developed and expressed through printmaking—to pull it off in a fresh and very affecting way.
Perhaps most interesting, in some ways, are her representations of graffiti, which she evidently takes as a record of what younger people, perhaps younger artists, are thinking about and experiencing. In addition to graffiti being represented in her work, she leaves the windows onto Mississauga City Centre’s skatepark uncovered, integrating the graffitiscape there as well.
The one unsuccessful part of the show came at the entrance to the gallery. There, a video of a girl dancing is meant to provide a measure of joy and hope to balance the darker aspects of Hague’s installation. While this sentiment is appreciated—and yes, even needed—its delivery is jarringly out of tune with the aesthetic of the rest of the work. The video’s wavy neon stripes and computer animation, poorly applied at that, are way out of step with the strength of Hague’s skill in printmaking and sculpture.
Still, well worth the trip before the show closes May 10.
To get to the Art Gallery of Mississauga, take the subway to Islington and then board Missisauga Transit Route 26, Burnhamthorpe West, to Square One/City Centre transit terminal.
All images courtesy of the Art Gallery of Mississauga.