The Power Plant in Toronto Opens New Exhibitions

In association with The Power Plant – Refresh, the gallery reopens to the public with three new exhibitions: two by internationally-acclaimed artists Thomas Hirschhorn and Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle and one group show featuring younger artists from Canada and the United States. The Power Plant presents the North American premiere of Thomas Hirschhorn: Das Auge (The Eye), one of the artist’s most immersive works. Also making its North American premiere is Phantom Truck, one of two works in the exhibition Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: Phantom Truck + Always After. The gallery also presents To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong?, juxtaposing the works of five artists engaged with ideas of landscape and the natural world: Andrea Carlson (Minneapolis); Annie MacDonell (Toronto); Kevin Schmidt (Vancouver); Jennifer Rose Sciarrino (Toronto); and Erin Shirreff (New York).

With this lineup of exhibitions, The Power Plant sets another benchmark. The gallery inaugurates a new lobby, website and visual identity with an outstanding exhibition program. Coined The Power Plant – Refresh, this project aims to improve access for existing and new gallery visitors, and it will also strengthen the gallery’s identity as a leading contemporary art venue. Director of The Power Plant Gregory Burke has been intimately involved with all aspects of this project and has also organized the Hirschhorn and Manglano-Ovalle exhibitions. He notes: “Both exhibitions are strong sculptural statements by leading international artists that seek to give form to resistance and protest. Landscape is also a phantom reference in their installations and is explored more specifically by the artists included in the third exhibition, curated by the gallery’s Assistant Curator Jon Davies. The combination of the three exhibitions makes for a powerful and thought provoking experience.”

Thomas Hirschhorn is interested in the aesthetics of political protest – slogans, placards, provocative photos – and in moving people to think and act critically in the world. For much of the 2000s, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle has been producing work exploring the “climate” of our times – both in terms of meteorology and the state of global geo-political affairs. The emerging artists in To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong? filter their images of the earth through conceptual practices, archival research, cultural references, and technologies of simulation.

Thomas Hirschhorn: Das Auge (The Eye)
Das Auge (The Eye) is one of Thomas Hirschhorn’s largest and most visceral sculptural installations yet to be presented. Selected to represent his native Switzerland at the 2011 Venice Biennale, Hirschhorn is renowned for his sprawling, immersive artworks that use everyday materials, found images from the news and mass media, and impassioned graffiti-like texts to engage audiences in actively thinking about politics and philosophy.

Sprawling over the gallery’s largest space, as well as a specially constructed mezzanine, the ambitious Das Auge (The Eye) was first presented at the Vienna Secession in 2008. Crafted out of paper, packing tape, colour photocopies, stuffed animals, mannequins, and other provisional materials, the exhibition is based around the image of an eye that sees only the colour red. Cobbled together from hundreds of different sculptural elements, images and texts, the entire mise-en-scène is dominated by the juxtaposition of red and white: the flags of Canada, Switzerland and other nations; the veins in an eye; blood on snow. The artist has written: “Das Auge [The Eye] does not see everything – but it sees everything that is red. Das Auge only sees the colour red. Thus it can only show red, it can only name red, and it can only ‘be’ red.” Potent and overwhelming, Das Auge links perception and voyeurism with the politics of the body, all-seeing eye to all-too-fragile flesh.

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle: Phantom Truck + Always After
Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s sculpture and video works have explored such phenomena as war, migration, the environment, and the legacies of modernist architecture with impeccable formal elegance and metaphoric power. Originally produced as a project for documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, Manglano-Ovalle’s enigmatic sculptural installation Phantom Truck (2007) is being exhibited in North America for the first time. It is presented alongside Always After (The Glass House), a key 2006 video projection from his much-discussed body of work based around the buildings of Mies van der Rohe.

Phantom Truck is a full-scale reproduction of a mobile truck trailer ostensibly containing a biological weapons lab. Such a truck was described by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell when addressing the United Nations Security Council prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. After the invasion, no trailer was ever found that was capable of biological weapons production, so Manglano-Ovalle has built one: a Platonic idealization of Powell’s lab. Parked in existential limbo in a darkened space, the barely perceptible yet massive truck austerely reflects on its own status as a fiction while towering above those who view it.

Employing long, graceful takes, Always After (The Glass House) focuses on the broken glass accumulated after the windows of the Mies-designed Illinois Institute of Technology’s Crown Hall were smashed as part of a ceremony in advance of the building’s renovation. For Manglano-Ovalle, this dreamlike scene of destruction – where modernist progress meets crisis – is a potent metaphor for our twenty-first century way of seeing the world “as a condition of a post-event.” For Manglano-Ovalle, we are doomed to always clean up our messes – as the custodians here sweep up the shards – rather than thinking through the consequences of creating them in the first place.

To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong?
With the gallery transformed into a darkened and grotto-like environment, To What Earth Does This Sweet Cold Belong? refracts the natural world through five younger artists’ meditations on and mediations of the landscape. After years of critically debating the landscape genre – particularly in Canada – these artists achieve complex, fantastical visions of land, sky and sea apropos to the 21st century.

Annie MacDonell’s black-and-white photographic collages draw from Roloff Beny’s 1967 tome of landscape photography To Every Thing There Is a Season, developing the book’s overtly mystical view of the Canadian landscape. Jennifer Rose Sciarrino produces delicate sculptures that simulate the natural world, evoking the uncanny with her mountains carved from paper and realistic crystals cast from resin. Erin Shirreff began making her 2009 video Roden Crater by printing out a photograph found online of James Turrell’s unfinished work of land art. She then rephotographed the image under various kinds of lighting, artificially mimicking the changing the sky above the crater. Andrea Carlson’s mixed-media drawings feature vibrant seascapes and iconic images from a variety of sources enclosed in ornate irises; these works on paper position waterways as fluid cultural conduits of trade, interaction and conflict. Finally, Kevin Schmidt’s 2009 video Disappearing Act stages an optical illusion constructed by Schmidt painting a landscape scene onto a tree – thereby making the tree appear transparent.

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