“Untitled (new visions)”
Maggie Groat and Barbara Hobot
by Jessica Morgun
“Untitled (new visions)” curated by executive director Tarin Hughes, is the second collaboration between artists Barbara Hobot and Maggie Groat. Their objects in the AKA exhibition space are generally small-scale works, brightly colored in rainbow or natural hues. They are arranged in clusters, skillfully dispersed and concentrated, delineating the gallery space. Diversity is found in both media and format: two dimensional collage, photographs, collections of found objects, sculptures either emerging from the walls or located on the floor or on shelves. Ones eyes are immediately drawn to Hobot’s “Untitled (sliced 4×8)” (2014), a rug-sized, vinyl sculpture near the center of the exhibition space. The piece is made from strips of vinyl, painted with acrylic in a faux wood grain. The strips are arranged in a rectangular pattern with sporadic rippled openings between the strips and the floor, revealing negative space and alluding to the true length of the vinyl strips. The placement of “Untitled (sliced 4×8)” leads the viewer’s eye to a smaller cluster of pieces on the opposing walls, activating the space between the work on the floor and the work that is hung.
But it is not only the placement of pieces in space that alludes to a conversation between objects. Interest in appearances seems to be a theme in her work: paper appears as cloth, vinyl appears as wood. “Untitled (sliced 4×8)” appears to be wood, but the ripples reveal the true nature of the object and at the same time conceal the true length of each strip. Another example of this kind of object masquerade is “Two Stones” (2012), displayed on a low hung shelf adjacent and below Groat’s photo collage, “Proposal for a Monument.” In this piece Hobot has adhered two stones together with paper maché, then painted a form that appears to be masquerading as the shadow cast by the stone standing upright. This “shadow” does not conform to gallery lighting; it takes a moment for the viewer to realize that the shadow itself is a somewhat three-dimensional form. This double play seems to be in conversation with Groat’s collage “Proposal for a Monument 2” (2012) in that her flat images of three-dimensional rocks mimic and respond to the faux-finish of “Two Stones.” Perhaps “Two Stones” might be the monument realized? Though “Two Stones” is three dimensional, it is still in a sense a “proposal,” an experiment, or a mock up. Whatever is being said between these two pieces, it is clear that a conversation is in progress.
Becoming aware of these subtle interactions, it dawned on me that as I entered the exhibition space I inadvertently interrupted a conversation of objects. Groat’s arrangements of found objects and photographic collage converse with Hobot’s whimsical faux/real forms. Though I am an outsider to these murmurings, the format of the installation and the intention of the work allow me to eavesdrop on the inner lives of objects. Do these objects desire to be something other than what they are? Are they trapped or liberated by the artist’s manipulations? Are the objects deliberately hiding their true nature? Or are they merely pretending, like a child at play? “Untitled (new visions)” will draw your attention away from your own inner monologue to the material dialogues of wood, vinyl, rock, paper, and paint.
“Untitled (new visions)” was on view from January 23 to February 28, 2015 at AKA artist-run, Saskatoon.
Jessica Morgun is a visual artist, teacher, sometimes writer, and MFA student at the University of Saskatchewan.