Culture  Close readings, close quarters

Jerry Ropson exhibit won’t let you take a step back

Jerry Ropson’s exhibit “Hollow cores, other findings and one last chance,” is located in the small room at the back of SKOL gallery. This unassuming space not only contains Ropson’s art, but also actively shapes its meaning.

The smallness of the show seems intentional – the gallery space becomes intimate. There is a table, a chair, and a hanging mosquito net; the windows that face out onto the street are almost devoid of artwork. There is hardly enough space to step back, especially with another person or two in the room. And yet, stepping back, putting things into perspective, is an important aspect of looking at art. That this show does not allow you to do so is one of its flaws, though perhaps an intentional one.

To further restrict movement, there are pieces of art scattered about on the floor, leaning against the wall, and hanging from the ceiling. It is difficult to move, to look. Were it a friend’s room, I might sit down or lean against the table, but in a gallery the amount of objects crowds the viewer and obscures the quality of any individual piece.

It would seem, then, that space is the fundamental problem of this show; it both restricts viewing and coalesces the artwork into an amorphous mass. But within these frustrating elements of the show, there are also artworks that hold some significance. This is largely apparent in the use of text and sculpture. The only two pieces that are presented in the standard “work of art” format – framed and hung at eye level – are two lists of handwritten words called Every Other Possible Title For This Particular Exhibition of Work, and Everything That Distracted Me From Working.

I did not find either list particularly compelling. My critique isn’t that it has been done before, but that parts of each list, like “You are here,” or “Sawdust,” were simply trivial. This triviality was not because the words didn’t relate to the work of art, but because they were so clearly meant to evoke the sort of meta-art that if done at all, must be done well – and more subtly.

I have to mention the ladders, which were prevalent in this room. They were of all shapes and sizes, but none too large – that’s not something the room would permit. I liked that some were on their sides and some were upright, it was pleasant and playful.

Despite this, Ropson’s exhibit is enjoyable to be in because it forces you to look at the artwork closely, perhaps too closely. It is an interesting and atypical gallery experience. The artworks individually do not hold much weight, but as a whole, they do merit attention.

I do not, however, wish to imply that this is work that transcends art and transforms the gallery into something everyday; rather, it is unified in a way that evokes a gallery space contained within a gallery – an exhibition of Ropson’s art in his own world.

SKOL is a multi-floor complex full of small galleries, located on the third floor of the Belgo building at 372 Ste. Catherine. While you’re there, it’s also worthwhile to give Stephen Kelly’s art a look and listen – he is the other artist currently being shown at the SKOL. The exhibit runs until November 29.