Shaded by trees on Sterling Road near Dundas Street West in Toronto is the building that houses Tomorrow Gallery, a space which has not yet seen its first birthday. Instigated by artists Hugh Scott-Douglas, Aleksander Hardashnakov and Tara Downs, the gallery just wrapped an exhibition of works by Egan Frantz, a young New York–based artist whose pieces often reflect his studies in art and literature at Massachusetts’ Hampshire College, where he was advised by the late artist and writer Robert Seydel.
Frantz’s exhibition, titled “The Serial Poem 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6,” comes across as an exploration of some of the staple concerns of conceptual art: language and its visual iterations, dryly humorous observations regarding at-hand materials and processes, and a wry anecdotal referentiality to past moments in one’s own practice.
A collection of works in vitrines ushered visitors into the exhibition; these contained what appeared to be glistening, sticky-looking, decaying baguettes. For this work, the artist ground whole (and sometimes, half-eaten) baguettes into a gooey paste, which he then mixed with resin and poured into a baguette-shaped mold.
The museological display of these works suggested an interest in aspects of craft in art, but not in any traditional sense. In most conceptual art, the object is only a vessel for an idea, but Frantz’s approach to these handcrafted (or perhaps one could say mouthcrafted, referencing the traditions of oral poetics) objects rearticulated the many possible meanings and metaphors of bread in a “concrete” way. An interest in wordplay was also apparent in the vitrine that held a baguette painted in a trio of “bread,” white and blue.
In the back corner of the gallery, a porcelain monkey with a blue ice pack on its head perched unassumingly on a swing suspended from a high ceiling. This sculpture referenced some of Frantz’s past works, like his 2011 performance at New York’s Miguel Abreu Gallery where he shot an arrow through a recreation of a 2010 piece by Scott Lyall and Blake Rayne that consisted in part of a ceramic monkey. The seemingly recuperating monkey at Tomorrow Gallery sat alongside a series of black resin forms hung on wires and a wooden, flower-filled reproduction of an elephant’s-foot umbrella stand.
One of the most compelling pieces in the space was a set of frames that hung nearby this trio of works. Frantz had placed weights along the bottom of the frames that will, over many hangings and installations, cause the tops of the structures to bow where there is pressure from a suspending nail. Looking at the works, one could see that this had already begun to happen, resulting in a time-based piece of understated elegance.
While each work in “The Serial Poem 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & 6” retained its own distinct allure, the success of the exhibition lay in the combination of materials Frantz juxtaposed: the absurdity of reconstituted bread, the heaviness of suspended black resin, the kitsch of found ceramics, and the delicacy of pale wood and white roses. It all added up to an evocative visual language.