TH&B, the artist collective whose moniker is derived from the now-defunct Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway, mounted its second large-scale invitational group exhibition, “TH&B2,” this spring at 270 Sherman Avenue North in Hamilton. The space, like the title of the exhibition and the name of the collective, nods to Hamilton’s industrial past while focusing on its creative potential in the present—an issue that often arises as Hamilton seeks to redefine itself as a cultural hub.
This textile mill built in 1900, now readapted into artist studios, provided an apt setting for TH&B’s core members—Ivan Jurakic, Tor Lukasik-Foss, Dave Hind and Simon Frank—and 14 other artists and collectives from the rust belt to respond to ideas of nature, industry and architecture through installation, performance and video. These themes were explored via nostalgic gestures, pop culture references and a fanatic adherence to material exploration, generating a tone that was often melancholic, yet dotted with humour.
An extension of the body of work Secondary Occupants, Julian Montague’s The Ruins of 270 Sherman Ave. North juxtaposes graphic portraits of arachnids found throughout the building with eerie slides of the webs they occupied. Reminiscent of Hitchcock film stills, these images magnify the presence of “outdoor” species in “indoor” architectural spaces. By upsetting ideas of domesticity, the work evokes both trauma and play.
Gareth Lichty’s Hamper created a similar sense of disjuncture within a domesticated space. By wrapping a seven-kilometre-long piece of snow fence around a central support beam in the middle of the 2,800-square-metre warehouse floor, Lichty managed to create an arresting anchor. His use of material was both aesthetically pleasing and critically engaging.
Tor Lukasik-Foss and Ivan Jurakic explored unexpected materials as well with installations reminiscent of the collective’s piece Swarm, previously shown at Beyond/In Western New York, among other venues. For Pylon, Jurakic constructed a massive, but delicate, transmission tower out of shipping cardboard and coffee-cup lids, while Lukasik-Foss inverted this type of form, creating the sturdy, milky-transparent private performance structure I AM BIGGER THAN YOU KNOW.
Of a more ephemeral ilk, Andrew McPhail’s CRYBABY, fashioned from thousands of hand-stitched Kleenex, evoked an expansive, hazy cloudscape. A papier-mâché airplane bound with artificial tears dangled from the rafters, conjuring notions of the abject and human fragility, as well as feelings of hope and possibility.
Operating within the underscoring themes of nature versus industry, the artists—who also included Crystal Mowry, Simon Frank, Vessna Perunovich, Steve Mazza, Niall Donaghy, Shake-n-Make, Tara Cooper and Terry O’Neill, Susan Detwiler, Svava Thordis Juliusson, William Starling, Dave Hind, Roy Caussy and Janet Morton—focused on the inherent potential of the site, highlighting the budding cultural possibilities of post-industrial centres.