Bill Crane, Kelly Mark, and Carl Trahan

22 February 1996 - 30 March 1996
Opening Reception 22 February 1996 8pm

Main Gallery:

Bill Crane, Kelly Mark, and Carl Trahan

Mercer Union is pleased to present a group exhibition of sculpture installations by Toronto artist Bill Crane, Montréal artist Carl Trahan and Halifax artist Kelly Mark. The exhibition focuses on issues of object and image systems; as each artist explores the dynamic of multiple objects and grids as a means of revealing the corporeal and metaphysical through a process of ordering or breaking down the body. The metaphoric construct varies from artist to artist. For Crane, it is a molding detail, cast numerous times with a different photographic detail. For Mark, it is the process of seeing, analyzing and responding that provokes an investigation of material ordering. For Trahan, it is more directly related to the physical body, the dissolution of which promises some understanding of the whole.

Bill Crane graduated from Ontario College of Art in 1987. He is a member of the Toronto artists collective Spontaneous Combustion and exhibited with them most recently in London, England. Crane has also participated in numerous group exhibitions, most recently in Bedtime Stories at S.L. Simpson Gallery. Crane works and lives in Toronto.

Kelly Mark graduated from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1994. During 1995 she had two solo exhibitions in Halifax, at Mount Saint Vincents’ University Art Gallery and the Khyber Space for Art. She also participated in Object Lessons at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in 1995. Mark works and lives in Halifax.

Carl Trahan graduated from University du Québec a Montréal in 1994. His latest solo exhibition, Les Confessions perverses, showed at Skol Gallery in Montréal. Trahan has participated in numerous group exhibitions in Québec, and he performed Venus cannibale & Masochiste Castré at Centre de Diffusion, UQAM, in 1994. Trahan works and lives in Toronto.

Brochure essay by Lisa Mark:

a blue muscle poised under skin,
a skin raised up to the surface of the body,
organ of the surface, itself without speech
but with terrible longing
the seam between inside and outside
by which
pressure is brought to bear upon the organism
-Erin Mouré, “Visible Spectrum”

“The Body” has been the object of much theorizing in recent years. The fleshy sack in which we work, play, love, kill has been exposed as mediated and constructed and our comprehension of it limited. Since mind and body are inextricably intertwined, I cannot know that which constitutes me. The structure of lived experience is embedded within my physiognomy, yet as soon as I attempt to describe my body-reality, I use a language with limitations, both ideological and historical.

This gap between experience and what we can communicate is both melancholic and hopeful; it is a space of compromise. The artists in this exhibition work from this context. From the rubble of what has been deconstructed they piece together and offer new proposals.

Carl Trahan’s sculptural works seek to re-emb

ody the erotic, to seduce us through details. Perhaps the least ambiguous of his recent work, Besoins takes as its starting point several literally desirous body parts open mouths, fingers, penises. These are sculpted out of rubber and encased in plexiglass compartments. Metaphorically, Besoins reproduces the alienating compartmentalization of contemporary sexuality and offers spaces where we might find the allure of the forbidden. Small and transgressive, these compartments are sites in which to discover the erotic possibilities of a body lurking within. Without such spaces of transgression (slippery as they are), we are left only with authorized spaces in which to express our individual sexualities, vulnerable to the colonization of our fantasies.

Bill Crane’s work touches on sexuality within a spectrum of human compassion and care. In his work Trace Elements, a series of stars is arranged in a grid over an entire wall. The stylized

stars have been cast in plaster from an architectural molding detail. Tiny, round photographs pinned to the centre of each star represent gestures reminiscent of both nurturing and abandonment. For Crane, these metaphorical points of light exist in a context of vast emptiness, the loss that AIDS has brought. The work is poetic, gently touching the ambiguities of gay sexual identity and desire. Amidst the urgency surrounding the AIDS crisis, Trace Elements articulates a discourse of mercy.

In Split Axes, Kelly Mark takes up and extends the 20th century tradition of the ready-made. As with Duchamps’s In Advance of a Broken Arm (his shovel piece), these ready-mades are not simply found objects whose meanings are based on their recontextualization. Through their titling, Mark plays with the possibilities of language: each broken axe handle is a split axis. She also alters them. Mark has taken these split axe handles (minus the blades), bonded them back together and varnished only the area around the joint.

An axe is a primitive tool that carries with it the c

onnotation of a corresponding gesture and its violent affect. Presumably, its handle is split when an axe is over-used (leading me to wonder where these stray axe-blades remain lodged). In this work, Mark invokes the body without representing it, suggesting human labour, sweat and pain (In Advance of a Broken Back?). Besides being glued and varnished, the mended handles are set into grips attached to a wall. As if scarred, healed and now retired, they have been lifted from their utilitarian context into the realm of expression.

Each of these artists articulates something of the body – a gesture, vulnerability, desire, power, frailty – communicating with eloquence and compromise. The critique of langu

age and the body has opened our understanding of both, illuminating problems and limitations, raising previously unconscious aspects to the surface (never removing them entirely). Deconstructive critical activity around the body is still prevalent (and perhaps necessary); but these artists are engaged in the construction of new and provisional spaces between silence and speech.

– Lisa Gabrielle Mark