Micah Lexier

16 November 1989 - 16 December 1989
Opening Reception 3 November 2023 12am

East & West Gallery:

Wall-Mounted Sculptures

Micah Lexier’s solo exhibition continues his investigation into the subject of masculinity and the processes involved in the construction of the adult male consciousness. Part of a touring exhibition entitled “To The Touch”, these works, produced within the last fifteen months, represent an extension of the issues presented in “Mr. Caldwell”, Lexier’s solo exhibition at YYZ in 1987. In this new body of work, Lexier utilizes a variety of materials and processes including large panels of silk-screened fabric, a series of baked porcelain plaques, holograms, precious metals, laser-cut steel, mechanical elements and various lighting technologies.

Though not incorporating audio tracks in these new works, visual and textual language remains an integral part of Lexier’s enquiry into the personal and social development of the male identity. The works in this exhibition range from his intimate custom-made, inscribed Gentlemen Rings to an expansive, motorized wall piece consisting of twenty slowly rotating laser-cut hand silhouettes. He presents a variety of themes which often demonstrate and challenge the prescribed conventions of physical contact and gestures.

Originally from Manitoba, Lexier studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design before establishing himself in Toronto. A relatively young artist, Lexier has developed a strong and consistent body of work which he has exhibited in artist-run centres across Canada since 1983. Micah Lexier’ s exhibition continues in Mercer Union’s East and West Gelleries through Saturday December 16. To complement the exhibition, an interview with the artist by Robert Fones, a Toronto artist and writer, will be published and made available to the public.

Voyaging through the rites of passage

METROPOLIS November, 1989

by Linda Genereux

When Micah Lexier’s grandmother gave him a gift several years ago he kept the card that read “Micah from Baba Sarah”, later using her handwritten message as the inspiration for a touch-activated wall sculpture. As part of his latest exhibition this sculpture is now titled “Touch to Change” and incorporates a laser-cut metal stencil of the words, positioned over top coloured light bulbs that turn on when the metal is touched. “Touch to Change” deftly brings focus to the act of human contact and expressions of intimacy.

Typical of Lexier’s work, the message is subtle in its delivery, yet its implication is important in a society that is reducing physical contact to only those considered safe.

Lexier is a master of soft sell. His sculptural works are constructed of technologically engaging materials-(holograms, neon, motorized prods and printed stencils) while the visual idioms he employs unite the intention and materials in a provocative dynamic.

The largest sculpture of the show is an untitled work comprised of 20 metal cut-out hands that give the thumbs up gesture in slow rotation. As they spin, the gesture changes to signify a thumbs down or a ‘hang loose’ sideways shimmy.

Although each of the hands moves on an independent rotation, there is an overall sense of pattern. Lexier is careful not to let the technology seduce the audience away from his intended saturation of this strong visual symbol.

Lexier takes us on a voyage through the rites of passage, from youth to full adulthood. His is a reflective passage, using childhood as a mirror for what the artist is today. In the public sphere, these personalizations take on meanings that chart a common ground. As the audience enters the show, two large “Akimbo” figures of an adolescent have been printed onto hanging banners. Derived from dictionary illustrations, an exhaust fan foot-activated plunger indicate the young boy’s areas of development, his heart, brain and groin.

On another wall is a photo graph of a group of youth shown kneeling together to make a human pyramid, affixed to a three-sided rotating sign board. In the next sequence of this work entitled “Touch Down”, the young men fall together, now in closer physical contact, the display board metaphorically highlighting their collapse.

As you move through the show, Lexier’s passage takes the audience right into middle age. Throughout the work, though, there is a sense that the artist is making an affirmative gesture with each of these pieces, and by doing so, the social boundaries which predicate so much of our behaviour come into question.

In a neon and metal wall sculpture from his series “In Other Words”, the artist quotes a line from the book ‘Quiet Fire: Memoirs of Older Gay Men’ that reads “I like sex, but I like it with someone who’s read a book.” Certainly this line can be many things to many people, regardless of their sexual politics.

Where these artworks succeed is in their latitude. Although many are gender specific, referential to Lexier’s own experience of growing up and assuming the mantle of an adult male’, there is a universality which pervades. Barriers of age are crossed, and different points in the span of a life are highlighted.

It is seldom that art which deals with such specificity, can shatter the barricades we establish between us. In Lexier’s case, his work is growing in richness and insight that is often only attributed to artists who appear to be older and wiser.