Productive Displacement

Takashi Suzuki, Susana Reisman, PUTPUT, Jimmy Limit

Challenging how people perceive and interact with images in public space, this group exhibition on billboards and street-level kiosks in downtown Toronto extends to billboards in eight major cities across Canada. Each of the artists destabilizes the conventions of advertising and the cultural codes associated with consumer lifestyles. Suggestive of product shots and marketing campaigns, their photographs combat the hyper-saturation of commercial imagery in the urban landscape by combining high-impact graphic strategies with conceptual and experimental art tactics. Everyday objects are placed in idiosyncratic arrangements meticulously staged against stark backgrounds, creating unexpected sculptural still lifes.

For his compositions, Jimmy Limit selects objects based on their formal qualities, often avoiding items with clear functions. Inspired by industrial supply catalogues and store flyers, the St. Catharines, Ontario-based artist uses colourful hardware store goods and industrial or domestic wares. He lifts these common objects out of context, alters their appearance, and combines them in strange and compelling ways. His precariously-arranged scenes may only last for a moment, but his seductive images have the deceptive gloss of advertisements. Limit’s photographs conflate function, merchandising, and desire, drawing attention to the complex relationship between product and consumer.

Based in Copenhagen since 2011, Stefan Friedli and Ulrik Martin Larsen have developed an artistic practice under the name PUTPUT. Their often humorous and playful constructions, transient in nature, are the result of scrupulous examination of their surroundings, similar to market research. Through highly-stylized photographic typologies, they depict food, plants, or furniture transformed by improbable yet somehow fitting unions with typically opposing elements. Presented as “practical” solutions for changing surroundings and circumstances, their series A New Necessity (2013–15) makes use of clever reinvention and visual double-take to engage viewers in the careful scrutiny of ordinary products.

Caracas-born, Toronto-based artist Susana Reisman draws from her daily domestic routine to create ephemeral sculptures using the products and gestures associated with cooking and cleaning. Adopting a stark aesthetic common to food styling, Reisman’s series Domestic Disclosures (2007 –ongoing) often references iconic works of art. Photographs depicting a cloth napkin, sticks of butter, and a stack of dishes are venerated through association, respectively, with sculptures by such artists as Robert Morris, Judy Chicago, and Constantin BrâncuÅŸi. Her images also critically call attention to the commercial mechanisms through which art is processed and consumed.

In 2010 Kyoto-based artist Takashi Suzuki began the series BAU to determine how many sculptural forms he could make with the common household sponge. Through more than 500 works produced over four years, Suzuki explores photography as a means to process visual information and transform how something is perceived. Using multiple colourful sponges, he stacks and assembles both simple and complex constructions. While many resemble monumental architectural forms, others come together in close proximity like a complex symbolic language. Each of Suzuki’s photographs denies and transforms the inherent function of the disposable sponge, absolving its humble role in the service of dirty dishes.

These five artists share a common visual language and interest in the interrogation of the quotidian object. They morph the reading of their subjects into something altogether unexpected, maintaining their primary characteristics while exploiting people’s everyday attachment to them. Drawn together within the context of advertising, this exhibition makes surreptitious use of its communicative medium, taking over billboards and kiosks to confront and confound viewer expectations.

Supported by PATTISON Outdoor Advertising and Nikon Canada  

Across Canada Locations

Calgary: 9 Ave at 9 St SE & 10 St SE

Edmonton: 105 St & 103 Ave

Halifax: North St at Alderney Dr

Montreal: Van Horne Ave at St Laurent Blvd & St Urbain St

Ottawa: Cumberland St at Besserer St

Saskatoon: Pacific Ave & 22nd St

Vancouver: Clark Dr at East 4 Ave & East 2 Ave

Winnipeg: Bannatyne Ave at Hargrave St & Osborne St at Gertrude Ave & Wardlaw Ave

Curated by Bonnie Rubenstein