X is for ‘Xception

Located at 158 Sterling Rd, Toronto ON, Canada A M6R 2B7
Museum Website: https://moca.ca/ 

Museum of Contemporary Art

This is the exception that proves the rule… in other words, this post doesn’t stick with any of the theme rules… it is not in the five boroughs of New York City, it can’t be reached by the New York public transit system, and it is not free! So it is a true ‘Xception!

If there is one thing that is truly a representation of our current cultural moment, that would be art, more specifically our contemporary art, inclusive and interdisciplinary. Such is the base for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Toronto.

MOCA was born in the late 90s to provide Canadian artists an opportunity to manifest their internal voices. This space was created for artists to experiment with multilayered themes, diverse realities and complexities thriving in the cultural microcosm of this globalized city.

With multiple transformations since its inception, MOCA has set up roots in various parts of the city and thus brought a cultural dialogue into those neighborhoods. Initially located at Queen West, MOCA established its presence as a renowned art gallery of Toronto. Later, it moved to the current location, the heritage Auto building, that was designed by architect John W. Woodman of Winnipeg in 1919. This historical building was originally a factory that produced aluminum products for World War II and was known for its innovative architectural construction. In those days, it was the tallest building in the city and pioneering an innovative approach known as concrete flat slab architecture. Each floor is a slab of reinforced concrete and is supported by concrete columns.

During my visit to the museum, I was mesmerized by its external and internal architectural design. 

The museum had large barn doors with a blue metal window protruding out of the front face of building, which is an installation art by Ghazaleh Avarzamani.

There are some woderful exhibitions going on currently.

Kapwani Kiwanga – Remediation

The Canadian-French artist Kapwani Kiwanga`s survey exhibition Remediation showcases the artist’s work around environmental sustainability and conservation in the face of the political and economic turmoil. It delves into the interactions between humankind and nature and how the two while disrupting each other also provide remediation through unique ways of purge and sustenance to maintain ecological balance. 

The main exhibit, Elliptical field, is a site-specific arrangement of steel compositions covered in sisal fiber. This artistic installation is considered a contrast to the industrial space the museum housing in. It emphasizes the coexistence of the natural with the manmade and the duality of the world. 

Another exhibit that I found interesting is the balloon vivariums in different plant shapes that signaled a promising future, in which vivariums will be made to protect and support plant life rather than enclose and cage.

Other site-specific elements include a sculpted drywall with colored windows that give off a sense of blocking the concrete jungle outside to preserve the aesthetics inside. 

Athena Papadopoulos – The New Alphabet

The Greek-Canadian artist Athena Papadopoulos has two bodies of work titled Trees with No Sound and Bones for Time, which were created within the timespan of the Covid pandemic. Trees with No Sound are a set of sculptures recycled from the artist’s own belongings like furniture, clothing, stuffed objects, etc. to sew, meld, and paint materials into what ultimately looked like trees. Portraying the artist’s state of mind during the pandemic, the trees reflect a forest of fears stemming from the economic uncertainties and whether the artwork would be seen by the public. The artist aimed to pose the question whether a tree falling in a deserted forest makes a sound. 

The title Bones for Time signifies a dual meaning, one that compares the trade-ins of the victims’ bodies for a reduced sentence during a criminal prosecution to working for hourly wages based on precarious labour practices. Bones for Time sculptures looked like archeological artifacts made in the shape of letters in the English alphabet. The artist traces her own body on unused hospital and wool blankets to compose solid structures, attached with a surreal meaning, that resemble various letters.

Susan for Susan – Trade Show 

This exhibition called trade show exhibition explores the balance between sculpture and product design. The collaborative design practice of John and Kevin Watts, of Susan for Susan design studio, present a visual language in an apartment interior using industrial materials and fine craftwork.

As an interconnected system, the installation includes seating, a table, shelving, a vanity, and lighting, suspended around a central column and hung from a gantry. It utilizes a wide range of industrial materials from aluminum and steel, to glass, wood and concrete. Matching function with creativity, the exhibits overlap the practices of art, architecture, and design.  

Matt Nish-Lapidus – Only the dreamer knows it (sound installation)

A Torontonian, the artist shares his memories of the industrial building before the museum occupied the space. This sound installation work comprises of three audio tracks, which are played along the three floors of the museum. The first floor audio replays the neighborhood sounds with rhythms and loops. The chord progression from the second floor recording simulates a sci-fi audio experience. On the third floor landing, the sci-fi tune is interrupted by rhythmic beats signifying how routine life can be disturbed by twists and turns, also pointing to the construction in the neighborhood.

Comment (1)

  1. Deborah Weber

    What a wonderful and informative post, and I certainly appreciated your exhibit blurbs. MOCA has been on my list of places to visit for a while, and I hope to make it there soon.


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