Robert Taite – There is Here (Exhibition Review)

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Robert Taite – There Is Here
aceartinc.
2nd Floor, 290 McDermot Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba
7 March – 4 April, 2014

Robert Taite‘s most recent exhibition at aceart – his second solo show after the last year’s installation at the Negative Space collective – offers a further refinement to an artistic trajectory of remarkable focus. A refinement, not a repetition: that is, an a continuing development of technique and widening of field leading to an intensification of affect. If Taite’s work has previously referred to the acknowledged influences of Blinky Palermo and Imi Knœbel, There Is Here finds Taite amplifying his own voice, making it more clearly distinguishable through, paradoxically, a certain retreat.
Viewers walking into aceart gallery might be excused for wondering if they hadn’t entered a storage room containing the debris from an explosion in an Ikea. Canvases lie scattered about, either flat on the floor, bunched together or draped over chairs. A two-panelled divider with adjacently exposed sides stands in one corner; in another, a jagged assemblage of panels emits a sound deceptively similar to ambient air-conditioning. On the walls hang various groups of objects constructed from wood, canvas and artificial materials; these objects of impure colouration – they are red-ish, green-brown, beige-y – with right and oblique angles contrasting with the more biomorphic curved shapes that they often frame. (Taite plays some very interesting games with framing, with objects exceeding or evading their ostensible frame as much as they nestle, sometimes uncomfortably, within them). The works on the walls misbehave in a number of ways; they twist away from the walls at odd angles, locate themselves at the very top or very bottom of the walls, as though hiding from the viewers’ eye lines, take advantage of nonintentional curves and distortions in the gallery’s floors or hide behind columns. There is no small degree of whimsy here, and it is hard not to chuckle at, for example, the small grey cube that lurks behind one of the white supporting pillars, or the articulated set of multi-coloured boards that spread themselves out in the space between two of the plinths. The effect is a totality: as viewers, we are invited to experience the objects as components of a larger, enigmatic whole.

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Additionally, Taite makes careful and deliberate use of the aceart space beyond the white verticality of the walls, exploring the aforementioned slant in the floors and shadows cast by the gallery lights, the supporting columns and even the dividing wall between the exhibition space proper and aceart’s experimental “project space.” this latter work is particularly interesting: a brown-grey painted panel (differentiated from the previous white wall panels in the manner of a teratych) on which hangs an untreated canvas with a few apparently random or accidental brushstrokes. At first glance, the canvas appears to have a recess cut into it, but closer examination proves that the recess has been cut right through the adjoining wall into the project area. The viewer must peer through the square whole to view the vista: further enigmatic shapes on the floor and wall and, most surprisingly, a photograph of a Portuguese villa.

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This particular part of Taite’s exhibition stands out not least because of its marked, almost flamboyant, difference from the other components. However, I would argue that, in some ways, this particular assemblage provides an important key to this enigmatic exhibit. The voyeuristic position implied in peering through an aperture in a wall must inevitably bring to mind twentieth-century art’s most (in)famous explorations of voyeurism – Marcel Duchamp’s twenty year project Etant Donnés (1946-1966), with its own Peeping Tomisms. While Taite’s work lacks to the psychosexual dynamics that characterizes Duchamp’s provocation, there is nevertheless something of a Duchampian froideur about There Is Here. This froideur is amplified by a number of sensuous features to the work. I have mentioned the peculiarity of the colour scheme used in this exhibition, and in Taite’s work generally. As with Jaan Poldaas and Francine Savard, Taite is fascinated by mistints, the impurity of which mutes the “retinal” appeal of the works on show. Significantly, these mistints are found objects, being the discards from commercial house-painting concerns that no one else saw fit to use. In a sense, these can be regarded as a variation on the Duchampian readymade, with a similar sense of ironic fatalism and refusal of aesthetic taste that the concept implies. One could even extend the readymade theme to consider the means by which the exhibition is put together: individual components, (al)ready made by Taite without reference to a final sense of how they are put together, to be arranged in an architectural/design assemblage in accordance to the specifics of the exhibition space. This Duchampian aura that hovers over There Is Here perhaps leads to its most marked quality which I have somewhat mischaracterized as being enigmatic: the affect that permeates Taite’s exhibition is one of a deeply inhibited reticence.

[Special Note: The Red-Assiniboine Research Unit has decided to publish occasional reviews of exhibitions and events as part of our online publication presence. These reviews will be shorter than the essays we are publishing, but will allow for more experimentation with ideas, theories, polemics, etc.. We hope you enjoy this feature to the RARU, and if you have any reviews you would like to contribute or events you would like to bring to our attention, let us know!]

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