Tau Lewis, Curtis Santiago and Daniel Rios Rodriguez

Cooper Cole, Toronto, Canada

The stolid figure of Tau Lewis’s sculpture You Lose Shreds of Your Truth Every Time I Remember You (all works 2017) took me aback as I glimpsed it through the gallery’s window. Life-sized, clad in rolled-up cut-offs and casual shoes, holding a wire monkey by a leash, he leans forward in his chair, physically and emotionally shattered, but controlling the space. He doesn’t care that he shouldn’t go shirtless in a gallery. He’s not belligerent, but he’s self-assured and wants relief from the hot day.

I did a double take when I observed how alive the figure seems, despite being fashioned somewhat roughly from both conventional and more unusual materials: plaster, stones, acrylic paint and stuff listed, intriguingly, as ‘secret objects’. Similarly, in Untitled (Play Dumb to Catch Wise), a smaller figure (perhaps Lewis as a child) sits in a rocking chair but lacks the energy to rock. The exhausted but aware visage enacts the Jamaican proverb in the subtitle, feigning cluelessness so as to be clued in.

3.cc_tau_lewis_2017_you_lose_shreds_of_your_truth_every_time_i_remember_you-2.jpg

Tau Lewis, you lose shreds of your truth every time I remember you, 2017, plaster, cloth wire, chain, acrylic paint, stones, secret objects, fur, leather, chair, pants, shoes, 116 x 185 x 119 cm. Courtesy: Cooper Cole, Toronto

Deliberately or not, this subtitle recalls both William Shakespeare (his fellow ‘wise enough to play the fool’ in Twelfth Night) and Italian reggae personality Alborosie’s ‘Play Fool (To Catch Wise)’ (2013) – a range suiting the expansiveness of this two-person exhibition that Lewis shares with Curtis Santiago. The show encompasses work that, while distinct, overlaps thematically and aesthetically. ‘I don’t want to talk about diaspora anymore,’ says Santiago, quoted in the improbably poetic exhibition statement. ‘I want to create spaces to think about it. Mobility is necessary and luxurious and peculiar given our past.’ Mobility can be physical (as when Lewis’s father arrived in Canada from Jamaica, or Santiago’s family from Trinidad), but also intellectual or emotional. Thus Lewis’s self-representation seems to ponder her out-of-placeness – or perhaps, if we follow in the vein of Homi Bhabha’s thinking, ‘between-placeness’. The face in Santiago’s painting Higher Self-Portrait floats toward us from its spray-painted background; its indistinct edges feel ethereal while invoking the visual codes of graffiti and urban grit, and its oversizedin glasses turn the tables by transforming the viewer into the viewed.

27.cc_tau_lewis_curtis_santiago_2017_through_the_people_we_are_looking_at_ourselves.jpg

Tau Lewis and Curtis Santiago, ‘Through the people we are looking at ourselves’, 2017, installation view, Cooper Cole. Courtesy: Cooper Cole, Toronto

Meanwhile, in Cooper Cole’s downstairs space, Daniel Rios Rodriguez’s solo exhibition similarly employs a rough-edged aesthetic to thematize issues of identities that refuse to be limited by the synthetic boundaries of nation-states. For example, the upright snake in the colourful, impatiently hewn Nerodia suggests a do-it-yourself caduceus or rod of Asclepius (alluding to, respectively, commerce and healing) while its name references a water snake common to Rodriguez’s home state of Texas yet found throughout North America. The Nerodia is a curious figure for resistant, mobile identity: widespread, tough, adaptable, but dully coloured and non-venomous. Nonetheless, without capturing much attention, it has infiltrated a huge geographical range, which it seems destined to occupy for centuries to come.

Still, for me, Rodriguez’s most compelling piece is his mid-sized, untitled graphite drawing on a paper oval, completed in 2017. Bounded by a drawing of a cord (is the similarity to Pablo Picasso’s 1912 Still Life with Chair Caning deliberate?), it bursts with images of plants, sunsets (or sunrises?), landscapes and water, rendered in a vaguely cartoonish way that imparts a remarkable energy. This vigour seems like the flipside of the emotional exhaustion that characterizes many of the works in these two shows: maybe an emblem of a time and place beyond the historical conditions that perpetuate diaspora, where enforced travel and the fatigue it generates come to an end.

Main image: Tau Lewis and Curtis Santiago, ‘Through the people we are looking at ourselves’, 2017, installation view, Cooper Cole. Courtesy: Cooper Cole, Toronto

Issue 190

First published in Issue 190

October 2017

Most Read

Ignoring its faux-dissident title, this year's edition at the New Museum displays a repertoire that is folky, angry,...
An insight into royal aesthetics's double nature: Charles I’s tastes and habits emerge as never before at London’s...
In other news: Artforum responds to #NotSurprised call for boycott of the magazine; Maria Balshaw apologizes for...
At transmediale in Berlin, contesting exclusionary language from the alt-right to offshore finance
From Shanghai to Dubai, a new history charts the frontiers where underground scenes battle big business for electronic...
Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, UK
Zihan Karim, Various Way of Departure, 2017, video still. Courtesy: Samdani Art Foundation
Can an alternative arts network, unmediated by the West's commercial capitals and burgeoning arts economies of China...
‘That moment, that smile’: collaborators of the filmmaker pay tribute to a force in California's film and music scenes...
In further news: We Are Not Surprised collective calls for boycott of Artforum, accuses it of 'empty politics'; Frida...
We Are Not Surprised group calls for the magazine to remove Knight Landesman as co-owner and withdraw move to dismiss...
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film is both gorgeous and troubling in equal measure
With Zona Maco opening in the city today, a guide to the best exhibitions across the Mexican capital
The question at the heart of Manchester Art Gallery’s artwork removal: what are the risks when cultural programming...
In further news: Sonia Boyce explains removal of Manchester Art Gallery’s nude nymphs; Creative Scotland responds to...
Ahead of the India Art Fair running this weekend in the capital, a guide to the best shows to see around town
The gallery argues that the funding body is no longer supportive of institutions that maintain a principled refusal of...
The Dutch museum’s decision to remove a bust of its namesake is part of a wider reconsideration of colonial histories,...
At New York’s Metrograph, a diverse film programme addresses a ‘central problem’ of feminist filmmaking
Ronald Jones pays tribute to a rare critic, art historian, teacher and friend who coined the term Post-Minimalism
In further news: curators rally behind Laura Raicovich; Glasgow's Transmission Gallery responds to loss of Creative...
Nottingham Contemporary, UK
‘An artist in a proud and profound sense, whether he liked it or not’ – a tribute by Michael Bracewell
Ahead of a show at Amsterdam’s EYE Filmmuseum, how the documentarian’s wandering gaze takes in China’s landscapes of...
In further news: Stedelijk explains why it cancelled Ettore Sottsass retrospective; US National Gallery of Art cancels...
With 11 of her works on show at the Musée d'Orsay, one of the most underrated artists in modern European history is...
Reopening after a two-year hiatus, London’s brutalist landmark is more than a match for the photographer’s blockbuster...
What the Google Arts & Culture app tells us about our selfie obsession
At a time of #metoo fearlessness, a collection of female critics interrogate their own fandom for music’s most...
A rare, in-depth interview with fashion designer Jil Sander

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

October 2017

frieze magazine

November - December 2017

frieze magazine

January - February 2018