The second annual Grow Op, the Gladstone Hotel’s annual design exhibition that explores issues around landscape, is on this weekend.
I’m a fan of the show (and a long time fan of Grow Op’s sister exhibition, Come Up to My Room) which I blogged about last year.
There are some wonderful, must-see installations. My favorite is Windfall, by Rebecca Houston in the main space. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s quite brilliant. It’s a tree sculpture, made from cut up branches that have been restored into a “kinetic prosthetic” and propped up with pulleys that you can move around. It’s fun, engaging and a pretty deep comment on our relationship to nature, our need to manipulate, and the state of our environment.
Second best, for me was Venal Pool, by Karen Abel and Jessica Marion Barr. This conceptual piece called for participants to gather melting snow and drop them at various points across Toronto. Snow–surprisingly–came not only from Toronto, across Ontario and across the country but also from as far away as Germany, Italy, Hong Kong and Japan.
The artists have installed the snow in jars on the floor of one of the Gladstone’s rooms, and
you can see bits of sediment, pine needles and leaves inside many of the jars. The installation places a lovely value on snow as a medium, and triggers the visitor to imagine all the people gathering snow, and carrying it over…it’s sweet.
Gladstone artist-in-residence, the elegant Italian Bruno Billio has created another hit this year, with an installation of palms based on a room at Chorley Park, a now-destroyed Rosedale mansion built in 1915. Not only is Billio’s room filled with palms, he has a wonderful soundtrack of birds that completes the installation. The fact that he lives with this installation–dinner parties and all!–for the duration of the show only makes it better.
Other good projects included the very cute astroturf Jardin ARTificiel, a fake take on a traditional french garden, and Rock, Dirt & Mulch, “a sedimentary catalogue of three common construction materials.”
Although I thought one or two projects missed the mark, it would be a mistake to think the show uneven. Many were designed to lead the visitor out of the gallery and into the neighbourhood. There are self directed tours, a piece called Pigeon City (An everyday field guide to ordinary things) and Playwalk, where you get given a ‘Playmission’ and then set off to explore the urban environment.
Speaking of play, the award for most fun (and funny) exhibition goes to Eileen Finn, a landscape architect whose project Field Dress involves a fuzzy, green plant-like costume that you can put on and go outside to “become the very embodiment of nature in the city” – or in other words, to feel what it’s like to be a shrub.
What are you waiting for? Go for it!