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2006 10 19
Angle of Incident #25: Rupen

By Gary Michael Dault

The Toronto-based artist known simply as Rupen was born Rupen Kunugus in Istanbul in 1960. He came to Canada when he was nine, and became a Canadian citizen in 1974.

Although he is not yet, I suppose, a household name, Rupen is a very good artist. He is also an art gallery director, his gallery—one if the smallest in the city—consisting of the two storefront windows of his house at 506 Adelaide Street West. Rupen has been running this mini-conservatory of a gallery—which bears the accurate and therefore eminently sensible name of Natural Light Window—since 1997. He is Natural Light Window’s sole Curator, responsible for all 72 cubic feet of its exhibition space, and he shows others peoples’ work there—not his own.

He does, however, show his work in other galleries. The reason I’m writing about him here, in fact, is that I think his latest exhibition, running at Antonia Lancaster’s funky, outback OFFTHEMAPGALLERY on Lansdowne Avenue, is an excellent one: formally and conceptually exciting, cleanly devised and imaginatively installed and, in the end, highly satisfying.

The exhibition is called either Urban Reflector or Urban Reflections (it is listed in different places under both names) and is informed by Rupen’s love of bicycles. Last year, he curated an event-and-exhibition called Life in the Bike Lane, which involved a mass bicycle ride by assorted artists from the art gallery complex at 80 Spadina Avenue to OFFTHEMAPGALLERY, at the end of which, the bicycling artists contributed to an exhibition there of works relating to bicycle culture.

OFFTHEMAPGALLERY is such an elemental little place—really little more than a concrete block garage out at the back (through the garden) of Antonia Lancaster’s house (I’ve written about it before in Angle of Incident # 12)—that not everything will show well there: but Rupen’s new work does.

Urban Reflectors is so called because it involves the artist’s having crafted four shaped, neatly routered and black-painted wall-mounted objects which, as with all of Rupen’s superbly crafted works, are presented in forms that, while highly generalized, nevertheless seem curiously reminiscent of something or other [I remember a beautiful series of Rupen works which consisted of smoothly finished, wall-mounted, wooden plaque-like things which, after your having adjusted their scale in your mind, turned out to be based on the shapes of guitar picks]. In this case, the sculptures are long paddle-like objects that could be wheel-less skateboards if it weren’t for the fact that they are asymmetrical. The pieces turn out to be, in fact (I had to be told this), shapes based, morphologically speaking, on forms derived from bicycle reflectors.

The four “reflector” forms are hung on the brick and concrete block walls in rhythmically subtle ways, relating insistently to one another and, in the end, energetically animating the whole space. They suck up light like voracious blotters, and, to that end, are generously and even strenuously illuminated by some charmingly basic light sources (one per work) that are, in themselves, sculpturally engaging.

Like all of Rupen’s work, the four bicycle reflector sculptures—in case anybody out there wants to acquire one—are priced at only $350 each. The exhibition runs, according to Antonia Lancaster, who can be winningly casual about such matters, “at least until October 28 and maybe longer”.

The Gallery is at 712 Lansdowne Avenue (The Back Building) and its hours of operation
Are 2-5pm, Thursday-Saturday. 416-642-2113 or . Or you can visit the gallery’s website at http://www.offthemapgallery.com. I’m going to quote Lancaster’s directions to the gallery in full, because they’re sort of charming: “From the Bloor / Lansdowne subway station, walk north to Wallace and then another halfblock. It is on the WEST side in the back building of a yellow storefront. NOTE: ONLY USE THE WEST SIDE NUMBERS”.

[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 10/19 at 02:08 PM

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