Observers can look onto Kim Adams’ newest piece at the Art Gallery of Ontario as children might peer into a glassed-in ant colony. The Canadian sculpture and installation artist is renowned for his ability to generate a multitude of narratives within small-scale structures. His newest works are no exception. Winner of the 2012 Gershon Iskowitz Prize, Adams has returned to the AGO with two new sculptural works located in the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Sculpture Atrium and the Thomson Collection of Ship Models.
Kim Adams: Recent Works is a continuation of his series Artists’ Colony, a collection of miniature scenes which began in 1987. The new additions are a playful reflection of Adams’ fondness for miniatures as well as a microscopic look into larger social and environmental commentaries. Both sculptures explore themes of agriculture, land use, and consumption. They will be on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario until August 11.
In Artist Colony (Gardens), Adams uses tiny plastic figures to display a vibrant and colourful community of people settled in an urban agricultural space. These figures ‘live’ in a bustling fictional world and are engaged in a wide array of activities, ranging from a camping scene in the woods to a lively street market. Couples, friends, and family members can be seen embracing, reuniting and separating at the train station. Near the forest, soccer-playing children share a field with a funeral ceremony. The minutia is so remarkable that an observer cannot help but to invent stories for these teeny characters. The piece is certainly not devoid of humour either. Giraffes, hippos, and zebras can be spotted throughout the scene. There is a man climbing a pine tree to reach a perched winged fairy. These absurd elements are scattered throughout the landscape and serve to remind us of the imaginary essence of the scene. There are most importantly within the landscape a number of spaces dedicated to agricultural pursuits: vineyards, flower and vegetable gardens, rice fields, and an enclosure for pigs. These spaces are in very close proximity to the very people selling and consuming the agricultural goods produced.
Elizabeth Smith, executive director of curatorial affairs at the AGO explains that the piece relates to the ‘parts of the chain of production and consumption –a kind of compressed space of multiple narratives’. The cycling of the food chain, our source of life, is condensely manifested in Adams’ work. Adams’ second sculpture on display, Travels through the Belly of the Whale, utilizes a recycled grain silo. Observers can peer into the silo through plastic windows and funnels, at what appears to be a miniature industrial farming community. Additionally, the sculpture features a small train traveling through and around the silo, inviting spectators to ride in and out of another minuscule world. The title could be a parallel to the biblical story of Jonah who spent three days living inside of a whale, an ordeal which eventually compelled him to deliver a holy message. Could Adams also be sending us a message, drawing our attention to the shifting nature of agriculture production? And what of the moving train? Adams describes the work’s depiction of place as a hyperbolic visual narrative where “our species’ mobility perpetually expands and contracts, colonizes, converges, separates and departs”. Adams’ use of recycled and assorted materials makes for collages that are full of life and complexities. His sculptures, poignant yet playful, convey intricate imageries of magnified significance.