Artificial Two-Step: Elizabeth Zvonar’s Banal Baroque

Elizabeth Zvonar, Cummy Loubous, 2013. Porcelain. Courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery

A distressed pair of white porcelain shoes with red soles and a cast golden index finger seductively beckon you upon first entering Elizabeth Zvonar’s exhibition Banal Baroque at Daniel Faria Gallery in Toronto. The heels of the shoes are warped, the feet inside almost brainy in texture. Sawed off abruptly at the base of the ankle, the feet, shoes, and the vibrant red soles are covered in glossy dribbles and splatters, alluding to the title of the piece, Cummy Loubous. Despite the obvious connotations inherent in the title, the piece acts as a clever reference to the intellectual undercurrents of the exhibition. One of the most familiar phrases that features the Latin word cum, cum laude, connotes distinction, just as the red sole of a Louboutin heel serves as a mark of distinction, stressing the status of the owner as well as the brand. Used conjunctively cum can refer to a person or thing with dual roles or natures, an idea Zvonar toys with throughout the exhibition, particularly in reference to gender performativity.

Elizabeth Zvonar, Harry Elephant, 2013; Sunset, 2013. Photo paper mounted on dibond and framed. Courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery

In her first solo show in Toronto, Vancouver-based artist Elizabeth Zvonar presents a complex, seductive, tongue-in-cheek exploration of the performative nature of the feminine persona. Her work mines both societal and self-imposed constructs of femininity, while also delving into broader conversations about metaphysics, consumption and identity. Zvonar’s hand-cut collages use images appropriated from the 1970s Parisian luxury goods magazine Connaissance des Arts, and have been digitally manipulated and reprinted on photographic paper in order to introduce a sense of scale. They are presented alongside sculptural casts of various components of the female form, such as elbows and feet in high heel shoes, as well as index fingers and hands—forms that are often repeated in her other bodies of work due to their communicative abilities and their iconographic ties to art historical works.

Elizabeth Zvonar, Marcel Meets Judy, 2013. Readymade ceramic candy dish. Courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery

In an art historical vein, Marcel Meets Judy, a rose-hued, conch shell-shaped candy dish mounted to the wall weaves a tacit dialogue between art history and feminist iconography, nodding to Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, as well as Judy Chicago’s feminist dinner party. Elsewhere in the exhibition, truncated and idealized sculptural casts rest in various stages of adornment. A painted golden halo surrounds stacked hands, cast elbows are tipped in gold, and a disfigured combination of feet and index fingers holding up a collage are fully gilded nodding to the precarious balance between late-Baroque and Rococo, the thin line between excess and banality. Harry Elephant and Sunset, two lone collages on the east wall, evoke a sense of tension, while also arguably referencing some of Zvonar’s previous collage work touching on the fourth dimension, spacetime, and the role of the artist.

Elizabeth Zvonar, Clusterfuck, 2013. 6 life-size porcelain cast elbows, drip glazed with clear and white, then tipped gold. Courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery

A fan of using wordplay in the titles of her exhibitions and installations, Zvonar’s choice of title for the exhibition, Banal Baroque, critically connects this body of work to Baroque art—known for its plump, erotic, writhing ladies, religious symbolism, and decorative excess—while alluding to the advertising images used to construct the collages. While the exhibition itself is not excessive, it invites reflection on the superficial excess of adornment within a contemporary feminist dialogue, tracing the push and pull between first and third wave feminist ideals as they relate to the trivialized nature of outward appearances and societal expectations of femininity.

Elizabeth Zvonar, Hands Across the Universe, 2013. Life-size woman’s mannequin hands x 4. Courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery

Elizabeth Zvonar’s Banal Baroque runs through June 15th at Daniel Faria Gallery, 188 St Helens Avenue, Toronto, ON.