The reflective work of Romanian artist and Prix Marcel Duchamp winner Mircea Cantor (b. 1977) is the subject of a rennie collection at Wing Sang exhibition this winter. This is the first solo presentation of his work in Canada. While Cantor works in a number of different mediums, he is best known for his ostensibly simple video narratives that slowly build to subtle but powerful climax leaving the audience with conclusions that keep them thinking well beyond the exhibition.

Included in the exhibition will be one of Cantor’s most popular video works, Deeparture (2005). The film depicts a stand-off between a deer and a wolf within the blank white walls of an empty gallery. The animals both share the space and their abnormality to it, and bring to mind allegorical conclusions related to nature and dominance. However the narrative never reaches its imminent violent end, leading to a delicate, unnatural truce between the animals. The audience is left feeling what Belgians call “decue en bien” – disappointed in a good way.

In the more recent Wind Orchestra (2012), a young boy stands three knives on their handle end and blows them over, like a row of dominoes now more threatening than innocent. The violent implications of playing dominoes with knives appears lost on the boy, who does not seem to recognize the power of the knife as something more ominous than a toy. Another object’s common purpose is similarly disrupted in Double Heads Matches (2003). Cantor convinced a match factory in Romania to halt regular production and double dip a series of matches by hand, rendering the typical function of a match more dangerous, but potentially also more cost effective. In both instances, the original symbolic meaning of the object is altered, either by a simple act or change.

Cantor’s other works often take the form of sculpture or photography. In Rosace (2007), the rosette shape of the large hanging sculpture evokes a stained glass window or other symbols used in places of worship. It is made entirely of star-shaped ashtrays made of soda cans, which Cantor acquired from a street seller who advised him to take what he wanted and give her whatever he thought was fair. This sort of alternative economy, one based on trust and the individual, appeals to his desire to reorder the world to appreciate the labour and passion of the human hand over a capitalism based on machine manufacturing.

Mircea Cantor‘s work has been the subject of solo and group exhibitions at institutions throughout the world, including Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Museo Tamayo, Mexico City. In 2011, he was awarded the prestigious Prix Marcel Duchamp, given to an outstanding young artist working in France.

rennie collection is one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Canada. Over a number of years, it has evolved to focus on works related to identity, social injustice, appropriation, and the nature of painting and photography. The collection is made up of work by approximately 200 artists, including John Baldessari, Martin Creed, Andrew Grassie, Rodney Graham, Mona Hatoum, Brian Jungen, Richard Jackson, Louise Lawler, and Ian Wallace. While based in Vancouver, the collection is usually spread across the globe, on loan to institutions such as Guggenheim New York, Centre Pompidou, the Smithsonian Institution, and Tate Modern, among many others. The Wing Sang building, the oldest structure in Vancouver’s Chinatown, was renovated in 2009 to create an exhibition space in which the collection could be displayed locally. rennie collection at Wing Sang holds two shows each year.