Jon Sasaki & Jessica Vallentin, The Old College Try

Gabrielle Moser
Red Bull 381 Projects, Toronto,
July 8–August 8, 2009
Installation view.
photo : courtesy of the artist and Red Bull 381 Projects
Red Bull 381 Projects, Toronto,
July 8–August 8, 2009
[En anglais]

A paradoxical combination of enthusiasm and futility, slapstick and sincerity, has become a hallmark of Jon Sasaki’s practice. In “The Old College Try,” a show of the artist’s recent work in Toronto, Sasaki’s infectious eagerness is shared with emerging artist Jessica Vallentin: an undergraduate student whose promise as an artist resulted in a university award and the opportunity to exhibit with Sasaki. The exhibition marks a turn in Sasaki’s practice and suggests, through Vallentin’s work, the legacy his œuvre may have on future artists.

Sasaki is represented by several new pieces in the show, including Untitled (2009), an unoccupied and deflated mascot costume that now slumps against the gallery wall and floor. The costume is a familiar character from I Promise It Will Always Be This Way (2008), a performance created for last year’s Nuit Blanche that challenged twenty-six costumed mascots to maintain a stadium crowd’s enthusiasm over the twelve hours of the event. The snowman-shaped figure is Nork, the retired mascot of the city of North York (which was amalgamated into Toronto in 1998) who now looks hopelessly dated and anachronistic. As curator Nicholas Brown puts it in one of the wall texts, “Now, [Nork] must once again face his obsolescence—out of the limelight and out of place in this temporary gallery setting.”

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