PRE: Janice Kerbel

Curated by Barbara Fischer


Details: The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition by London-based artist Janice Kerbel. Born in 1969 in Toronto, Kerbel undertook her undergraduate studies at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design before moving to London, England, in 1995, where she completed an MA in Fine Arts at Goldsmith’s College at the University of London. This will be the first solo exhibition by the internationally renowned artist in Toronto in over fifteen years.


When: Nov. 16 – Dec. 21
Where: Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Hart House
Opening reception: Thurs, Nov. 15 from 6:30 – 9:30 pm
Conversation between the artist and curator: Sat, Nov. 17 at 3:00 pm


Work 1Janice Kerbel came to international attention for her interests in the logic of systems and the way they generate actions and repercussions. Drawn as much to familiar narrative formats, such as radio plays or detective stories, as to maps, statistical renderings, and scientific diagrams, Kerbel’s work tends to toy with the viewers’ attention, enfolding it in scenarios that are as plausible as they are unreal and purely imaginative propositions. One of her most well-known early works, Bank Job (1999), presents apparently classified documents (photographs, blueprints, time-tables, maps and notations), concerning a certain bank located at 15 Lombard Street, London. Detailed instructions describe the bank’s monitoring system, foreseen diversions, getaway routes, as well as directions to a hideout in Spain—as if to enable a bank robbery.


More recently, Janice Kerbel has turned her attention to the affective elements of systems of communication as they become visible when freed from their normal function and practical constraints. A series of large typographic works titled Remarkable (2006) use the antiquated form of the broadside to announce characters out of an imagined sideshow—the contortionist, the shyest person in the world, and the regurgitating lady. Separated from their functionality, these near obsolescent signifying systems still induce a sense of anticipation, a sensory excitement or desire in relation toward an event, while bringing into focus the very forms and means by which such desires are produced.


Image 2The two works presented in her exhibition at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery close in on her ongoing interest in “the question of visibility”, in trying to find or show the form for things that otherwise can’t be seen. Titled Pre, the exhibition includes an audio recording evoking the kind of speculation and analysis commonly preceding an impending baseball game. Kerbel has worked with the past 100 years of baseball statistics to construct a mathematically ‘average’ game, to play with what is widely considered the most quantified and statistically exploited sport in the world. Pregame represents the first part of this major, ongoing project that will eventually encompass a complete, play-by-play single-voice announcement of the full sequence of nine innings of a carefully scripted, but unplayed, baseball game. The work allows for a scrutiny of the performance of language, the tenor of hope and disappointment, anticipation and distraction.


Kerbel’s exhibition at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery will also feature Cue, 2012, a series of 36 silkscreen prints which chronicle a sequence of theatrical light events. Growing out of on an earlier work titled Kill the Workers!, 2011, the sequence of prints employ the language of theatrical lighting as it would be used to illuminate a narrative, one which here is destined to draw attention to the shapes themselves. At times referring to things in the real (ie. door, window), at other times acting symbolically (ie. moonlight), the dynamics of the formal language across the sequence of 18” x 18” squares may also be seen to enact the language of modernist abstraction in black & white, and evokes the dynamic pictorial designs of Russian constructivist art and its utopian aspirations. The shapes of the light, and the material format of the prints, highlight the ways in which the blacks move from the most transparent – and thereby closest to light, or white – to an almost opaque, black tone, while also evoking a sense of movement through stillness. Together, these works demonstrate Kerbel’s playful and acute attention to language, to both historical and contemporary cultural systems of visual and auditory representation. Ultimately, they illuminate how these in turn mobilize and act upon the viewer, listener, and reader of her work.

Biographical Notes


Janice Kerbel was born in 1969 in Toronto. She completed her BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, and an MA at Goldsmiths College at the University of London). She has held teaching positions at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and Goldsmiths College, where she currently teaches. Kerbel’s work has been featured in recent solo exhibitions at The Arts Club of Chicago, Art Now Tate Britain (London), the Badischer Kunstverein (Karlsruhe), Chisenhale Gallery (London), the Kitchener/Waterloo Art Gallery, Walter Phillips Gallery (Banff), and Moderna Musset (Stockholm), among many others. Her work has also been included in numerous group exhibitions across North America and Europe, such as in Kolnischer Kunstverein (Cologne), the Bucharest Biennial 5, British Art Show 6 (Newcastle), ICA (London), Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna), de Appel (Amsterdam), Musee des beaux-arts (Montreal), and Biennale de Montreal, among many others. She was a Sobey Art Award finalist in 2006 and received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award in 2011. She is represented in Canada by Catriona Jeffries Gallery (Vancouver), and in Europe by greengrassi (London, UK), Galerie Karin Guenther (Hamburg), and i8 Gallery (Reykjavik). Janice Kerbel lives and works in London (UK).

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