Article: Everything in its Right Place

Article published in the Grid.

When Micah Lexier matter-of-factly states that “Everyone in the art world knows who I am,” it’s not bravado. Because he’s a man of so many hats—creator, curator, collector—the prolific Lexier eventually comes into contact with pretty much every promising new artist in the city.

So when the man who critic Andrea Carson calls “the hardest-working person in the Canadian art world” was approached to curate a survey of contemporary Toronto artists, he already had a few hundred ideas in mind.

“More Than Two (Let It Make Itself)” is an astoundingly ambitious project that features over 200 new works from local artists and collectives, and yet it makes up only a small fraction of Lexier’s current multi-part exhibition at the Power Plant. Had any other creator or curator been at the helm, this project could have been a total mess. But we’re talking about a man for whom order and organization are basically mantras.

Throughout his 30-year career, Lexier has established a reputation for making innovative work that’s both unconventional and highly structured. It makes sense, then, that his Power Plant show is defined by categories. In “(One),” Lexier works alone, revisiting past solo projects and experimenting with video art. “(Two)” presents some of his most famous collaborations with writers and poets. And, of course, “(More Than Two)” brings together half the working artists in Toronto. The show is diverse, but it’s united by the consistency of Lexier’s vision, which is always both playful and elegant. His work may look simplistic on the surface, but it has rewarding depth.

He can be found most Thursday nights combing the city for recycled cardboard (one of his favourite materials), and he sees his role as curator along similar lines. “In a strange way, I’m sort of dealing with these artists’ works as found materials,” he says. “Even though it’s a group show, with a curatorial premise, it’s also a work of art by me.” As is the gallery itself: The Power Plant has given Lexier carte blanche to exact his vision, and now each room bears his mark. Walls have been rearranged to reflect the geometric forms of his work, and fluorescent lighting has been installed to properly illuminate various pieces’ unique relationship to space. For the consummate organizer, everything is finally falling into place.

Highlights from “One, and Two, and More Than Two”

1. Self-Portrait as a Wall Text (1998/2013, pictured at top)

First unveiled when Lexier was 37, this poignant work illustrates the artist’s life expectancy through the ratio of text (representing life lived) to blank wall (representing his remaining time). Now that Lexier is 52, the words have been bolded to further encroach upon his remaining white space.

2. Working as a Drawing (2012)

Lexier dove into his extensive archives of more than 10,000 pieces to assemble this grouping of 470 drawings. “It’s both a kind of portrait and a collection, an archive and a history,” he says.

3. This One, That One (2013)

One of Lexier’s first forays into video art, this delightful work follows the artist’s hands as he organizes a dizzying variety of objects and symbols into ordered systems.

4. Two Equal Texts (2007)

A collaboration with the poet Christian Bök, this work made waves after it appeared in the window of art gallery MKG127’s orginal location at Ossington and Argyle. Lexier maintains that he deserves no credit for Bök’s crafting of the complex anagram.

5. I Am the Coin (2010)

This large-scale installation is made up of 20,000 custom-minted coins, which spell out a lengthy riddle by novelist Derek McCormack. (For those looking to avoid neck strain, the full text is also available online.)

6. 1334 Words for 1334 Students (2008)

Lexier called upon acclaimed Irish writer Colm Tóibín to write a short story that was as many words long as there were students in Mississauga’s Cawthra Park Secondary School. Each child’s handwriting makes an appearance in the finished text.

“One, and Two, and More Than Two”: by the numbers

100: Number of people who claimed prizes for solving the riddle hidden in I Am the Coin.

13: Number of installation-crew members employed for the 2013 Power Plant exhibition.

107: Estimated number of hours it took a single assistant to install the original I Am the Coin(2010).

“Micah Lexier: One, and Two, and More Than Two” runs to Jan. 5, 2014 at the Power Plant. 231 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4949, thepowerplant.org. Lexier delivers an artist talk at Harbourfront Centre’s Brigantine Room on Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m., 235 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4000.

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