"Tom Dean: Desire"
Espace Sculpture, n° 58, 2001-2002, p. 44.
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>_iThedogdaysof August can make
Tom Dean: Desire
swaddled in baby-fat have come stiffly arched and its wings raised
o ' high. And the final cherub, seated
to epitomize the Victorian ideal-
2 the Toronto Sculpture Garden
ization of love. More recently, on something (a rock?) and
they have been co-opted by New looking for all the world
« (TSG) a place of almost unbear- Age marketing types and given a offended, is half-turned away
_, able circumstances. Hemmed in prominent place on greeting from its swan, who, neck high
cards, second only in importance and wings spread wide, contem-
° tightly on two sides by buildings, to full-fledged angels. The plates the fleshy little babe.
and blocked on the third by metaphorical baggage attached So it seemed in the torpor of
to these beings likely lies at the the dog days. Maybe it was all
another, this tiny parcel of land heart of Dean's critique. The buck just the noonday sun. If pairing
can become ferociously hot and would seem to stop here. off bronze swans and cherubs on
But it does not, for Dean's five the grass of an urban sculpture
airless, especially so in the midst cherubs, after all, are not garden was indeed Dean's take
of an early August heatwave. In plunked down in artistic isolation on the tortuous dynamic
out on the TSG lawn. Rather, it is between the carnal and spiritual,
such circumstances, visiting the the pairings he has made with an it was mightily subtle and
TSG is akin to making a kind of equal number of bronze swans ambiguous. Desire, then, seems
— themselves creatures bur- capable of generating as many
pilgrimage. It follows, then, that dened with erotic associations, readings as there are viewers of
it is also to say "yes" to what one also courtesy of Greek the piece, hot sun or no. The
mythology — that figure largely bronze sculptures scattered
sees there. here. The TSG teems with their across the TSG lawn were paired,
What one saw and said yes to dialogues. babe to bird, to function as kinds
in the stifling heat and humidity Perhaps "dialogues" isn't the of synaptic gaps across which
of this past summer was an right term. These cherubs and jumped arcs of possible signifi-
installation (commission to cele- these swans are more like two cation, lines of tenable meaning,
brate the TSG's 20th anniversary) sides ofthe proverbial coin, one leaps ofthe imagination. The
by senior Canadian artist Tom (cherubic) side a romanticized inert lumps of cast metal were
Dean. Comprising a series of figu- idealization of love, the other a themselves of little interest.
rative bronzes scattered across feathery invocation of unadulter- What mattered was the multi-
the TSG's minute parcel of grass, ated carnal desire and all that is tude of possible relationships
Desire paired five small (though sensuous and erotically charged. between them.
larger-than-life) bronze castings Dean himself calls the swans That, of course, is as it should
of cherubs — those half-naked "libidinous shells" and the be; for the ossification of this
mythological babes — with five cherubs "seed and fruit ofthe amalgam of figurative bronzes
bronze swans. erotic body." In five separate into a single relationship, a single
Now, one ofthe more obvious pairings spaced out across the possible arc, would have resulted
contexts encompassing cherubs lawn within the confines ofthe in failure. Such singularity would
and a site like the Toronto TSG, they now regard one have ensured Desire grow no
Sculpture Garden would be bib- another across an amatory larger than the propagandists
lical. Any garden, sculptural or not, chasm in a range of poses and sum of its possible parts. The
is unavoidably girded with Edenic attitudes that runs the gamut damnation ofthe decorative
allusions and connotations. from indifference to outrage. would have been a fate prefer-
Cherubim were the scripturally
Here, its head and neck able to that of such tunnel vision. TOM DEAN, Desire, 2001. Patinated
appointed guardians of this proto-
stretched out along its back Thankfully, Dean's Desire bronze. 5 cherubs and 5 swans.
typical Ur-garden, there to keep
feathers, a swan apparently takes an amply oblique tack. Approx. life-size. Photographs: Isaac
fallen riff-raff like Adam and Eve
sleeps. Beside it, a cherub crawls Now, there is obviously nothing Applebaum. Courtesy Toronto
from getting back into the place
across the grass, its bare bum new about enigmatic work, nor Sculpture Garden.
once they'd been evicted.
sticking in the air. Nearby, with making plenty of room for
However, as apparently pliable as
another swan thrusts its neck the interpretative imperative. Yet
the biblical context might initially
high in the air, presumably trum- the need to fix meaning hard and
seem here, the cherubs ofthe
peting and apparently annoying a fast, to indulge in a kind of
Book of Genesis — the "great
nearby cherub, one arm raised artistic fundamentalism, to make
winged creatures" of one transla-
against its head to ward off the an interpretation adhere to the
tion — have little real relation to
commotion. Elsewhere, another exclusion of all else, is a tempta-
the chubby naked babes adorning
cherub lies on its back in the tion difficult to resist. Desire's
the TSG lawn. Scratch one
grass, the swan nearby busily impermeability to such attempts
preening its feathers. Near the at closure made saying "yes" to it
Dean's cherubs, instead, have
centre ofthe lawn, a cherub well worth the noonday sun.
the familiar stink of popular cul-
ture. While they may owe alle- seems to have just thrown some- Tom Dean: Desire
giance to Baroque depictions of thing toward (or at) its com- Toronto Sculpture Garden,
Cupid's mythological descen- panion swan, the latter Toronto
dants, these cutesified creatures ostensibly outraged with its neck May 30 —September 15,2001
2JA ESPACE 58 HIVER / WINTER 2 0 0 1 - 2 0 0 2
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