The current exhibition at the Power Plant in Toronto, Nothing to Declare, offers arguably the perfect way to round off the decade. The show, organized by Power Plant curator Helena Reckitt, summarizes a phenomenon that has emerged in international and Canadian art alike: sculpture made from humble, often recycled everyday materials. Most of the big art stars of the eighties and nineties had their work made to their specifications by studio assistants and printing labs, and the big biennales and art fairs sucked up the product. But the post-9/11 world has seen a new artistic appetite for staying home and working on one's own, off the grid of big production values.
The show has problems: It is crowded, and many of the artists are represented by works that fall below their personal bests. But the argument behind the show remains valid and timely: The handmade is back, and with it a sense of humanity, humour and a kind of cultivated lowliness that grows on you. Many of the works are made from cast-off materials. Other artists, though, go to great pains to mimic detritus with highly skilled simulations.
Either way, the everyday is exalted. But, for art lovers hopped up on the flashy gargantua of Jeff Koons, or the glossy, runway-sized photographs of Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky, this new aesthetic may take a little getting used to. What follows are four standouts from the show and some ways of seeing them.