Wednesday, 3 June 2009

New Art Exhibition: Lost Cat by the Wilson Family

The Wilson Family is a guerrilla art collective based out of Prentice Drive in Toronto whose exhibitions across the city are garnering much attention from the establishment. Their previous works include the much-lauded Garage Sale on Saturday exhibition and the limited edition piece entitled Please Do Not Park Here. Their latest work, Lost Cat, is their most ambitious yet.

Lost Cat takes the same form as the Wilsons’ previous projects: 8 x 11 inch paper in the portrait orientation, stapled to various telegraph poles and fences around the Prentice Drive area. Fans of the Wilsons are encouraged to seek out the artworks in a four-block radius of the Wilson abode, as there are four different posters, each of which appears to have been duplicated and displayed at least fifteen times.

The subject matter of Lost Cat differs from Garage Sale and Please Do Not Park Here. Whereas the previous two were scathing commentaries on capitalism, property ownership and personal space, Lost Cat is a poignant paean to loss and regret.

The first artwork that I found was delicately stapled to a wooden telegraph pole. At the top of the work was the title, “Lost Cat”, and underneath it was a black and white photograph of an adult tabby. At the bottom of the paper was information on the cat’s name, age and a number to call if we, the viewers, see this feline. The other three posters in the series all conveyed similar information, with slightly different wording and pictures.

The first thing to strike me about this artwork is that it truly captures the sadness and disappointment that comes with loss. Here, the loss of something precious has been conveyed through a beloved family pet, but the artists could so easily be talking about the death of a relative, the theft of an heirloom or the pain of a love gone astray. When the thing can no longer be found, and when it is something that is not responsible for its own non-being, then we are forced to try and find it ourselves, and here the exhibition evokes a new emotion: futility.

The more posters that one sees displayed in this exhibition, the more one feels the sense of desperation and ultimate failure that the Wilsons are trying to convey. The wording of the posters, with their plaintive ‘please’ and ‘reward offered’, also creates tenderness, false hope and a sense of impending mourning.

The pictures of the cat are a wonderful masterstroke. He looks for all the world like a regular household pet, lounging in that way that cats are wont to do, ostensibly in better times, when he wasn’t ‘missing’. The viewer is brought in by this added layer of interaction, our mind’s eye can picture this poor, lost feline trying to find its way around the city, not knowing where its favourite blanket is. Extend this mental picture to a vision of a deceased loved one or forgotten romance, and it become all the more sad; we see the cat as a representation of our doomed affairs, and it becomes clear that we will never again have that innocent love.

I also love the placing of the artworks. Each is held up by a single staple, showing an almost tactile fragility that could allow it to be blown away in a strong wind. The breeze creates a movement within the pieces that bring us closer to them. This movement and fragility also shows us how fleeting our relationships are; how quickly they can be taken from us.

I would certainly recommend that anyone in the Prentice Drive area check out this exhibition, which is running until all the posters are covered by ads for roofing companies, or until Ruffles is found, whichever comes first.

Admission to the Lost Cat exhibition is free. If you have any information about the whereabouts of Ruffles, please call the Wilson family on 416-555-5055.


Barry Price said...


This is, if not the finest thing you have ever written, the finest thing that you have ever written that I have ever read.


Red said...

What's the country code for Canada? I think I spotted Ruffles!

Gwen said...

Is this a traveling exhibit? Because I think I saw it on one of my walks around the neighborhood.

Soda and Candy said...

My God, I was moved to tars simply by the review. I can only imagine what utter depths of depression the actual exhibition would stir.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Mister Price: Many thanks. I quite like this one, too. But best ever? Not so sure...

Red: Really? Was he alive? Huzzah!

Gwen: Like Banksy's stencil graffiti, I think there are many copyists of the Wilson family.

S&C: It's a very moving exhibit. At one point I was moved to tears, and then I was moved to drink.

mo.stoneskin said...

There may be a lawsuit on the way, I think they ripped that exhibition of a similar one on my street. I hope they sorted out the legalities...

I'm glad admission is free, it would make me cross if I had to pay to see posters of a lost cat.

*ring ring*


"Hello I think I've found Ruffles"

"Have you paid your admission fee?"

Seriously though, I hope they find Ruffles!

Sharon said...

I once spent hours making gigantic signs and hanging them all over town for a "garage sale at 6:00am". It was not my house.

Le Meems said...

The Wilson Family had their greatest art exhibit, if I may differ in opinion from you, back in 1998. This is when Wilson Jr celebrated something.

There were balloons tied to not one, but two, STOP sign posts with colorful signs depicting joy and folly with the words "This way" printed on them.

I heard the MOMA had been in touch with them after that effort.

Oh those merrymakers, the wilsons.

katrocket said...

No one makes me laugh the way you do. I plan on attending this exhibit again and again and again.

ÄsK AliCë said...

Ok, ok so I haven't even read this yet (I'm excited to get started) but I'll tell you, I glanced at the title on my Google reader and burst out laughing. So I KNOW it's going to be good

ÄsK AliCë said...

Beautiful *applauds* one of the great exhibits of 2009! I was really moved by the poignancy of this piece!

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Mo: Welcome! Yes, I think you could be right about their close influences from other exhibitions. I'm sure they'll claim it was an homage.

Sharon: Hello and welcome! Your exhibition sounds truly brilliant, a cross between Duchamps and Mrs Collins, who lives down my street.

Le Meem: Hi! Yes, that was a powerful work, and no mistaking. The delicacy and playfulness really was at odds with the dark undertones of youth turning to old age.

Kat: Thanks! Indeed, depending on where you live, it may be difficult to avoid this exhibition.

Alice: Many thanks (*bow*). I am glad you were moved. Seriously, we have a lot of art lovers here today!