Review: Ken Nicol’s every3point65 at mkg127

“If a thing is worth doing once, it’s worth doing again.” ~ carl andre

I am lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood that is so filled with art galleries, I often don’t even notice when a new exhibit is being installed, or sometimes even if one has been up for a while.

This wasn’t the case for Ken Nicol’s every3point65 at mkg127. Rarely is the gallery actually open during the times I’d walked by it since Nicol’s opening on February 15th. I noticed the exhibit frequently, though, and even when it was closed, because of the truly eye-catching slight daily variance in his striking piece in the front window. ’32 Cubes in 32 Ways’ is literally that: a gradient of 32 cubes that range in size from just over an inch cubed, down to minuscule, nearly invisible.

concentric bidirectional 32 cubes

So last Wednesday, on my way home from pumping myself full of cold-fighting tea and Phở Rau Cải Đậu Hủ (Rice noodle soup with mixed vegetable & tofu), from Phoenix Restaurant, I noticed that the 32 cubes had changed from a perfect circle that almost seemed to be moving in opposite directions, into a square formation. I also was delighted to see movement inside the gallery!

Ken Nicol (15)

It was time:

*If you’re into professionally written, art-word infused reviews, you should check out these two, (before or after reading mine):

– Murray Whyte, Ken Nicol’s every3point65 at MKG gallery, The Star: Visual Arts, February 20, 2014.

– Ania Romaniak, Ken Nicol: a look into Ken’s World every3point65 days, INK NOIR, Friday, February 21st, 2014.

Why am I plugging other writers’ reviews within mine? Because my main point of putting this post up is to convince you to go see this show before it closes this Saturday, March 15th, and I fear if I try to get to that level, I’ll procrastinate even further.

I digress. I was first excited to take a look at the wall of 35 framed ‘somethings,’ which I cold see from the outside. They were each repetitive, unique, mathematical, and just as striking up close.

Ken Nicol (3)

The story of this is best told by Ken himself, but basically, it’s an homage to George Carlin’s ‘The Bunny Suit’ and the ‘7 Words You Can’t Say on Television’. There are 5 versions of each of the 7 words.

Ken Nicol (12)

I then went into the back room and I was faced with this next sentiment, which is a commonly thought notion that was written on a huge piece of paper… like human body height. It was an honour to spend some minutes with this piece that Ken had obviously spent so many with.

Ken Nicol (1)

I dropped my phone. Loudly. It alarmed the people in the other room. Someone came to my assistance and I said what had happened, and then asked if I was allowed to take photos. An (I’m assuming) friend of Ken’s exuberantly told me that I should take many, and multiples of the same image, and tag them freely.

The exhibit is a journey – a sort of dizzying exploration into meticulous obsession with counting, capturing, and repetition. There are more multi-line drawings, tiny cubes cut out of index cards, counts of the number of Cheetos in a bag, french-fry-embossed styrofoam, numbered grids, and more than I could and would capture:

Ken Nicol (5)Ken Nicol (4)
Ken Nicol (9)

As you leave the room, there’s a very meta ebay auction of a coffee cup lid with a coffee stain that reminds him of a photograph that had been gifted to him by an ebay vendor, in apology/recognition of lateness for a different sale.

ebay auction for this, because that's the only way he'll allow himself to make money off it, since that was the original form of sale.

ebay auction for this, because that’s the only way he’ll allow himself to make money off it, since that was the original form of sale.

He didn’t know if it was coincidental or incredibly thoughtful that the photo had a clock in it, since he is a collector of them too.

Ken Nicol (8)

I wanted his pieces to remain in my head, the way it seems, they stay in his. You can’t help but feel privileged to be seeing this work, because the obsessiveness, time-consumption, and analogue creation (type writer, pen, pencil, folds, etc) feels so incredibly intimate.

So, when I went back into the front room to spend time with the 7 words again, I was really excited to see this:

Ken Nicol (10)

Ken Nicol was in there, changing the formation in front of my face! I asked if I could photograph him while he was doing so, and he happily obliged, allowing me to get this fantastic shot, which shows the level of concentration, planning and accuracy that goes into each new shape he creates in the front window display.

Ken Nicol (11)

It was at this point that I was lucky enough to go on another journey… the artist explaining his intentions and motivations of almost every piece in the exhibit. What a treat. It was during this interaction that I suddenly realized why I had been so drawn to his work… I’d seen it before. He had had an exhibit at MKG127’s previous location on Ossington called ‘100’s of things Vol 1′.  It was an exhibit which Murray Whyte reffered to as “art [that] brings order to the everyday chaos of a consumer-crazy world with rigorous systems.”

What I enjoyed most with my discussion with Ken was his excitement in talking about coming up with new ideas. He explained the process of needing to find the perfect display for hundreds of these:

Ken Nicol (6)

What he chose, a dark green metal drawer, I believe originally intended for library dewey decimal system cards. It allows for the flipping through you used to have to endure when you were searching for the location of a book.  It evokes that same feeling of ‘these all look the same!!!’… except these actually are all exactly the same.

from Ken’s blog

Another theme in his exhibit is to count the number of items in a particular vessel. From salt crystals in a salt packet,

from Ken’s blog, every3point65

… to capsules in a vitamin jar, to the number of licks it takes to get to the centre of a tootsie pop (!), to the varying quantities of noodles in four different styles of Kraft Dinner. Another treat I got during my visit and conversation, was that I got to see Ken install a piece mid-show. He seemed sort of mortified that he was doing so, but it was a beautiful, shined sculpture he had created of the combination of numbers from each of the KD boxes.

In not-even-a-little-bit-short, this show is a must see. I hope you get a chance to chat with Ken a bit, because he’s incredibly interesting, and super friendly… and he has a cool signature:

Ken Nicol (13)


Window shots since I’ve written this post:

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