So banal is the immediate impression of Adam Shiu-Yang Shaw’s “What Time Has Left” that you could almost fail to notice the exhibition’s three freestanding sculptures and series of wall reliefs, even as you stand before them. But it soon becomes evident that this kind of overlookable presence is the very sensibility the Berlin-based Canadian artist is after in his abstracted composites of urban architectural details like door buzzers, sewer grates, and window frames. These structures in MDF, plaster, and other materials eventually command attention as the precise lines of their rectangular forms painted in slick enamel grays or muddled browns grow recognizable slices of city life that are utterly familiar but rarely studied up close.
In an interval between events (all works 2021), an oxidized studio cloth and other detritus is tucked in one end of a boxy form that resembles a building facade on one side and a shelflike display of a bed, television, and illuminated window on the other. While this work and Shiu-Yang Shaw’s practice more broadly draws on dollhouses and dioramas, his play with scale is looser and often interrupted by full-size objects like a notebook or a matchbox, sometimes cast in plaster. Counterintuitively, the incursion of these items abstracts the artist’s constructions by throwing a wrench in any resolvable sense of their being something shrunk (or enlarged). Like reimagined cityscapes, his sculptures stand as a visual representation of the metropolis closer to the daily experience of its dwellers. As such, the show picks up a modernist preoccupation with urbanity, but trades the flâneur’s gallivanting for a subtler sense of mutual malleability: Shiu-Yang Shaw’s assemblages suggest that the city shapes us, and we shape it in turn.