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Comic book heroes and ping-pong mingle at SPiN

Posted by Kate Fane / February 11, 2013

plywood spin torontoBy elevating ping-pong from a fixture of 1970's rec rooms and local community centres to the centrepiece behind a King Street hotspot, SPiN Toronto has already proven they can win with an eclectic formula. Enter the Plywood Collective, a group of local artists who have selected the upscale ping-pong lounge as an ongoing venue for their massively popular themed exhibitions.

plywood spin torontoPlywood is made up of seventeen Toronto-based artists, most of whom share a style that appears equally influenced by graffiti, commercial illustration, and iconic images from high and low pop culture. Each member has their own thriving independent practice, and therefore views the collective as an opportunity for experimentation within a specific framework: original works on plywood, based around a chosen theme.

plywood spin torontoFor their last exhibition, the group focused their attention on villains, with subjects ranging from classics like Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter, to modern icons like No Country for Old Men's Anton Chigurh and the perm-sporting Big Worm from Friday. This time around, good was allowed to triumph over evil, and the heroes were given their due.

plywood spin toronto"Heroes" is now the fourth group show the Plywood Collective has held at SPiN, and while it seems like a peculiar choice of venue for an art show, it fits in nicely with the group's mandate: "The media is the message and the event is our medium. We're taking down the barrier between the experience of being at a social event and the consumption of an artistic message."

plywood spin torontoAnd thus, that night's artistic message was consumed alongside flying ping-pong balls and underscored by the beats of DJ Brendan Canning (of Broken Social Scene fame). It made for a great opportunity to mingle, but ultimately the viewing portion of the night suffered. The communal picnic tables that crowd SPiN's "Social Room" made it hard to navigate, and errant balls provided a tripping hazard for anyone not paying close enough attention.

plywood spin torontoFrustratingly, work was also hung directly beside the playing tables, which meant viewers were forced to wait for suitable breaks in the games before getting any closer to the actual pieces. But once you were able to actually to see it, there really were some exciting pieces on display. Sure, the straightforward Spiderman and Wolverine were pretty obvious choices, but several of the works delved deeper into the dregs of pop culture, with great results.

plywood spin torontoBowman's sexy and stylised take on Clarence and Arizona from the cult hit True Romance was a great fit for the film, and SPAZZ's portrait of Bill Murray's Venkman from Ghostbusters was definitely a crowd pleaser. Jason Mamone's Thelma and Louse was a great shout out to SPiN co-owner Susan Sarandon, though it did appear unfinished.

plywood spin torontoFor me, the strongest pieces were those that incorporated elements of the hero's personality or back story, rather than simply replicating their famous poses. Nik Dudukoviv's ink and digital drawing of a particularly hirsute Charles Darwin was stunning in its detail, and his near god-like appearance seemed to play on his singular significance in altering the trajectory of Christianity in the modern world. Dudeman also shone, with a suitably earthy take on beloved environmentalist David Suzuki.

With the back room packed for most of the evening, it's clear that SPiN and the Plywood Collective have hit on a winning formula. So, concert in a bowling alley, anyone? I think we could make some serious money on this. Let me know.

Photos by Matt K



lila fowler / February 11, 2013 at 08:48 am
Way to go Mikey!
Jason / February 11, 2013 at 11:53 am
Actually "Thelma and Louise" is a finished piece.
My interpretation for each show is to do my signature black and white style, with hints of shading while allowing the plywood grain to show through. It is after all called the "Plywood Collective".
And the piece sold within the hour. :)
nippleholic / February 11, 2013 at 02:43 pm
Brooklyn has a bowling alley concert venue (, maybe someone can do something similar here.
Matt Y / February 11, 2013 at 04:51 pm
I didn't make it to this show, but I've been to Dudeman's other showings and this guy is amazing. I believe he did the old Gasworks mural as well. His David Suzuki tribute here is stunning. He's a true talent. I expect we'll be seeing more of him.
Ben / February 12, 2013 at 01:21 pm
FYI, the female protagonist from True Romance is named Alabama, not "Arizona."

Is there a picture/pricing info on that piece? I would totally buy a cool painting of Clarence and Alabama.
Ben replying to a comment from Ben / February 12, 2013 at 01:31 pm
Found it on Plywood Collective's facebook page.
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