Box divided into twenty compartments: “I think this came from some kind of dentist — there was stuff in each compartment at some point, little remnants of fillings and other things. That’s what I love about objects that have been removed from their original context: There’s a reason why they were made a certain way, but when you take that reason away they’re just decoratively beautiful and unknowable objects.”

A to B at Toronto’s MKG127

There’s no object too mundane to catch Micah Lexier’s eye. He collects scraps torn off cardboard boxes, envelopes and papers lying in the street, even bathroom-cleaning checklists at restaurants — anything that deals with the passage of time or with systems, the driving forces behind his own work as an artist. “I love garbage day,” he says. “It’s hard for me to walk home and not find things. I keep a knife in my pocket just in case.” It’s not that Lexier necessarily uses these found items in his own pieces, like the 1994 series in which he photographed 75 men from age 1 to 75, all of whom were named David, and then photographed them again ten years later. They’re just another part of his lifelong fascination with the aesthetics of order, a way of seeing the world that was mapped out perfectly in the show he recently curated at Toronto’s MKG127 gallery, where curiosities from his collection sat alongside sequentially themed works by other artists.

Called A to B, the exhibition — which closed yesterday — included 70 items arranged inside four glass vitrines of Lexier’s design, from a triptych of dot matrix–inspired oil paintings down to a tiny bottle cap he threw in at the last minute. (It came from the floor cleaner he bought to spiff up the gallery pre-show, and featured a 2-step instruction graphic indicating its removal.) Each was chosen for its own unique A to B progression, whether abstract or literal: A series of art postcards designed to be mailed sequentially, a before and after shot of a mortician’s handiwork, a dim sum ordering card, a sign printed in two different languages. “They zing back and forth in surprising ways,” says Lexier, who laid the objects out in ways that often furthered the subtle connections between them. But since there was no gallery guide explaining each item’s provenance, Sight Unseen asked Lexier to revisit the exhibition and describe how and why certain curiosities made the cut. Here are his answers.