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Stacey DeWolfe
Montreal
June 16, 2010

Though I recently sold my property, thereby putting an end to my long-nurtured dream of building a modernist pre-fab dream home, I continue to be obsessed with all things shipping container. So imagine my delight when I walked into the Musée d’art contemporain this weekend and discovered a kindred spirit in Québec photographer David K. Ross.

  

 

David K. Ross, MACM (Pink I), 2010, latex print on canvas 

 

Entitled Attaché, Ross’s exhibition is aesthetically-compelling and conceptually-rich, for here, what appears to be a series of gorgeous colour-field paintings is in fact a collection of large-scale photographs: extreme close-ups of various brightly-hued packing crates, each identifiable as “attached” to a specific institution by the colour that is painted on it. What I liked most about the images, however, is how they play tricks with the viewer’s perception as upon closer inspection, their highly-textured surfaces are revealed to be merely photographic in nature, their two-dimensionality made manifest only when standing beside them. 

 

 

Runa Islam Assault, 2008, 16mm film (photo: Jon Lowe; courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube) 

 

Mark Lanctôt, who organized MACM's incredible retrospective of Marcel Dzama this past spring, is, for my money, one of the most interesting curators at work in the city. He is responsible for the collection of work by London-based film and video artist Runa Islam currently on view. The installation of this exhibition is really fantastic because it manages to create an immersive environment without isolating the individual works, allowing them to inform each other and to give the spectator a better sense of Islam’s project as a whole. Assault from 2008 confronts the viewer the moment they enter the space with a close-up of a face projected at eye level on a suspended screen so that the full force of the subject’s experience can be read. I was also quite taken with an untitled work whose out-of-focus faces appear like ghosts, haunting the space that exists in relation to this “assault”.

 

Of lesser interest is a work specifically commissioned for the show (in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia) entitled Magical Consciousness. It feels at home here, both in relation to her other film projections and the David K. Ross exhibit, because its use of extreme close-ups discomfits, forcing the viewer to imagine the context in which the images were created, but though it may compel on that level, the actual experience of engaging with the work left me a little cold.

 

 

Arni Haraldsson Lobby, Trellick Tower, London, 2006, chromogenic print

 

The gallery's summer group exhibition, Les Lendemain d’hier (Yesterday’s Tommorows), starts out strong but seems to lose its steam a little as it goes along. Examining the work of ten Canadian and international contemporary artists who, as the press release asserts, “examine Modernism” through a discursive relationship with a specific Modernist designer or architect; the intertextual relationship creating new understandings of Modernism’s ongoing influence in the realm of art and design. Some highlights include John Massey’s Phantoms series of photographs, in which the son first captures his father, Hart Massey’s, architectural masterpiece in all its beauty and then imbues it with even greater historical resonance by filling its rooms with icons of modern art. I also loved Vancouver photographer Arni Harraldsson’s photographs of brutalist architect Ernö Goldfinger’s British housing projects, which when installed alongside stills from A Clockwork Orange, perfectly capture the architecture’s austere beauty and complete unsuitability and inhumanity as a living space.

 

 

Terence Gower, Cuidad Moderna, 2004, digital video

 

But my absolute favorite of all the works on display was the video Cuidad Moderna by Terence Gower, which is part of a programme put together by guest curator Hajnalka Somogyi. I was drawn into the little room that precedes the exhibit proper by the unbelievably exuberant soundtrack which Gower borrowed from the source text of his montage: Mexican director Juan de Orduña’s 1966 film Despedida de Casada. Comprised of clips from the Mexican film, Gower’s work strips away the source text’s narrative elements to reveal what is central to de Orduña’s film: the architectural beauty of 1960s Mexico City.

 

 

Denise Dumas

 

Just up the street from the MAC at Circa, Denise Dumas’s Waves speaks to some of the same themes explored in Yesterday’s Tomorrows, in particular, to Iñigo-Manglano Ovalle’s film Le Baiser/The Kiss, with its exploration of Mies van der Rohe’s famously unlivable Farnsworth House. According to legend, the house’s original owner was too uncomfortable to actually live in the house because its glass-walled structure made for too much interaction with the always encroaching natural environment. Dumas’ multi-media work also seems concerned with the impact that external elements have on the personal realm, as her table, the heart of domestic life, is continuously intruded upon by the natural world and its forces. But unlike Ovalle’s work, which populates the screen with figures who narrate the story with their actions – a distancing effect that serves to emphasize the fact that because the private is made public, it loses that which makes it private and personal in the first place – Dumas’ empty chairs seem to invite the spectator to imagine themselves in the work.

 

 

Dana Dale Lee, Clone with Yellow Eyes

 

Down the hall from Circa, Galerie Maison Kasini - whose motto is “Art is Food. Feed the People.” - have ventured into truly democratic territory. Two weeks ago, they invited unknown or un/under-represented Montreal artists to bring their framed and ready-to-mount work to the gallery and hang it on the wall: first come, first serve. Making no curatorial decisions in terms of what “deserved” to be installed in the gallery, they knew full well that the results would be mixed, but believed that in the end they would stumble upon some heretofore unknown local talent – and they were right, for there are some pretty interesting works in the bunch. In the end, they were able to display the work of sixty-four artists (including Dana Dale Lee, Caroline Mauxion, Keven Synnott, and Leila Stambouli)  and, as a writer who knows the importance of landing that all-too-important first gig, I can well imagine the pleasure of having your previously unseen work hanging in an actual gallery space. The exhibit is only up for three more days, but is well worth a visit as it provides a glimpse into the work being produced behind the scenes in our fair city and into the people who are making it.

 

Stacey DeWolfe is a Montreal filmmaker and teacher. She has written for C Magazine and is the arts writer for the Montreal Mirror.


Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal: http://www.macm.org/
Current exhibitions continue until September 6.

Centre d’exposition Circa: http://www.circa-art.com/
Denise Dumas continues until June 19.

Maison Kasini: http://www.maisonkasini.com/
Hey Montreal continues until June 19.

 

 

 

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Posted by Amateursmv, on 2011-10-24 00:15:48
 
es posible discutir tan infinitamente.
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Posted by Denise, on 2010-06-17 13:48:54
 
Madame Stacey DeWolfe,
Thank you for you review of my installation Vagues/Waves at Circa.

Regards,
Denise Dumasl



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