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Milena Placentile
Hollow at RAW Gallery
October 02, 2012

Being somewhat familiar with Frank Fantauzzi's work - and thus his propensity for large, show stopping undertakings (including, for example, rotating the front façade of a multistory house) - I couldn't imagine what he had in mind for the modestly sized RAW Gallery. I was further confounded upon noticing the promotional image for the show, which offered little more than an illustration of a cardboard box.

Frank Fantauzzi and Charlie O'Geen, Hollow, 2012, installation view (photo: Jacqueline Young)

Fantauzzi, an Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Manitoba, is concerned primarily with critical and conceptual approaches to architecture. Collaboration figures largely in his exhibition practice, and Hollow is the product of a partnership with Detroit-based architect Charlie O'Geen, who is in fact a former student of Fantauzzi.

is a process-oriented work in all regards. It began weeks ago with the careful stacking of 4000 uniform boxes into a tight cube. The initial mass, visible to attentive passersby through the gallery's street-level window, evoked early minimalism via the methodological placement of mass-produced forms prized for their crisp, clean lines. Next, upon contemplating the functional needs of the gallery, such as basic movement, Fantauzzi and O'Geen set about redefining the mass through the act of removal using a single tool: a slitting saw affixed to a spherical pivoting arm.

Addressing the gallery's structural and infrastructural impositions at each step, they laboured bit by bit, day by day, to tackle the tremendous challenge of transforming the cube into a warren-like series of spaces. The addition of warm lighting against the soft, earth-like colouration of the now textured surfaces creates the effect of a cave lit by firelight, a metaphorically perfect environment for groups to converge before winter falls.

It is perhaps thanks to the fact that the artists are not precious about their work that Hollow is so comfortable and conducive to relaxed conversation with friends. Do you need a place to rest your drink while pulling up an image on your phone? The gaps suddenly become functional as Hollow seems to welcome you to live within it through whatever form you wish. I can personally imagine enjoying it as a fully immersive, floor-to-ceiling library and more than a few people mentioned their desire to snuggle up in the space for a nap. In any case, the artwork is only complete with the presence of visitors

The metamorphosis of a commonplace and ultimately boring object into a viable building material is additionally intriguing because it helps to illuminate the principles of architecture. Who knew the tension of the stacked boxes could make visible the logic that goes into creating the impressive vaults and domes that have been employed throughout history. But let me sum it up like this: if a pile of cardboard in a basement can make you think of Hagia Sophia, the artists have surely done something right.

RAW Gallery:
Hollow continues until October 14.

Milena Placentile is a curator and writer living in Winnipeg. She co-runs Atomic Centre and is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent.



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