BROOKLYN / MONTREAL
This exhibition is a part of the larger Brooklyn / Montreal exchange initiative involving sixteen exhibition venues in the two cities, ranging from non-profits and commercial galleries, to the Montreal Contemporary Art Museum and the University of Quebec Gallery…
Parker’s Box has partnered with Clark Centre, a dynamic artists’ collective in the Mile End district of Montreal, offering exhibitions, artists’ residencies and permanent member studios as well as other services both for their members and the public.
Clark Centre and Parker’s Box collectively curated the exhibition on view at the gallery in January and February, involving four artists (two from Montreal and two from Brooklyn) whose works encompass sculpture, installation, video and performance. The artists have not collaborated on common works, but instead occupy the gallery spaces with common intent.
In the main gallery, the spectator has to first navigate a monumental installation developed by Patrick Martinez, using his recently commercialized construction kit, LINX. The artist has always been interested in notions of matter and anti-matter, or, in its simplest form – ways of drawing, printing, building etc. using emptiness, or elements capable of containing or harnessing emptiness. LINX is essentially a specially designed plastic connector, conceived to allow the artist - or anyone else - to use drinking straws to build sculptural forms that can be as structured and methodical, or as completely chaotic as desired, while reaching almost unlimited scale and volume at the same time as being virtually weightless.
The extraordinary maxi-minimalism of Martinez’ piece provides a physical and metaphysical screen or foil to Anomalie, a narrative, visually complex installation by Julie Favreau that uses objects, apparatus and video presentations of performances to suggest metaphor and symbolism in a dreamy, surrealist register. In the artist’s videos, a series of characters use ambiguous objects that clearly hold almost ritualistic significance, to effect carefully choreographed actions. The spectator, finding him or herself in the presence of objects and an environment not that dissimilar to those in the videos, is unavoidably linked to the strange scientific calling that may evoke the use of human guinea pigs. It may be this, or simply the demands of obscure symbolism that requires a woman to wear a pair of compasses on her head, and later, a man to achieve levitation, for example…
Beyond the space commanded by Favreau’s piece, the spectator next encounters what seems to be a somewhat incongruous, circular pressurized door, conjuring ideas of the kind of specially sealed portal allowing divers to enter a submarine from underwater, or astronauts to complete their space walk and return to the safer surroundings of their spaceship or space station. Here, however, we may in fact be leaving the relative safety of the gallery, so that by penetrating beyond Steven Brower’s pressurized Hatch, the spectator is perhaps entering a more precarious, doubtful and threatening atmosphere. Steven Brower has long been intrigued by perceived parallels between the rarefied context of objects participating in space exploration and those engaged in imposing themselves as contemporary art. Since much of the equipment taken into space can only fulfill its intended function once it arrives there, Brower has extrapolated that comparable objects might also have resonance if presented as art in the similarly rarefied context of contemporary art.
Once we have mastered the maneuver allowing us to get through Brower’s Hatch, we experience the work of Mathieu Beauséjour. The Montreal artist is a multi-disciplinary practitioner using sculpture, installation, performance, drawing and video to make works that exploit symbolism and carefully chosen references to allude to, and ultimately comment on socio-political issues. In the artist’s video, Don’t Worry Darling, There Will be More Riots in the Spring, a gagged actor dressed in suit and tie attempts to speak, or rather to make a speech. The spectator is confronted by the character’s intense discomfort, and it isn’t difficult to realize that the work comments on the importance of freedom of speech – the title confirming its relation to the spring uprisings of 2012. Indeed, unrest didn’t occur only in the Middle East, but equally in Quebec, where the younger generation’s freedom of speech, and of education, were also felt to be under threat, provoking demonstrations and uprising in the streets of Montreal.
While the works of the four artists in this exhibition set up quite extreme visual contrasts, in the end all four propose different forms of expression of similar preoccupations with the world. Socio-political symbolism, metaphor and commentary, coupled with the visceral and atmospheric resonance of chosen materials and objects are ultimately everywhere here...