J.J. Kegan McFadden
An active writer, curator, and artist, J.J. Kegan McFadden is a graduate from the Critical and Curatorial Studies program in the Department of Art History, Visual Art, and Theory at the University of British Columbia (2007) and since graduating has held the position of Director/Curator at PLATFORM. McFadden has organized exhibitions and screenings across Canada and internationally, most notably as part of the Prairie Scene produced through the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, where he curated Quelle Derive: le possible et le Reel de Winnipeg for the artist-run centre, Axe Neo 7 (2011); the double-bill in Regina of As the Sidewalk Bleeds at The Dunlop Art Gallery and Cabin Fever at neutral ground contemporary art forum (2011); and the touring thirty-year survey, 27 x Doug: Portraits by Larry Glawson (2010–2011).
January 24–March 7, 2015
It begins in 1992, but perhaps more seriously in 1995. Blass, and her work, represent the elongation of recognition. She devotes her twenties to doing what most people do in their twenties, finding her way, and in 1995 she enrolls in fine arts at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Hers is a career that feels antithetical to the rapid pace of contemporary art but is a path far too familiar for women. She is approaching thirty when she decides to be serious about art making, and even then prolongs the completion of her graduate studies. She has responsibilities to her children and to herself to earn a living. She sees her male peers rise to success in half the time. But she does not need to be in the business of catching up, which erroneously implies she is behind. She is, and this is fortunate for us, an artist out of time.
It should be noted that in 1992 Canada sends its first woman into space.
Describing anyone as a magician feels absurd.But it would not be misguided to refer to Blass as such. Her five years in film set design made her adept at artifice, and she is an expert in misdirection and sleight of hand. Her work reminds us that our sense of perception is easily punctured. The colour you thought was yellow is actually blue, the slumped figure that you understood as your mother is in fact your father (or worse, yourself). Her process generates estrangement, with our own bodies and with the things that surround us (whose limbs are these?). There are parts that feel common place and uneasy—poses from classical sculpture and their patriarchal origins, or the hand wielding a knife that protrudes from a lumped object, who exists somewhere between abstraction and figuration. Slipping in and out of fiction, the work is anachronistic and, ultimately, odd. Its peculiar qualities stem from Blass’ singular vision, which is not afraid to be awkward or vulgar, or, perhaps more dangerously, female.
Misdirection is apparent in her interest in puppets. In a puppet show viewers are intended to look at the puppets and not the puppeteers (whose limbs are these?), even though it is their collaborative movement that produces a performance. Similarly, in the museum, sculptures are staged by positioning the parts (artifacts) with the assistance of a support system. We are asked to imagine the missing pieces and reconstruct the original sculpture, but the system itself participates in the museum experience. “When viewing one of the murals face on, we see emerging an image, a situation, an action. And when we circulate the links in between things become mechanical, machine-like. The portrait of a woman, sculpted from head to thigh, which we see from behind…This is the image, but in reality the mirror enlarges, her face is cut, a tiny bas-relief fixed right where her face should be. What makes sense when we look frontally deconstructs itself when we look from the side. The possibilities are endless.”
The front is not enough. The sides offer a disassembled story, a tangle of ropes, mirrors, keys, and signs that materialize narrative links. An arrangement of elements on the wall from a distance formulate a face, with eyes and lips protruding at clumsy intervals. Blass plays with anamorphosis and distortion, mirror effects and flattened objects. No angle is to be trusted as posture and form give way to the limits of materials. In the same way our lives require dimension, these fronts are not enough. Experiments with life stories, written in a language of icons and caricatures, of simple pictures, of films or surrealist photos. A stereotypical sculpture for a stereotypical story, an overlap of false autobiographies. “My life: my summer of drugs. My marriage. My childhood. The spring I had three lovers.” Whose limbs are these?
The artist would like to thank the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and The Canada Council for the Arts.
PAUL MPAGI SEPUYA
January 26–March 2, 2013
Artspeak will host the debut Canadian solo exhibition of recent work by Paul Mpagi Sepuya, titled Studio Work.
Studio Work is Sepuya’s most recent body of work, developed during his 2011-2012 artist residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The project is both a volume of photographs—formal portraits, loose snapshots, still-lifes and details of the his studio space—and an installation composed of those materials accumulated in the studio, tracing the artist’s occupation and photo-making from the beginning to the end of the residency. The work explores how the studio environment, as site of creation, editing, and accumulation, affects and frames portraiture and the performance of portraiture.
Sepuya made the self-portraits by inviting friends in to spend time and have their portraits made, in formal set-ups as well as snapshots. Each portrait is constructed amidst the unfinished editing process of those works that preceded it, and in reference to those other images that populate the studio. Sepuya states, “My studio was private, but not a closed environment. Rather, it was a stage that I inhabited and opened to those around me.”
Please join us at the opening reception of Studio Work, Friday January 25th. All are invited to a public conversation between artist and curator, to take place Saturday 26th, at 2PM.
The Canadian presentation of Paul Mpagi Sepuya’s Studio Work is curated by J.J. Kegan McFadden and co-produced by Artspeak and PLATFORM Centre for Photographic + Digital Arts (Winnipeg).
PAUL MPAGI SEPUYA, J.J. KEGAN MCFADDEN
January 26, 2013
Artist and curator in conversation.
Title: Quit India: Divya Mehra
Writers: J.J. Kegan McFadden, Kim Nguyen, Amy Fung, Natasha Bissonauth, Kendra Place
Editors: Derek Dunlop, Jessica Antony
Design: Lauren Wickware
Publisher: Platform, Artspeak
Year published: 2013
Binding: Perfect Bound
Features: Gold foil on brown cloth covers and spine
Dimensions: 21 x 13.5 x 1 cm
Weight: 216 g
Cost: out of print
Published in collaboration with Platform (Winnipeg), Quit, India, documents and elaborates upon Divya Mehra’s two solo exhibitions : The Party is Over, presented at Artspeak in 2011 and Turf War presented at Platform in 2010.