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Unlikely processes

Caroline Monnet messes with minimalism and Elvira Finnigan battled the elements

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/2/2015 (861 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

BEFORE minimalism became a catch-all term for everything from typefaces to home décor, it referred to a specific moment in 1960s sculpture. The formula was simple: stark geometric forms and industrial materials; cubes, planes and boxes made from plywood and sheet metal. The idea was to strip sculpture back to its most essential elements (volume and area) and hopefully make viewers more aware of their movement through space. Instead of a thing on a plinth to look at, minimal sculpture was a "presence" to encounter, an obstacle to navigate.

People got the point quickly enough (or just couldn't be bothered), and artists moved on. Many like Caroline Monnet, however, still revisit the movement, either to celebrate its reductive approach or to ruffle its clean lines. In Unlikely Process, her current exhibition at Raw Gallery, Monnet does a bit of both.

Caroline Monnet's Unlikely Process.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

Caroline Monnet's Unlikely Process.

Elvira Finnigan and Salt Trade.

TRACY PETERS PHOTO

Elvira Finnigan and Salt Trade.

The show comprises two parts, each based on the minimalist cube. First, Monnet explodes the form into hinged plywood panels that hang by slender cables from the ceiling, folding around walls and confounding the gallery architecture. Busy triangular patterns in black, white and grey spread across the amber-stained surfaces, generically echoing motifs from indigenous art and design. Thanks to a hidden base, a solid concrete cube near the centre of the gallery appears to hover several inches off the ground. A closer look reveals embedded articles of clothing, the frayed red canvas, black leather and lace peeking out like fossils in a limestone block.

Monnet works across film, video, sculpture, and painting, navigating the dual influences of her Algonquin and French heritage, criss-crossing between art and design. Her approach is elegant and playful, but the slick, fashionable surfaces conceal long histories. The concrete cube echoes Tony Smith, whose imposing black monuments also seemed to float on hidden platforms, but Monnet adopts an intimate scale, using industrial materials to create a kind of personal archeological site. The plywood forms teasingly pull apart Donald Judd's famous box sculptures, the hinges and hanging recalling deconstructed cabinetry, while the patterns are a deft reminder of modern art's indigenous prehistory.

The gallery also helped facilitate a different "unlikely process" last week at the closing of RAW:almond, the much buzzed-about outdoor pop-up restaurant on the frozen Forks. For Salt Trade, Elvira Finnigan sent a flotilla of ice canoes sailing down the banquet table, borne up on a river of beaver pelts. Each boat was filled with a handful of salt, which ate away at the ice as the final meal was served on Wednesday. The installation remained in place and the process continued as the restaurant structure was dismantled, leaving it exposed to the elements. With its allusions to the fur trade, it was perhaps the most overtly political of Finnigan's many "Saltwatch Experiments," but subtle nevertheless; a meditation of local history, self-destruction, cold and comfort, cause and effect.

I sadly missed my chance to see the boats in person (real talk: I'm from Florida and it's been cold) but Monnet's Unlikely Process continues at Raw Gallery in the Exchange (inside, where it's warm) until March 13.

 

Steven Leyden Cochrane is terrified of walking on ice.

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