New Monuments Forget the Future at Birch Contemporary

Birch Contemporary in Toronto features a new exhibition opening Thursday, July 30, 2015, entitled New Monuments Forget the Future.

In the wake of rapid urban developments populated by functional structures seemingly designed neither to offend nor impress, architecture—at one time synonymous with permanence—appears to be becoming increasingly shortsighted and transient, a response to the present as opposed to a statement for the future.

Drawing on this sense of impermanence, New Monuments Forget the Future brings together artworks that reference architecture in varying degrees of flux. Rather than having solid foundation, the structures throughout the exhibition are caught in transitional states between the built and deconstructed, actual and imaginary, the abstract and representational. The exhibition is curated by Rebecca Travis, and features works by Luis Jacob, Eva Kolcze, Howard Lonn, James Nizam, Richard Storms and Renée Van Halm.

A process of reduction and rebuilding is evident in Luis Jacob’s minimal sculptures The BILTS (1997), which distill the dominant skyscrapers of downtown Toronto to geometric shapes lifted from their foundation footprints. Countering our usual perception of these high-rises, Jacob’s architectural models stretch horizontally and are rendered not in reflective, seductive glass, but in organic milled maple.

Richard Storms’ paintings based upon glassy condo exteriors and curtain walls also slip between abstraction and representation, while Renée Van Halm’s compressed façades negate a sense of overall scale and context, proving unclear as to whether the overlapping beams and planes represent an intentional “inside-out” architectural style or supportive scaffolding, thanks to their claustrophobic, cropped compositions.

A progressive journey toward painterly deconstruction can be seen in the works of Howard Lonn, in which architectural elements are interrupted by brushwork, dislocated from their structural holdings and eventually dismantled through paint application.

James Nizam’s early series Dwellings (2006) captures domestic spaces on the brink of demolition that are temporarily re-energized through his experimental lens. The opposite is true of the Brutalist university buildings in Eva Kolcze’s film All That Is Solid (2014), which begin as steadfast structures but soon bleed into painterly abstraction thanks to her chemical interference with the negative film—a process that draws parallels between the material degradation of both celluloid and cement.

Birch Contemporary is located at 129 Tecumseth Street in Toronto. The exhibition runs through September 5, 2015.

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