The Blue One Comes in Black
A major artist on the contemporary Canadian art scene, Liz Magor (born in 1948; lives and works in Vancouver) finds her ideas in human beliefs, reactions, and behaviors, especially when they have something to do with the material world. Magor is interested in the social and emotional lives of ordinary objects, being particularly fond of materials that have since lost the luster of their use or their function from an earlier time. Selecting them for their capacity to contain and reflect stories, like personal and collective identities, the artist points up a resonance that goes beyond their simple utilitarian function via transformations and shifts in context or perspective.
Magor’s art practice began forty years ago. This long period has witnessed great changes in artmaking, from the dematerialization of the object to its rematerialization, from a movement away from the studio to its recent reaffirmation and a renewed interest in materials and making. Throughout this whole period, the artist has maintained her studio practice, specifically questioning the things that share the same space-time as her own body. In the catalogue of her recent retrospective at MAC, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal 1, she has gone, she says, “from words to the visible, from the idea to the object” for “it was a long process and it was in the studio that this change took place. Nowadays I need the concrete space of the studio to examine the world. It isn’t enough to just look. I need to transform things to better capture and understand the constituent properties of the materials and processes that form the objects of the world. Since all of these things already bear a social stamp, it is a bit as if I was bringing scraps of the world into the studio.”
Thanks to this experience, Magor decided to explore and absorb the world, to experience it before beginning to conceptualize. “For my use objects can be divided into two categories, those that come from the world and those that I produce in the studio.” The objects she chooses to make a part of her work are at the end of their expected life, dirty, rebellious, devalued, old fashioned, stupid. She traces their slow deterioration in connection with the domestic realm, then takes them into her care and slowly brings them around to a new attraction.
“What interests me is the influence of what is fashioned in the studio on what is simply found. By a mysterious phenomenon, found objects truly come to life when they are in the presence of the sculptural representation of something ordinary.”
Her works, which she says are designed, created, and polished by the play of contradictions, seem to restore the torment but also partake of the vitality of existence. By working from hyperrealist casts of day-to-day objects or pieces of clothing, mending and protecting objects chosen for their obvious disuse and obsolescence, realizing negatives of objects or facsimiles (two processes connected with reproduction), Magor puts us on alert. Through this awakening of an anonymous material world, a certain history of our modern culture can be read, from property to the need for protection and accumulation, to the ambiguity and inconstancy of the desire that connects us with objects. The artist creates and keeps a “photograph” of objects for a long time by putting an abrupt end to the process of corrosion and collapse. For sculpture has quite a lot to do with time and Magor’s sculpture, which is endlessly negotiating with “oxidized” matter, has to do with the idea of putting an end to time and to death. With these new associations between objects, Magor recreates life without creating new stories since she doesn’t want to lend particular meanings to her assemblages. There is no romanticism in her approach, maybe a slight nostalgia only. Nor is there any “regionalism” since she chooses her materials where she works.
Magor knows that the viewer doesn’t always make the difference between a real thing and a sculpture. She looks for that space of error between the manufactured and reality precisely where a disconnection with reality can play out.
Curator: Claire Le Restif with the complicity of Nigel Prince, director of the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver
Exhibition film, directed by Bruno Bellec. © Le Crédac, 2016.
Liz Magor is born in 1948 in Winnipeg (Canada), she lives and works in Vancouver.
Among many others, recent solo exhibitions include: Habitude (retrospective) at Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2016) ; You be Frank, and I’ll be Earnest (duo with Alisa Baremboym) at Glasgow Sculpture Studios (2016) ; Surrender, Iskowitz Award, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2015), Six Ways to Sunday #06, Peep-Hole, Milano (2015) ; Liz Magor: A Thousand Quarrels, Presentation House Gallery, Vancouver (2014) ; No Fear, No Shame, No Confusion, Triangle France, Marseille (2013) ; I is being This, Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver (2012). She has represented Canada at Venice Biennale (1984) and has participated in major exhibitions worlwide including documenta 8, Kassel (1987) and Sydney Biennale (1982). Liz Magor is the recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize (2014) and the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement (2009).
She has been teaching in various art schools and universities in Canada: University of British Columbia, Ontario College of Art and Design, and Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.
The exhibition is a partnership between CAG Vancouver (Canada) and Peep-Hole, Milan (Italy).
With the generous support of Centre culturel canadien in Paris ; Canada Council for the Arts International Touring Program, The Province of British Columbia / International Touring Initiative and BC Arts Council Touring Initiative Program.
Media partnership : Cura., Le Journal des Arts
Sponsoring for the opening : Grolsch