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Conceptual Filiations: Village of the Grahamed

Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal May 3 to Jun 14 2008
Damian Moppett  “Conceptual Filiations”  2008  Installation view   Courtesy of the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery  /  photo Paul Smith  Damian Moppett “Conceptual Filiations” 2008 Installation view Courtesy of the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery / photo Paul Smith

Damian Moppett “Conceptual Filiations” 2008 Installation view Courtesy of the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery / photo Paul Smith

Remakes, revisits and restagings have been the predominant curatorial theme this year in exhibitions across the country. From DHC-ART Foundation’s spectacular group show “Re-Enactments” to the Power Plant’s upcoming summer exhibition “Not Quite How I Remember It,” artists have been looking back to historical documents and iconic artworks as source material to be interpreted and improvised upon. In “Conceptual Filiations,” a new show at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, a group of contemporary artists riff on the evolving legacy of conceptualism to harness its critical effectiveness in a new era.

The exhibition features plenty of faithful recreations of famous conceptualist pieces, including Sophie Bélair Clément’s remake of Michael Snow’s film See You Later. While Snow’s original used the mechanical power of camera and projector to slow a 30-second scene down to a 17-minute viewing time, Clément uses her own body to recreate the scene in real time, taking on the central role in slow motion. Thérèse Mastroiacovo likewise reinvests renowned artworks with physical labour by painstakingly copying (down to caption and page number) the historical documentation of works by conceptual superstars like Sol LeWitt and Dan Graham.

The references to conceptualism in other works are more oblique. Daniel Olson’s Rubber Balls video, for instance, shows the artist carefully dismantling one ball of elastic bands in order to create a new one. The task is ultimately futile—the video ends with the same scenario with which it opened—but its determined eccentricity references the late video artist David Askevold, whose early work frequently featured the artist performing idiosyncratic tasks in front of a stationary camera.

Works by Damian Moppett, Pavel Pavlov, Charles Stankievech and Chih-Chien Wang complete the show, rethinking the current role of what curator Michèle Thériault calls the “indisputable criticality at the heart of conceptual art.” (1400 boul de Maisonneuve O, Montreal QC)

This article was first published online on May 15, 2008.

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