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Features / October 23, 2008

Valérie Blass, David Humphrey and Adrienne Spier: Shape Shifters and Meaning Grifters

Valérie Blass “Le plus pure apparence” 2008 Installation view

As dropping fall temperatures strip trees of their leaves, turn passersby into amorphous shapes bundled in coats and scarves and morph the city’s architecture into a series of undulating snowbanks, Montreal’s Parisian Laundry gallery presents three new exhibitions where familiar objects and figures are cleverly obscured by layers of paint, plastic and minimalist cubes. Featuring solo shows by Montreal sculptor Valérie Blass, New York painter David Humphrey and Toronto installation artist Adrienne Spier, the gallery’s programming links the transformation of recognizable objects into hybrid contemporary artworks and the everyday forms of shape-shifting going on outside the gallery’s doors.

Quebec Triennial participant Blass exhibits a series of recent works that use banal objects as the foundation for tactile sculptures. Ironically titled “La plus pure apparence,” Blass’s exhibition of hybrid objects references art historical tropes but uses kitschy décor items to construct fantastical new arrangements, forcing the viewer into physical transformations as they crouch, peer into and circle her works trying to discern the familiar.

Humphrey’s vivid figurative paintings in “Expecting Ecstasy,” meanwhile, combine recognizable subjects with cartoon-inspired configurations and surreal settings. Their points of view, consistently awkward and akimbo, block a complete view of the scene and disrupt any sense of a cohesive narrative, creating a sense of mounting anticipation that goes unresolved by punchline or other concluding device.

Spier’s Three Bedroom Flat installation manipulates a sense of spatial weight and depth by deconstructing the furnishings for a three-bedroom apartment and compacting them into a group of minimalist wooden cubes. The project references Donald Judd’s famous installations while also calling up Montreal’s annual city-wide moving day, when apartment dwellers perform another kind of compacting feat by relocating their domestic possessions in similar cardboard boxes. (3550 Ste-Antoine O, Montreal QC)