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Construction Work: Renovation Spirits

Impersonal forces such as markets and corporate interests increasingly determine the construction of our physical environments, often at the expense of functionality, sustainability and aesthetics. “Construction Work,” a group exhibition curated by Sandra Dyck, questions this cavalier relationship with space and the built environment. Featuring new work by three innovative artists from the Ottawa-Gatineau region—Josée Dubeau, Lorraine Gilbert and Jinny Yu—the exhibition critiques traditional understandings of design and architecture while also unpacking several stubborn modernist motifs, including the white cube, the utopian impulse and the politics of nationalist mythmaking.

Using hundreds of thin pine rods, Dubeau constructs what she calls “scale models of organized space.” For “Construction Work,” she has filled the gallery with a three-dimensional “sketch” inspired by the iconic Eames House located in Los Angeles, California. Life in a Kite is a playful and provocative exploration of the relationship between architectural design and lived space. Viewers complete the installation by carefully navigating the interior, a formal experience that recalls minimalist definitions of gestalt.

Inspired by Le Corbusier’s Dominican monastery of Sainte-Marie de La Tourette, Yu’s site-specific wall painting also questions the discourse of design and architecture, but specifically high-modernist attitudes to chance. Yu combines patterns quoted from the monastery’s concrete exterior with a frieze of representational images depicting a manuscript scattered randomly in the wind. Through this unexpected juxtaposition, the work alludes to the failures of utopian modernism, which believed that social chaos could be solved through urban developments inspired by the grid.

Gilbert’s photographic series Le Patrimoine explores the disjunction between the nationalist mythos and socio-economic reality of Quebec. Focusing on landscape and tourist attractions, her photographs mingle icons of La Belle Province—horse-drawn sleighs, coureurs des bois, winter sports and references to Clarence Gagnon—with less appealing images of contemporary gravel pits, highways and suburban housing developments, as well as references to Aboriginal land claims. Laboriously constructed composite images, these stunning black and white photographs are imbued with a subtle aura of painterly artifice, creating an atmosphere this is at once alluring and uncanny. (1125 Colonel By Dr, Ottawa ON)

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