New Monuments Forget the Future
New Monuments Forget the Future

Featuring works by: Luis Jacob, Eva Kolcze, Howard Lonn, James Nizam, Richard Storms and Renée Van Halm
Curated by Rebecca Travis
30 July – 5 September 2015 at Birch Contemporary

“Instead of causing us to remember the past like the old monuments, the new monuments seem to cause us to forget the future…” – Robert Smithson (Entropy and the New Monuments, 1966)

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.

A process of reduction and rebuilding is evident in Luis Jacob’s minimal sculptures ‘The BILTS’ (1997), which distil 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 lacquered 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 facades 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. ‘Borromini’s Window’ (2012) contains tangible architectural elements that, interrupted by brushwork and dislocated from a structure as a whole, appear as fragmented ruins. Lonn’s new work ‘Untitled’ (2015) takes this dislocation further. The ‘structure’ is provided more by the physical presence and application of the paint itself than any particular subject. Sweeping, girder-like elements transect the canvas but remain ambiguous, suggesting aerial views, shadows and surfaces without fully disclosing a specific form.

James Nizam’s early photographic series ‘Dwellings’ (2006) captures buildings 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.