Luanne Martineau joins interests in early twentieth century social realism with mid century modernism to produce works that speak to ongoing biases and entrenched exclusions. She uses turn of the century comic books for their racist depictions of a North American immigrant polyglot as sources for elaborate drawings. Martineau copies select bits from these comic books on tracing paper, building up large palimpsests of marks whose aggregate quality is abstract, but which on close inspection reveals traces of illustrative realism, exaggerated stereotypes and received prejudices. In her exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Martineau planned a suite of drawings accompanied by a large sculptural installation. Working with outdated manufacturing technologies for fabricating textiles – such as flocking and felting, and employing an antiquated knitting machine, Martineau has recently been crafting a series of large, soft sculptures that play base, comic referents off of high modernist ideals.
The “bed-sitter apartment” has a faintly anachronistic ring to it. A public living room by day and private bedroom by night, bed-sitters were designed as two rooms in one for single, unattached people on low incomes. While such apartments are still ubiquitous, the phrase may be less prevalent today because of its associations with a class, and gender of renter. The words “furnished bachelor,” for example, neatly sidestep any concrete picture of its occupant’s social caste.Luanne Martineau’s works combine, like the bed-sitter apartment, a variety of functions and sources in one space. She often refers to her works as accumulations, spaces where “narratives and histories…connect.” In both her drawings and recent soft sculptures, Martineau collages iconographic bits of imagery from a number of pop-cultural sources, including comic books, television shows and movies spanning the last century. Through such materials, she reworks and re-imagines the sources for a number of persistent stereotypes, and a contemporary tendency to disguise such unrepentant ideas with new descriptions.