The Flight of the Medici Mamluk
January 23 to April 19, 2015
Off-site: Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Canada Line
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents an ambitious new commission at the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station by Canadian artist Shannon Bool. Originally from Vancouver Island, she attended Emily Carr University before studying in New York, Frankfurt and moving to Berlin.
Bool typically references a wide variety of historical and monumental decorative objects in her work, from Michelangelo’s David to the ornamentation on Etruscan tombs. While the Tuscan themes in recent projects specifically developed during her 2013 residency at the Villa Romana in Florence, her reinterpretation of these objects is characteristic of her practice in commenting on the role of decorative arts within art history, as well as on the change in meaning that occurs through the replication and alteration of significant and well known items.
For the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Bool has worked with a photographer to document the 16th Century Egyptian Medici Mamluk carpet, recently rediscovered stored in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy. Mamluk style carpets figured significantly in Mediterranean commerce, appearing in Venetian paintings of this time, and are characterized by a central medallion surrounded by a variety of smaller geometric motifs, forming a kaleidoscopic appearance, the palette limited to red, blue, green and yellow tones. In many such carpets the vast and complex patterns suggest notions of eternity and evoke cosmic associations with Buddhist thought. While undoubtedly they should not be read as some form of direct mapping of philosophical intent, the designs themselves may be influenced by such ideas from central Asia and also reflect patterns in Moorish architecture which connect to similar philosophical readings of mathematical logic and infinity.
By combining patterns from and with historical vernacular objects, Bool’s interventions play with the mechanical reproduction of geometric sources and iconography. In previous work taking impetus from floor surfaces, Bool made Casino Runner (Aztec Inn) by blowing up a segment of a cheap wall-to-wall carpet encountered at a Las Vegas casino hotel. The original carpet was laden with random appropriations from ancient Aztec culture and Anatolian ornaments, which the artist underlined in having her version hand woven by Turkish weavers. The casino itself is a throwback to the iconic Art Deco monument, the Aztec Hotel that still operates in Monrovia, California. American Art Deco used the powerful geometry of ancient Mexican civilizations to break from European aesthetic traditions. Bool’s carpet, exquisitely hand-knotted by traditional village weavers in Anatolia, Turkey, heightens – even fetishizes – the production values combining the sublime and hysterical experience of entering a casino with the distinctly Eastern reading of a Western sensibility.
Here, Bool has painstakingly pieced together images of the Mamluk carpet for the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, itself unusual due to its gigantic size and pristine condition, to reproduce the whole carpet at almost exact scale across the glass façade of the building. Amazing in its detail, intricacy and partial signs of use, the image records literally and metaphorically both the patterns and passages of time, in much the same way as the busy station is itself an embodiment of a space of people passing through. Suspended in the everyday space of the station and tilted as if afloat, the work shows some of the mathematical and geometrical sensibilities that are seldom acknowledged but directly influenced renaissance thought.
This will be the first new commission by Bool with the Contemporary Art Gallery during 2015, a second project to evolve for late spring.
Presented in partnership with the Canada Line Public Art Program – IntransitBC.
Shannon Bool lives and works in Berlin. Solo exhibitions include: The Fourth Wall Through the Third Eye, Galerie Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf; Walk Like an Etruscan, Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto (2013); The Inverted Harem II, Bonner Kunstverein (2011); CRAC Alsace, Altkirch, France; The Inverted Harem, GAK-Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen (2010); RMIT Project Space, Melbourne, Australia (2008). Group exhibitions include MMK2 Boom She Boom, Works from the MMK Collection, Frankfurt; The Klöntal Triennale, Kunsthaus Glarus, Switzerland (2014); Soft Pictures, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaugengo, Turin; Painting Forever!, KW, Berlin; Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto (2013); the Sprengel Museum, Hannover (2012); 7×14, Kunsthalle Baden-Baden; Tactical Support, Gallery Tracy Williams, New York; Rock Opera, CACP Museum of Contemporary Art, Bordeaux (2009); Drawing on Sculpture: Graphic Interventions on the Photographic Surface, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2007); Make Your Move, Projects Arts Centre, Dublin; Spiralen der Erinnerung, Kunstverein in Hamburg; Carbonic Anhydride, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin (2006). Work is held in the collections of Berlinische Galerie Landesmuseum Fur Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur, Berlin; MMK Museum fur Modern Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; Lenbachhaus, Munich, and the Saatchi Collection, London. She is represented by Kadel Willborn Gallery in Düsseldorf and Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto.
Located near to the gallery entrance, Michelangelo’s Place is the final version in a series of marble benches Bool has recently produced. The sculpture references the benches found circling the elevated Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, Italy built in 1869 to showcase copies of Michelangelo’s most famous works and to provide a stunning panoramic view of the city. Working in Vancouver for three weeks prior to the opening, Bool reproduced the exact graffiti that covers some of the benches.
Read on for a behind-the-scenes report by CAG Program Assistant, Jas Lally on the delicate installation of the new sculptural commission Michelangelo’s Place by Berlin-based, Comox, BC born artist Shannon Bool:
On the day of the installation of Michelangelo’s Place, Shannon and I had many phone calls back and forth with each other trying to come up with a Plan B, because it had been raining ALL DAY! We were lucky that a few hours before the install the sun came out and we were able to prep the dry ground – who knew Bianca Carrara marble was such a finicky material.
When the pieces arrived, the bench looked much bigger than I thought it was going to be. The four legs were easy to carry and place in front of the CAG, but when it came to the bench top things got a little more tricky. The top had to be balanced on a dolly that looked like a unicycle! I could see Shannon and assistant Teal holding onto the sides of the bench top for dear life as it was steered down the sidewalk with passerby’s giving us very curious looks.With the bench legs positioned in the perfect spot the top was affixed, then with the right amount of glue the job was done. I was surprised how easily and quickly all the pieces came together.
The bench has been installed for a week now and visitors have been engaging with the bench by taking a moment to sit on it and read some of the one hundred year old Italian graffiti. Even all the little furry friends in the neighbourhood have been giving the bench curious sniffs!If you haven’t already, stop by and take a moment to sit on the bench and visit also Julia Dault’s exhibition Blame It On the Rain!
– Jas LallyMORE