Carton II (2006), Polymerized gypsum, cigarettes, chewing gum, matches, lighters
Article: Khari Walser
On a recent trip to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, I was able to take in the true vibe of the city and some of the art and artists that reside there. One of those artists was Liz Magor who is considered to be one of the most influential Canadian artists of her generation. For decades she has produced contemporary artworks that dig deep into the human mind and address the things we think about ourselves, each other, and the world we live in. The exhibit was displayed at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montrêal and everything was presented in a very metaphorical manner that forces the viewer to look deeper. When you connect with a piece you feel it in your gut because you finally understand how real it is and how much the topic discussed hits home. I found myself feeling this way the entire time that I walked through the exhibit.
Hollow (1998 - 1999), Polymerized gypsum, foam, textile
Three of Magor’s sculptures Burrow (1999), Hollow (1998 – 1999), and Wrap (2003) addressed civilizations interaction with nature both positive and negative. Burrow and Hollow show sleeping bags and flannel shirts and other human possessions placed inside the hollow cast of a maple tree, suggesting humanities close connection to the earth that we utilize. It also, perhaps, suggests that even though as a civilization weplunderourearthforourowngaintherearestillsomewhoseethebeautyintheworldand wish to live in harmony with nature and protect it. Wrap is another cast of a tree trunk that is instead filled with foam insulation suggesting the ways in which humanity alters nature to fit its needs regardless of the harm it can do. It may also suggest that when we alter nature we take away its innocence and its purity. Topics like this are so relevant today as the human race tackles the threat of global warming and climate change. It raises the questions; when is it finally enough? When will we take these issues seriously and realize that the fate of our earth is directly tied with the fate and survival of our species?
Another set of pieces that stood out were a series called Carton I (2006) and Carton II (2006). The display was a stack of clothing (shirts, sweaters etc.), packed with cigarettes and cigarette cartons suggesting that the addictions we have consume us like the smell of smoke from cigarettes over takes the belongings and dwellings of a heavy smoker. The mind can be a very fragile thing that sometimes loses the ability to resist and causes us to give in to temptation even when what we are drawn to is dangerous or risky and can affect us in negative ways. These are real human issues and struggles that Magor captures in her work.
By looking at Magor’s work, her goal is not to try and reinvent the wheel and try to show the same information in a new way but show it plainly so that we as the viewer can easily digest the message and feel it. Her work invokes soul searching. The kind of soul searching that makes us want to change. That could be the true meaning and purpose of contemporary art. It is relatable because it reflects the current human experience. We can appreciate the old masters and what their work stood for but we cannot always relate to it because it is from a different time and the artists are no longer alive to explain their work. With contemporary art we have the work and the source of the work which gives perspective. Contemporary art is important and Liz Magor utilizes it in a way we can all enjoy.
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