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Sculpting the invisible

2017 Gershon Iskowitz Prize-winner Valérie Blass gives form to illusion in her new exhibition Valérie Blass: Le parlement des invisibles, on view now.

Image of shoes, bag and stool

Valérie Blass, Ceux qui ne demandent rien, 2019, stool, acrylic gesso, paint, fiberglass and brick. Courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

Witty, subversive, dark, cheeky – these are just a few of the words commonly used to describe the sculptural works of Montreal artist and 2017 Gershon Iskowitz Prize-winner Valérie Blass. In her new exhibition, on view now on Level 4 of the Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art, Blass goes one step further, sparking viewers’ imaginations with a series of works that use thrift store clothing, found objects and repeating visual motifs. Valérie Blass: Le parlement des invisibles is on view now until December 1. 

A master sculptor acclaimed by Artforum for “playing with viewers’ expectations,” Blass created the ten new sculptures in her exhibition using various techniques, including moldingcastingassemblage. Known for her tongue-in-cheek delivery, the figures in Le parlement des invisibles intrigue with their nonchalant poses – one kneels, one reaches, another holds out a bag of Doritos. “I attempt to blur references and play with formal hierarchies as a means of encouraging the viewer to imagine improbable forms and visualize the invisible. I’m particularly happy when people see a multiplicity of things in my work,” says Blass.   

Image of statues by Valerie Blass
Installation view Valérie Blass, Le Parlement des Invisibles, 2019 at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver. Works shown from left to right: Le mime, le modèle et le dupe, Take all the time you need, and Au coeur du malentendu. Photo: Dean Tomlinson/Art Gallery of Ontario.

 

According to our Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Adelina Vlas, “Blass creates negative space to hint at the human form, allowing viewers to use their own life experiences as a compass to explore her work. Each piece can inspire many different feelings and interpretations – it’s all up to the viewer’s imagination.”

The Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO is awarded annually to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the visual arts in Canada. The prize includes a $50,000 cash prize and a solo exhibition at the AGO. As the 2017 winner, Blass joins notable Canadian artists Rebecca Belmore, Michael Snow, Betty Goodwin, General Idea, Stan Douglas, John Massey, Geoffrey Farmer and many more. Shuvinai Ashoona, the winner of the 2018 Gershon Iskowitz Prize, will be showcased in an exhibition in the coming year.

Jurors for the 2017 Prize included Stéphane Aquin, Director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Liz Magor, artist; Philip Monk, Director of the Art Gallery of York University; and two trustees of the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation: Stephan Jost, Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO, of the Art Gallery of Ontario and collector Jay Smith.

Valérie Blass: Le parlement des invisibles is free for AGO Members and is included with General Admission. It's also free for visitors 25 and under and AGO Annual Pass holders. For more information about the AGO Annual Pass, visit the website.

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