Valérie Blass

La poudre aux yeux: Of smoke in mirrors

May 23–June 27, 2020

Exhibition documentation available here

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What is a ghost without a sheet? An invisible form, the memory of an individual partially physicalized, a history made present and visible only from a thin layer of fabric, a form indifferent to gravity and physics. A ghost occupies a space between this plane and another unknowable one, inhabiting both spaces simultaneously.

In La poudre aux yeux: Of smoke in mirrors, a survey of the most recent sculptures of Montreal-based artist Valérie Blass, the works share a similar disregard for the boundaries of physical reality, the body and its inherited cultural categories. The suggestion of bodily presence has haunted her practice, here explicitly or subtly figured anew in each work. To be clear, these works do not rely purely on simple, uncanny tricks for their effect, but confound through a layered multitude of visual and intellectual surprises.

For Blass, the dominant categorical boundaries of the history of art—the separations of sculpture from photography from painting, and figuration from abstraction—are lightened, released, floated, pushed through and recombined. While Blass’s work has almost always been rooted in the realities and complexities of sculpture and the body, and their attendant art histories, with this exhibition she explicitly challenges preconceptions of how bodies, sculptural form and vernacular clothing and objects are expected to behave in relation.

These sculptures do not sit comfortably in one realm, but expand and brush past borders with intense material literacy, vigorous humour, and a skillful and curious visual adeptness. Here, the gendered public language of personal adornment, the clothing that indicates the figure and their accoutrements, are mismatched, creating new forms and slippery suggestions, an uncertainty about who is wearing what and why.

Observed together, the relations between works can be inferred or extrapolated. Informed by each other, but not content only to repeat, the works have been built off of one another, mimicking the studio process, still joking amongst themselves and challenging their own art historical predecessors.

These figures are eccentrically and undeniably convincing, real and simultaneously strange, trompe l'oeils in three dimensions, layering odd details and logic to create new understandings and intentional confusions of the material and cultural world. Each chases a state of confusion, but doesn't just hover mysteriously—to experience these works is to have observation and expectation generously challenged, material and bodily knowledge subverted.


Qu'est-ce qu'un fantôme sans son drap? Une forme invisible, la mémoire d'un individu partiellement matérialisée, une histoire rendue présente et visible seulement à partir d'une fine couche de tissu, une forme indifférente à la gravité et à la physique. Un spectre occupe un espace entre cette enveloppe et un autre plan dématérialisé, habitant les deux espaces de manière simultanée.

Dans La poudre aux yeux : Of smoke in mirrors, une exposition rétrospective des plus récentes sculptures de l'artiste montréalaise Valérie Blass, les œuvres partagent une même dérision pour les limites de la réalité physique, celles du corps et ses bagages culturels hérités. La suggestion de la présence corporelle se retrouve à nouveau dans la pratique de l'artiste, ici explicitement ou subtilement reprise dans chacune de ses œuvres. Ces sculptures ne reposent pas uniquement sur de simples astuces ou trucages, mais se confondent à travers une multitude de surprises visuelles et intellectuelles.

Pour Valérie Blass, les frontières catégorielles dominantes de l'histoire de l'art—les limites et frontières entre la sculpture, la photographie et la peinture, et entre la figuration et l'abstraction—sont allégées, relâchées, voire flottantes, pour être à la fois poussées et réinterprétées. Alors que le travail de Blass a presque toujours été ancré dans les réalités et les complexités de la sculpture et du corps, au gré des histoires de l'art qui les accompagnent, elle remet, avec cette exposition, explicitement en question les idées préconçues sur la façon dont les corps, les formes sculpturales, les vêtements et objets vernaculaires sont censés interagir et se comporter les uns avec les autres.

Les sculptures de Valérie Blass oscillent entre plusieurs langages, mais s'étendent et frôlent les frontières des sphères variées grâce à une intense connaissance des techniques, un humour vigoureux et une habileté visuelle curieuse. Ici, le langage sexué de l'accoutrement, les vêtements qui indiquent implicitement la figure et ses accessoires, sont plus ou moins bien assortis, créant de nouvelles formes et des suggestions ambigües, une incertitude sur qui porte quoi et pourquoi.

Les oeuvres entretiennent entre elles des relations parfois évidentes ou encore extrapolées. Se voulant la mémoire d'une cohabitation proche de celle de l'atelier, les oeuvres de cette exposition sont solidement ancrées dans leur matérialité, tout en continuant à tisser une trame humoristique, mettant au défis certaines évocations de l'histoire de l'art.

Ces personnages invisibles sont excentriques et convaincants. Réelles et simultanément étranges, les sculptures de Valérie Blass trompent notre réalité, notre appréciation de la pesanteur et des volumes en superposant des détails bizarres et une logique indéniable afin de créer de nouvelles compréhensions et confusions calculées de notre monde matériel et culturel. Chacune des oeuvres poursuit un état de confusion, mais ne se contente pas de planer mystérieusement. Faire l'expérience de ces œuvres, c’est accepter d’avoir ses attentes et sa perception largement questionnées, sa connaissance du corps et de la matière déstabilisée.

Damian Moppett

CANADA

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Exhibition History

Valérie Blass
La poudre aux yeux: Of smoke in mirrors
May 23–June 27

Ashes Withyman
Some kind of doctor receiving thunder
February 8–March 14, 2020

Abbas Akhavan
They asked the fox, “Who is your witness?”
He said, “My tail.”

November 23, 2019–January 18, 2020

Christina Mackie
September 21–November 2, 2019

Rochelle Goldberg
May 25–July 20, 2019
gatekeepers

Abbas Akhavan, Valérie Blass, Raymond Boisjoly, Rebecca Brewer, Trisha Brown and Trisha Brown Dance Company, Chris Burden, Raven Chacon, Geoffrey Farmer, Hanne Darboven, Marcel Duchamp, Julia Feyrer, Alex Frost, Cynthia Girard-Renard, Rochelle Goldberg, Dan Graham, Brian Jungen, On Kawara, Janice Kerbel, Christine Sun Kim, Duane Linklater, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Christina Mackie, Myfanwy MacLeod, Liz Magor, Elizabeth McIntosh, Damian Moppett, Stephen Murray, Kate Newby, Jerry Pethick, Eileen Quinlan, Judy Radul, Aurie Ramirez, Rob Renpenning, Marina Roy, Kevin Schmidt, Nick Sikkuark, Michael Snow, Ron Terada, Calder Tsuyuki Tomlinson, Ian Wallace, Nicole Wermers, and Ashes Withyman

Unexplained Parade
February 9–May 11, 2019

Judy Radul
Words No Pictures Pictures No Words
May 11–June 16, 2018

Julia Feyrer
Background Actors
March 16–April 21, 2018

Rebecca Brewer, Rochelle Goldberg, Charmian Johnson, Christina Mackie
Nature
January 26–March 3, 2018

Elizabeth McIntosh
ISLANDS
November 17–December 22, 2017

Ron Terada
TL; DR
September 15–October 28, 2017

Elizabeth McIntosh, Monique Mouton, Silke Otto-Knapp
May 26–July 8, 2017

Ian Wallace
Street Floor Table Page Wall Canvas, 1969–2017
March 31–May 13, 2017

Ashes Withyman
Bullae
March 10–18, 2017

Geoffrey Farmer
The Big Kitchen
January 14–February 25, 2017

Rebecca Brewer
The Holding Sky
November 12–December 17, 2016

Raymond Boisjoly
September 16–October 29, 2016

Damian Moppett
May 6–June 25, 2016

Liz Magor
March 5–April 23, 2016

Brian Jungen
January 22–February 27, 2016

Valérie Blass
To only ever say one thing forever the same thing
November 21, 2015–January 9, 2016

Janice Kerbel
Score
September 12–October 24, 2015

Liz Magor, Jerry Pethick, Ron Tran
A view believed to be yours
May 15–June 27, 2015

Myfanwy MacLeod
TELL HER NOTHING SHE TELLS ALL
March 21–May 2, 2015

Ian Wallace
The Construction Site
January 17–February 28, 2015

Duane Linklater
But the sun is up and you're going?
November 15–December 20, 2014

Ron Terada
Jack
September 19–October 25, 2014

Jerry Pethick
Where sidewalks leap upon the table: works on paper 1966–2000
May 24–June 28, 2014

Rebecca Brewer
The Written Face
March 29–May 10, 2014

Geoffrey Farmer
The Grass and the Banana go for a walk
February 8-March 15, 2014

Gareth Moore
Household Temple Yard
November 26, 2013–January 11, 2014

Damian Moppett
Salute
September 20–November 2, 2013

Brian Jungen, Duane Linklater
Modest Livelihood
June 7–July 20, 2013

Andrea Büttner, Joëlle de La Casinière, Gareth Moore
April 26–June 1, 2013

Raymond Boisjoly
March 1–April 13, 2013

Liz Magor
I is being This
November 16–December 22, 2012

Christina Mackie, Jerry Pethick
Bigger than a book, wilder than a tree
September 14–October 27, 2012

Judy Radul
April 27–June 9, 2012

Julia Feyrer
Alternatives and Opportunities
March 2–April 14, 2012

Ian Wallace
Masculin/Féminin
January 13–February 18, 2012

Ulla von Brandenburg, Guy de Cointet, Geoffrey Farmer, Janice Kerbel, Daria Martin, Judy Radul
People Things Enter Exit
October 28–December 10, 2011

Ron Terada
Jack
September 3–October 8, 2011

Robert Kleyn
Works 1969–1983
May 20–June 25, 2011

Arabella Campbell
March 25–April 30, 2011

Alex Morrison
February 3–March 12, 2011

Brian Jungen
November 19, 2010–January 15, 2011

Kevin Schmidt
September 17–October 23, 2010

Damian Moppett
The Sculptor’s Studio is a Painting
May 21–June 26, 2010

Geoffrey Farmer
The Surgeon and the Photographer
January 29-March 6, 2010

Myfanwy MacLeod
Gold
November 6–December 12, 2009

Ian Wallace
Works 1970–1979
September 18–October 24, 2009

Brian Jungen, Rebecca Belmore, Myfanwy MacLeod, Kevin Schmidt, Alex Morrison, Sam Durant, Ron Terada, Geoffrey Farmer, Jin-me Yoon
Loaded
May 15–June 20, 2009

Christos Dikeakos
March 26–April 25, 2009

Gareth Moore
Uncertain Pilgrimage
January 15–February 14, 2009

Jin-me Yoon
October 30–November 29, 2008

Jerry Pethick
September 12–October 11, 2008

Ron Terada
May 23–June 28, 2008

Germaine Koh
April 11–May 10, 2008

Roy Kiyooka, Damian Moppett, Jerry Pethick, Ian Wallace
Process as Work
February 29–March 29, 2008

Kelly Wood, Monika Grzymala
January 18–February 16, 2008

Alex Morrison
November 23–December 22, 2007

Ian Wallace
October 18–November 17, 2007

Judy Radul
September 7–October 6, 2007

Arabella Campbell
June 8–July 7, 2007

Brian Jungen
April 27–May 26, 2007

Sam Durant
Scenes from the Pilgrim Story: Natural History
March 16–April 14, 2007

Damian Moppett
Progress in Advance of the Fall
January 19–February 24, 2007

Isabelle Pauwels
November 25–December 22, 2006

Geoffrey Farmer
Airliner Open Studio
October 21–November 18, 2006

Kevin Schmidt
September 9–October 7, 2006

Gareth Moore, Jacob Gleeson
St. George Marsh
August 24–September 1, 2006

Christos Dikeakos, Geoffrey Farmer, Arni Haraldsson, Brian Jungen, Roy Kiyooka, Germaine Koh, Myfanwy MacLeod, Damian Moppett, Isabelle Pauwels, Jerry Pethick, Judy Radul, Kevin Schmidt, Ron Terada, Ian Wallace, Jin-me Yoon
274 East 1st
June 3–July 8, 2006

Christos Dikeakos
November 25, 2005–January 16, 2006

Alex Morrison, Isabelle Pauwels, Frances Stark, Johannes Wohnseifer
And to stop you interfering, I shall have to dematerialize you again
October 13–November 19, 2005

Geoffrey Farmer, Brian Jungen, Germaine Koh, Myfanwy MacLeod, Damian Moppett, Alex Morrison, Ron Terada, Ian Wallace, Kelly Wood
Mix with care
July 5–September 24, 2005

Ron Terada
May 20–June 25, 2005

Arabella Campbell, Neil Campbell, Ron Terada, Ian Wallace
Painting After Poverty
April 8–May 14, 2005

Sam Durant
Color Pictures
February 25–March 2, 2005

Germaine Koh
Shell
January 14–February 19, 2005

Roy Kiyooka
Open Window on a Slow Train
December 2004

Jin-me Yoon
Fugitive
October 22–November 27, 2004

Myfanwy MacLeod
Don’t Stop Dreaming
September 10–October 16, 2004

Artist Curating Artists:
Damian Moppett curates Allison Hrabluik and Zin Taylor
May 28–June 26, 2004

Geoffrey Farmer
Every Surface In Some Way Decorated, Altered or Changed Forever (Except the Float)
April 7–May 15, 2004

Artist Curating Artists:
Myfanwy MacLeod curates Kyla Mallett
February 11–March 13, 2004

Damian Moppett
1815/1962
October 30–December 6, 2003

Carsten Höller, Cameron Jamie, Jakob Kolding, Myfanwy MacLeod, Kyla Mallett, Valérie Mréjen, Isabelle Pauwels, Raymond Pettibon, Ron Terada, Lawrence Weiner, Erwin Wurm
Seethe
September 10–October 25, 2003

Iain Baxter, Geoffrey Farmer, Roy Kiyooka, Germaine Koh, Myfanwy MacLeod, Ron Terada
I Sell Security
May 29–August 16, 2003

Kelly Wood
Black Plastic
April 11–May 17, 2003

Ian Wallace
February 28–April 5, 2003

Alex Morrison
Housewrecker
January 17–February 22, 2003

Allyson Clay
November 29–December 21, 2002

Ron Terada
September 6–October 12, 2002

Germaine Koh, Alex Morrison, N.E. Thing Co., Ron Terada, Ian Wallace
Signage
June 8–August 31, 2002

Christos Dikeakos
March 21–April 20, 2002

Germaine Koh
March 8–April 13, 2002

Brian Jungen
February 1–March 2, 2002

Geoffrey Farmer
Catriona Jeffries Catriona
September 9–October 9, 2001

Myfanwy MacLeod
Miss Moonshine
September 7–October 6, 2001

Geoffrey Farmer, Germaine Koh, Myfanwy MacLeod, Damian Moppett, Ron Terada, Jin-me Yoon, Kelly Wood
Supernatural Fairytales (Pink Island)
June 8–August 25, 2001