SPOTLIGHT presents the viewer with three perspectives of a city in a state of flux. Despite being in the midst of a flood, the glowing lights and intact buildings of this metropolis give the impression that life continues unfazed. Alex McLeod proposes a modernist architectural fantasy, one where a digitally rendered world of glass and concrete is brought to life by ambient artificial light. Despite the late night hour, the seemingly uninhabited buildings in McLeod’s scene are still brightly lit, conjuring a multitude of reflections and an artificial glow that seems to pulse with life. The marble and granite that normally clothe the entrance walls of bank towers instead appear as mountainous forms between buildings. Globules of water are suspended in mid-air—their cause and outcome undetermined—generating both an unsettling atmosphere of impending doom and a captivating sense of enchantment. The real and the artificial meet somewhere in the engineered ombré.
This commissioned installation—a revived and expanded version of the Toronto-based artist’s computer-generated image, City Flicker Stars (2009)—reinforces the intersection between photography, painting, digital animation, sculpture, and built form. SPOTLIGHT is presented as three large-scale outdoor murals at Harbourfront Centre, close to the city’s financial district and surrounded by high rise condominiums with Lake Ontario as its backdrop. McLeod’s images recall the wide-open vistas of romantic landscape painting, and stage an otherworldly dystopia within a space that shares architectural similarities to Toronto’s downtown core. He uses film as a point of comparison, such as the poetic representation of urban spaces captured in Lost in Translation, and the hypothesized future depicted in Blade Runner. In light of concerns surrounding rising populations, urban overdevelopment, and climate change, McLeod’s dramatic scene can be considered a cautionary tale about ecological responsibility.
Presented in partnership with Harbourfront Centre
Curated by Patrick Macaulay