Through the lens of sculpture, and both formal and material experimentation, Montreal-based artist Valérie Blass transforms the human body into choreographed, abstract compositions. Commissioned to create a site-specific installation in Allen Lambert Galleria at Brookfield Place, she deconstructs the photographic view to confront the limitations of figurative representation and the instability of form.
For Nous ne somme pas des héros, which translates to “We are not heroes,” Blass produced a series of still photographs solely for the purpose of creating three-dimensional objects. Working with live models, she orchestrated their movements to create living sculptures, then documented each configuration from five vantage points. Dressed in contrasting pattern and solid colour clothing — lending further pictorial complexity and textural definition to the scene — her subjects re-formed their pose between shots to create essentially the same, but slightly different shape each time. The resulting photographs were cut into sections, adhered to a series of blocks, and stacked into assemblages that reflect the precarious nature of each arrangement. In Bleached Jeans (2017), the figures entwine in a type of pyramid pose atop a pedestal-like object, while in One Piece Mohair (2017), two figures stand in a close embrace, propping up the third figure between them.
Situated along the pedestrian thoroughfare of Brookfield Place, Blass’ theatrical, organically formed sculptures echo the dramatic arch of the glass ceiling and its freestanding support structure, generating a visual dialogue surrounding expressions of balance and biomorphic form. Looking to traditions of art history and monumental statues, Blass challenges conventional approaches to grandeur, static perspectives, and singular subjects. By contrast, the subjects of her sculptures are anonymous, their individuality metamorphosing into an abstraction. As these bodies fold inward, their differences intertwine and merge into single entities. The stacked blocks disorient the gaze of passersby, inviting viewers to conceptually reconstruct the scenes.
Collectively, these sculptures occupy and transform the surrounding environment, offering a sense of unabashed intimacy, balanced with a sense of humour. Blass’ installation invites a physically engaged method of viewing, opening up a dialogue in public space about shared activity that embraces forms of social change.
Presented in partnership with Brookfield Place
Curated by Bonnie Rubenstein