Lesley Johnstone (lives and works in Montreal, Canada).

“Why have so many contemporary artists returned in recent years to the forms, ideas and aspirations of Modernist architecture and design?

“This question lies at the heart of Yesterday’s Tomorrows, an exhibition that brings together works by ten Canadian and international artists who examine Modernism by establishing a discursive dialogue with a particular Modernist designer or monument.

“The show’s title implies an exploration of what remains of Modernist utopian ideals – a looking into both the past and the future from the perspective of the present. Beyond Modernism itself, however, what is particularly fascinating is the tenor of the conversations, the mechanisms of the dialogues and the diversity of the practices that link contemporary artists with architects and designers of the past.

“The works in the exhibition are: History appears twice, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce, a large-scale installation by Toronto artist Paulette Phillips inspired by Irish architect and designer Eileen Gray’s 1929 villa E-1027; Austrian artist Dorit Margreiter’s film installation 10104 Angelo Drive, which takes one of John Lautner’s houses as its subject; Torontonian John Massey’s photographs, entitled Phantoms of the Modern; Spanish-born American Iñigo-Manglano-Ovalle’s film installation Le Baiser/The Kiss, set in Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House; Simon Starling’s Home-made Henningsen, PH5 Lamps, in which this British artist uses recycled materials to remake the iconic lamps of Danish designer Poul Henningsen; a large wall painting by Scottish artist, Toby Paterson, inspired by Basil Spence’s British Pavilion for Expo ‘67; Vancouver artist Arni Haraldsson’s project on British architect Ernö Goldfinger; Slovenian-born Tobias Putrih’s pieces on Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic spheres; Montréal artist David Tomas’s installation on the house designed by Ludwig Wittgenstein for his sister; and an installation by the Iranian/German artist Nairy Baghramian made in collaboration with venerable French furniture designer Janette Laverrière.”
Press release, “Yesterday’s Tomorrows,” Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal website.

“The works exhibited in Yesterday’s Tomorrows reference particular projects by various modernist architects and designers—and in doing so, they recontextualize aspects of the movement. The show resists the temptation to put forward a hypothesis about the successes and failures of modernism’s pursuits or the outcomes of its influence on contemporary art practice. Instead, it presents examples of artistic fascination with the recent past and with the disputed legacy of modernity’s aesthetics and ideals.”
Alhena Katsof,  “Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Modernism Makeover,” Canadian Art, September 2, 2010.


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