What is it about Montreal and place temporary sculpture exhibits in parks where junkies hang out? Last month I wrote about Robert Lorrain at the Parc des Faubourgs, and at about the same time as I was writing that, I discovered the Glen Le Mesurier exhibit called Arcane de Mer at Cabot Square.
Cabot Square, for those who don’t frequent it all that often, is across the street from the Pepsi Forum and is notorious for being a hangout for junkies, hookers, hustlers and other assorted members of the not-quite-ready-for-the-nine-to-five lifestyle. I, myself, can remember selling oregano cigarettes, 3 for $5 there before a Gentle Giant show there in the 1970s.
Yeah, I know it’s not a great photo, but if you squint you can make out what it says. For the francophobes reading this, it roughly translates as
Glen Le Mesurier is a prolific artist know for making environmental sculptures. For 25 years he has show his work in Europe and the United States. In Montreal his work is on display at Sunset Garden [Ed note: it sounds WAY better in French as Le Jardin du Crépuscule] a permanent exhibit in the hipster neighborhood, Mile End. There are over 100 of his sculptures all over the world, Montreal and even in some private homes and stores. This exhibit of 10 sculptures made out of steel recycled from trains and ships took over two years to make. In memory of the voyages that Cabot made. These sculptures form an allegorical triptych combining movement, shipbuilding and spirit of adventure.
Overall it’s a nice enough exhibit. I didn’t get (or see) and of the kineticism of the sculptures, nor did any of them remind me of shipbuilding or Giovanni Cabot. But maybe whomever wrote the offending paragraph on the sign didn’t actually have a chance to see the sculptures before writing what they wrote.
As none of the sculptures had titles (or had titles that I was able to ascertain) it’s tough to figure out what M. Le Mesurier had in mind. If you squint hard, this one can look like a ships wheel. But to my eye it looks way more like an eye or perhaps a compass. Then again, it also could be some sort of monument to a sun god or any number of other things depending on which way you look at it.
This one, I’m not certain what to make of it, a bunch of circles, and semicircles, arranged in a vaguely totemic fashion. It doesn’t make me think much about the sea or ships unless I squint hard and then perhaps, maybe it reminds me of something kind of like a lighthouse. But if M. Le Mesurier had decided to name the exhibit Arcane de Haida then the connection to totem poles would be much more evident. And what’s with the use of the word “Arcane” in the title? On one hand, if he wanted to keep things mysterious, secret and obscure, I would have suggested picking a title that didn’t attract attention to the mysterious, the secret and the obscure. But on the other hand, I can’t help but think that the title has something to do with Tarot cards, but there are only 10 sculptures, whereas there are 22 arcana major cards and 56 arcana minor cards so the numerology is not quite there.
I don’t quite know what to make of this one, especially since it has a hat on. The gears inside kind of confuse me as well. Up close it reminds me of a film projector. But I have a sinking suspicion, that I’m missing something.
This sculpture, appeared to me, to be placed in the wrong direction. It’s on the northwest side of Cabot Square, facing Lambert Closse. Which is all fine and dandy if you want the buses to be able to see what it looks like from the front. Because they are the only things on Lambert Closse. If whomever had installed it, had twisted it 180 degrees, then the denizens of the square would have been able to see it from the front.
No matter how hard I try the only thing I can think of when I see this sculpture, is Fozzie Bear. I think it has to do with what I would call “the mouth.”
However the only thing I can find about Fozzie Bear being at sea is from the 220th episode of the Muppet Show, with Petula Clark as the guest, where they did this sketch called “Sea Chantey.”
Which still leaves us stretching for meanings.
At which point it probably would be better to start talking about form. If you notice, three of the five sculptures so far are columns with a circular piece on top, frequently the circular piece on top has some sort of mass inside. For those that aren’t made to look like magnifying glasses, M. Le Mesurier still manages to work a lot of circular parts in and on to the sculptures.
Now other than Cabot being fairly instrumental in proving that the world was round, I don’t see any other connections between the sculptures themselves and “Arcane de Mer.” And the world being round isn’t exactly the most obscure fact around.
What’s not to like about really big rusted chains?
Front and back views of what I think is my favorite sculpture in the exhibit. I don’t know if it is because there is text on the metal, or because he is using an I-beam for a pedestal, or if it is due to the reproduction of the Roman aqueducts being stuck on the front, or something entirely different.
In a nutshell, with this piece M. Le Mesurier has exploded his normal methodology. Instead of having a circular piece with something insde it on top of a column, he has taken the guts (the stuff that would normally be inside the circle) and placed multiple circles around it (and also depending on your perspective, in it and on it). In effect exploding his typical style.
As a consequence, where the sculptures that look like a magnifying glass kind of focus your view on one spot, your eye ends up roaming all over the place on this one.
The only thing that comes to mind upon seeing this one, is Etta James’ song Tell Mama.
“…and I’ll make everything alright.” Granted there are no legs, and the sculpture isn’t quite as voluptuous as Etta James is, but those arms look extremely inviting and comforting. It might have something to do with the lack of detail in the face, and as a result you end up imposing your own ideas on it, and mine say “Etta James.”
The last two sculptures at Cabot Square. I find them kind of “meh” but you may think differently.
Overall, it’s nice to see that the city takes the initiative to install temporary sculpture exhibits in disadvantaged neighborhoods during the summer. And Glen Le Mesurier’s work is a far sight better than that by Robert Lorrain at the Parc des Faubourgs, but M. Le Mesurier still has a long ways to go if these works are examples of his latest work. These sculptures are far too similar, bordering on clichéd, the only thing that they have going for them is their massive nature, but after a while, even extremely large gets mundane.
Other than making the presumption that M. Le Mesurier used old bits of ships to create the works, I can see no connection to the sea (even an obscure one) and with a lack of titles trying to find a quote, deeper, unquote meaning is going to take just a little bit more time than I have to invest in M. Le Mesurier’s work.
Ultimately I just wish that the city would be able to install a better caliber of work in both Cabot Square and Parc des Faubourgs.