You’d think in a town with so many art magazines, and so much art, that it wouldn’t be that difficult to get a review someplace. Especially for an out-of-towner, someone from Belgium, someone who’s had a career for more than 20 years. But nope, getting a review in this town is not as easy as you would think.
Arlette Vermeiren Zucoli is a case in point. According to the press release she is Director of Contemporary Textile Art Research at the Centre de la Tapisserie, des Arts du Tissu et des Arts muraux de la Communauté française de Belgique (yeah, it’s a mouthful). So we know that some people someplace think she’s important. Born 74 years ago, you’d again think that with a continental culture, like we have here in Quebec, that there would be some respect towards elders. But nary a word. And then on top of it, one of the significant themes of her work is recycling and by extension saving the planet – but no one has seen fit to write about her or her work. Except of course for your trusty scribe here.
It might have been easier if they allowed picture taking at the Maison de la Culture Frontenac, but they don’t so don’t tell anyone you saw these pictures, ok? It can be our secret. Without pictures it would be kind of tough to show you what Ms. Vermeiren Zucoli’s work looks like. And while the internet it still mainly text based a well placed picture, even if taken badly by your trusty scribe, can go a long way towards illustrating things.
On first glace Ms. Vermeiren Zucoli’s work looks kind of like what I imagine Mediterranean fishing nets from the 1920s would look like. Albeit instead of being hung from strings on a beach to dry, they’re suspended in a couple of different ways on the walls of what they call “Studio 1” and lit in an extremely dramatic fashion. Imagine if you will that the beach is dark because it is night, and there is a thunderstorm and while you can’t hear the thunder, when the lightning strikes it illuminates the nets, which just so happen to be brightly colored in a variety of hues.
There are also some smaller framed swatches of fabric (and things approaching fabric) which I wasn’t all that impressed with, and a bolero jacket worthy of the finest Carmen Miranda impersonator ever along with some pretty gosh darn cool necklaces and/or bracelets.
However, in fact, they aren’t old-school fishing nets at all. But rolled up and knotted candy wrappers (for the most part). I’m not certain if I would love or hate being Ms. Vermeiren Zucoli’s dentist. Because I can’t imagine that she throws away the candy just because she needs the wrapping. Either they are making scads of cash because of all of her cavities, or all the cavities I imagine she has from of eating all that candy, or they are completely overworked because of all of her cavities (imagined or real).
For the most part they are European brands so I am not as familiar with the candies themselves, but they do make for some stunning work. What she does is roll ’em up so that they become string like and then tie them together, all the while attaching other wrappers in order to add texture and depth. There’s a white one along one wall, a red one suspended against a corner, a red and white one along another wall and a multicolored one in a corner on the floor.
The red one is called “Rouge Baleri” and was made in 2008. I need to double check, but I think the tag on the floor explaining the whos, whats and whens of the piece has a mistake. I wrote down “Baler Cerutti,” when in fact there is a pretty fancy-ass Italian design company called Cerutti Baleri. Apparently the piece was made for them and is now owned by their art director Federico Carandini. What initially got me wasn’t how it was made, or what it was made of, but the shadows that it cast. I told you that the work was lit in a very dramatic fashion.
It is suspended across the far corner of “Studio 1” and is lit by spotlights that cast shadows on the floor and walls. See the picture that I wasn’t allowed to take for more information.
Now you can make some obvious and overt connections between the medium that Ms. Vermeiren Zucoli uses (bits of paper that are typically discarded) and recycling, consumerism and a wide variety themes of a similar nature. But that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. What I would prefer to know is how Ms. Vermeiren Zucoli gets her bits of paper. I can’t quite imagine her dumpster diving, and at the same time I can’t quite envision her going to whatever is the Belgian equivalent of Walmart or Costco and buying all their Bacci chocolates. If I were in her shoes, I’d probably end up going to the candy company and asking if they would give or sell me a mess of their wrappers. And if this is the case, then it kind of puts a crimp in any recycling/consumerism theme. Kind of like driving to the voting station in your SUV in order to vote for the Green Party.
But enough of trying to rain on Ms. Vermeiren Zucoli’s parade, that’s not what I want to do at all. I quite like her work, but there are certain times when you don’t want to be in lockstep with the party.
One piece though that does make a very strong point about reducing reusing and recycling is the “Bolero MMM.” Now, as you might suspect, I’m not big into haute couture. I’m more a jeans and t-shirt sort of person. Originally made for Maurizio Galante‘s January 2011 fashion show. (And as an aside what is in the air these days about putting fashion designers’ work in art galleries? Alexander McQueen at the Met, Jean-Paul Gaultier at the MBAM and Maurizio Galante at the MdC Frontenac… And I also find it interesting that in certain situations Mr. Galante gets the credit and in other situations Ms. Vermeiren Zucoli gets the credit…) According to the tag it’s made from candy, cardboard from melon boxes, cut up whiskas (I imagine that they really mean cut up Whiskas boxes) nylon string, cut up water bottles yarn knots all as they put it “assemblés.” All-in-all in the context of an art gallery it makes a pretty compelling argument about how much packaging there is that just goes to waste. Although I kind of have a feeling that it was as compelling of an argument when it was being worn on a Parisian catwalk. Personally I just want to know how much Mr. Galante is charging for Ms. Vermeiren Zucoli’s work (or the flip side, how much she charged him to make it).
I also find it perplexing that given how important and significant the fibre arts are here in Montreal, between Concordia’s program in fibre, the Musée du costume et du textile du Québec and Diagonale sewing is pretty hot here in town, that Ms. Vermeiren Zucoli’s show hasn’t gotten more notice. Me on the other hand, despite not being able to take pictures am doing my darndest to let people know about Ms. Vermeiren Zucoli’s work.
And oops, before I forget there is one more set of stuff that deserves your attention. Just beside the doorway there’s a display case holding some necklaces and what are called “sculptures.”
The show is up until the 27th of August, the MdC Frontenac is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon, and is on top of the Frontenac metro station. You have no excuse not to see it.