Shannon Bool, Walk Like an Etruscan

September 12th - October 19th, 2013

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 12th, 6-8pm. Artist in attendance.

Bool’s new body of work – a combination of sculpture, painting and video developed over the course of her artist residency at the Villa Romana in Florence, Italy. Her interest in visual codes linked to ancient civilizations, art history, pop culture, and their shifting meaning continues.

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These investigations are carried out in a new series of abstract and figurative paintings based on Etruscan tombs and murals. The Etruscan civilization evolved in Tuscany after 800 BC, although the exact origin of this society remains a mystery to art historians. This obscurity is reflected in the wide range of influences found in this civilization’s artifacts. In Etruscan representation there are multiple readings that occur; the influence of Greek systems, representations of daily life, as well as a preoccupation with transition into the afterlife. The various references that present the Etruscans as elusive and complex serve as the starting point for Bool’s new work. By reproducing these Etruscan images as they exist today – partially deteriorated relics – and abstracting them with 1980s and ‘90s ethno-prints, Bool suspends our perception of time as well as our ability to directly identify what is “historical” and what is “contemporary”. This displacement both threatens and empowers the value of objects and surfaces once they are trans-located.

In dialogue with these works is Michelangelo’s Place (2013), a Carrara marble bench referencing the same scale of the original benches that surround Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, Italy. The piazza, built in 1869 as part of Florence’s urban renewal plan (initiated by the rise of an emerging middle class), is dedicated to Michelangelo and includes copies, cast in bronze, of his famous works. The location of the piazza serves as the most important observation point of Florence, seducing both tourists and locals. Recalling Bool’s 2010 piece, Defaced Sculpture, Bool’s pursuit of the personal need to connect to surface in public space intensifies. More specifically, Bool examines how defacement can both subvert and uphold art history.

Also included in the exhibition is a video work, Forensics for a Mamluk (2013), where Bool exercises another mode of abstraction; this time the subject is one of the rarest and most valuable carpets in the world. The giant Egyptian Mamluk carpet, (from the first half of the 16th Century) was forgotten among stored items of the Palazzo Pitti until it was rediscovered in a sealed chamber at the palazzo by Alberto Boralevi, a Florentine carpet expert, in 1982. The video is comprised of segments showing extreme close ups, adjustments of the carpet’s RGB colour palette, and larger pan views of the carpet’s motif and texture.

Like Michelangelo’s Place (2013), the video is concerned with the complexity of how we (the viewer) experience the “overload” of art history, or the Renaissance in Florence and, more simply, how we make a mark and locate our place in the world in relation to such overstimulation (i.e. Stendhal syndrome).

Forensics for a Mamluk (2013) presents an analytical bird’s-eye view of a masterpiece of decorative art, an object forgotten due to the historical bias that positioned the decorative arts as inferior to painting and sculpture. However, the Mamluk Carpet, an abstract and sublime creation, represents the geometrical and mathematical sensibility of neighboring Islamic countries; cultures that provided essential contributions to Renaissance-era mathematics and scientific developments.

Shannon Bool was born in Comox, BC and currently lives and works in Berlin. Bool attended the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver and the Cooper Union in New York, and graduated from the Staedelschule in Frankfurt. Bool is currently an artist in residence at the Villa Romana in Florence, Italy. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo shows, mostly recently at the Bonner Kunstverein, Germany (2011), and the Gesellschaft fur Aktuelle Kunst Bremen, Germany (2010). Bool’s work will also be included in various upcoming group shows: Screen and Décor, curated by Rosemary Heather, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta; Soft Pictures, curated by Irene Calderoni, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaugengo, Turin, Italy; Girls Can Tell, Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen, Germany. Her work can be found in the collections of the Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt and the Lenbachhaus, Munich, as well as numerous private collections, including the Saatchi Collection, London.