Magazine article Artforum International

Valerie Blass: Parisian Laundry

Magazine article Artforum International

Valerie Blass: Parisian Laundry

Article excerpt

The sculptural modus operandi of Valerie Blass is hardly an unfamiliar one these days: She makes assemblages out of a wide repertoire of everyday objects and materials; the play of the Montreal-based artist's perception and invention reveals itself more through the gaps and disjunctions in the construction or, rather, the arrangement of the various parts brought together through some seemingly imponderable conjunction of chance, intuition, and will than through any immediately perceptible formal resolution. However, unlike many other sculptor-bricoleurs, Blass distinguishes herself through her predilection for using the human figure as a base reference in her work. "Every sculpture is a body and has an attitude," she once said. "I play with the capacity we have to see a face (or a body) in an abstraction "--but also, it should be added, to see abstraction in a given face or body. In this she might be close to Matthew Monahan or Huma Bhabha, but, comparatively, they almost seem more like closet traditionalists--their figures like cobbled-together Frankenstein monsters trying to morph into integral humans seeking an empathetic gaze. Blass's forms, on the contrary, conjure once-whole beings whose human character has slipped away and become lodged in the alien world of inanimate objects. Or, to put it another way, Monahan and Bhabha's work moves from irony to pathos, whereas Blass's flows in the opposite direction, from pathos to irony.

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In the dozen sculptures and five collages on view in "Petit losange laque veine" (Little Glossed Veined Lozenge), that irony was often directed at gender roles. In the tradition, perhaps, of Louise Bourgeois's Femme Maison--a motif Bourgeois first addressed in the 1940s and returned to periodically thereafter--Blass presented a Femme panier (Basket Woman) and a Femme planche (Board Woman), both 2010. …

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