Despite having been rendered contemporary in many respects, the artistic world of today remains, for the most part, traditional when it comes to the curating process and the showcasing of artists. Some may say that an artist does not fully play the role of the author of his work, in the sense that the curating process affects how his work is both viewed and received by his audience.
The Particular Way In Which Things Exist, the exhibit showcasing work by artist Martin Beck that launched at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery on Nov. 15, touches on this debate with gusto. It showcases 12 years of work on the artist’s behalf, underlining his single prevalent artistic style that can be seen in all of the different mediums he uses, despite their differences. Beck’s work is considered, as the exhibit quaintly coins it, “an intersection between the subject of art, design and architecture.” The prevalent focus of his artwork is an interest in communicating artistic and cultural intention and how the systems we use to do so operate.
As an artist, Beck’s approach is unique, not only because of the variety of mediums he uses as an artist, but also because of the way he utilizes the gallery or ‘commercial’ space. Beck doesn’t actually have a say on where in the gallery each installation is set up. He does, however, create installations that are made to articulate a more active presence in space than the ones thought up by other artists.
The Particular Way In Which A Thing Exists is no exception to this rule: as visitors enter the exhibit, the first and most stunning piece is definitely Sculptures (2008), an ensemble of five stainless steel cubes sprawled out throughout the gallery space to articulate the relativity of size and direction between the exhibit space and the art work. David Everitt Howe, who published an article on Beck’s work titled Contentious Utopias: Martin Beck’s Avant-Garde Art and Design describes Sculptures as being “almost textbook examples of theatricality or of presence”. Howe pinpoints Beck’s subtle play on the use of space: these stainless blocks are “essentially, a group of large objects occupying a space, almost like people,” giving the art a presence amongst the audience.
All presentation concerns aside, the exhibit is interesting for the topics it chooses to touch upon. Direction, perspective, movement and relativity are combined with an interest in social causes and the engagement of a viewer. Beck is a minimalist and this fact is apparent in his work: clean lines, illustration and photography leave ample room for the audience’s interpretation. Were anyone to question first impressions of the exhibit, the word that would come to mind would not be ‘iconic.’ Beck’s vision is, at best, controversial and, may I even add, stimulating. He invites the intellectual to meet the artist and question the way we feed off culture from a visionary standpoint.
The Particular Way In Which A Thing Exists remains at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery, 1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W. until Jan. 26. For more information, visit ellengallery.concordia.ca.