This exhibition is curated by Andria Hickey, Associate Curator at Public Art Fund (New York).
For his first solo exhibition in Montreal at the Darling Foundry, Toronto-based artist Abbas Akhavan will alter the visitor experience of the foundry’s unique architecture with two symbolic sculptural works. Each resonates with the notion of vulnerability, encouraging subtle discovery. As with previous work, this exhibition explores the nature of loss, alienation and confrontation in relationship to territory and power.
Central to the exhibition is a hot air balloon, toppled to the floor, slowly inflating, filling the room, only to deflate and rise once again. Referencing the rise and fall of the sun, an organ, a breath filling a cavity, the once-functional, now-defunct aircraft never reaches its full potential.
Adjacent to this amorphous form is a seemingly abstract stone sculpture. Made of mortar, the large shape resembles the corroded figure of a lion. Based on a sculpture in Hamedan, Iran, known as the “stone lion” of Hamedan, the origins and the evolution of the creature are speculative: dated as far back as the Hellenistic Period, the sculpture was one of a pair of lions seated at the gate of the city, acting as a talisman protecting the city from catastrophic storms and ill will.
One of the artist’s most ambitious installations to date, this body of work explores the poetic and cyclical nature of transformation, both symbolic and political. Transforming found materials only to return them to ruin forms; Akhavan addresses our shifting relationships with the inheritance of ambivalence in relation to historical symbols of power and loss.
In the artist’s words, “monuments of the lion as a symbol of power and empire have many cross national associations. This shifting endangered animal becoming sometimes symbolic of longing, hostility, and ruin.” Within the gallery, as the balloon rises and falls with each inflation, the lion and sun point to an unknown territory and the unexpected steadiness of change.
The work of Abbas Akhavan (b. 1977, Tehran, Iran; lives/works: Montreal) ranges from site-specific ephemeral installations to drawing, video, sculpture and performance. The direction of his research has been deeply influenced by the specificity of the sites where he works: the architectures that house them, the economies that surround them, and the people that frequent them. The domestic sphere, which he proposes as a forked space between hospitality and hostility, has been an ongoing area of study in his practice. More recent works have wandered into spaces and species just outside the home: the garden, the backyard, and other domesticated landscapes.
His solo exhibitions include the CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco (2019); The Power Plant, Toronto (2018); Museum Villa Stuck, Munich (2017); Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2017); Artspeak, Vancouver (2015); and Delfina Foundation, London (2012). Recent group exhibitions include the Toronto Biennial (2019); Liverpool Biennial (2018); SALT Galata, Istanbul (2017); Prospect New Orleans (2017); Sharjah Biennial 13, United Arab Emirates (2017); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2016); Witte de With, Rotterdam (2015); and the 10th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2014).
Akhavan received his MFA from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (2006), and his BFA from Concordia University, Montreal (2004). Residencies include Fogo Island Arts, Fogo Island, Canada (2019, 2016, 2013); Atelier Calder, Saché, France (2017); and Flora ars+natura, Bogotá, Colombia (2015). He is the recipient of the Fellbach Triennal Award (2017); Sobey Art Award (2015); Abraaj Group Art Prize (2014); and the Berliner Kunstpreis (2012).
Akhavan is represented by Catriona Jeffries (Vancouver).