Mayor Walter Szendik often comments at events that take place at City Hall in downtown St. Catharines that he considers City Hall to be a space that belongs to everyone, not just the staff or politicians. At the brief celebration of the installation of the 18 works – or, perhaps more accurately, the singular combination of multiple voices that is reminiscent of a mural, a vision of the city from many hands with many eyes – this sentiment was manifest in Abstract City Hall. The large piece – approximately 11 feet by 5 feet (or pieces, as there’s a uniqueness as well as unity) is located on the 2nd Floor of City Hall at 50 Church St.
The blurb: Abstract City Hall was created during a Willow Arts Community Workshop which was delivered by instructor Mark Roe — Artist and member of Willow Arts Community. Prior to the lesson [Roe] took a photograph of City Hall, enlarged it and divided the image onto 18 reclaimed boards…[Members] began by looking at famous artistic works that pushed the boundaries of visual arts, colour theory and technique. Each member was then given reclaimed art board with what appeared to be a random geometric design as a starting point…Unknown to the members, the 18 art works when exhibited together would create one large collaborative abstract art piece of St. Catharines City Hall.
The idea was to go beyond a two-hour acrylics art class and to reveal to the Willow Arts Community Members that they are a unique part of a larger picture. Participating artists include Sarah C., Mark R., Evelyn B., Jamie R., Jordanna H., Joanne S., Farrow M., Paul K., Paul R., Deb B., Charlie F. and Shauna M.
In highlighting this piece in The Sound, I’m not occupying my usual position as #artcriticfromhell, but moreso am interested in letting people know that this work is on display, and will be there for a while, and in some ways enlivens (literally, with colours and marks and a frenetic use of hue and the hands of the artists very “alive”) the bureaucratic space on Church Street.
Recently I was pulled into a conversation about the role of the critic, or the arts writer, in a community, and I offered the following words from Bruno LaTour, that resonate here: “The critic is not the one who debunks, but the one who assembles. The critic is not the one who lifts the rugs from under the feet of the naïve believers, but the one who offers the participants arenas in which to gather. The critic is not the one who alternates haphazardly between antifetishism and positivism like the drunk iconoclast drawn by Goya, but the one for whom, if something is constructed, then it means it is fragile and thus in need of great care and caution.”
I’ll offer another of my favourite lines, this time from Allen Ginsberg:
bright as moving air
blue as city dawn
happy as light released by the Day
over the city’s new buildings —
Abstract City Hall is on display right now, and brightens the space very effectively: I’ve been unable to find out how long the various vignettes will be installed there, but on a personal note, I hope it is indefinite, with an eye to it becoming a permanent work in the City Collection.
All images are courtesy St. Catharines Culture, and the City of St. Catharines. Further information about the activities and opportunites happening through the Willow Arts Community can be seen here.
Bart Gazzola (also known as #artcriticfromhell) is an arts writer/critic who has published with Magenta Magazine, Canadian Art, New Art Gazette, Galleries West, PrairieSeen, Long Exposure and BlackFlash (where he was Editorial Chair for 3 years). He is Assistant Editor at thesound.rocks and a frequent contributor to various cultural spaces in Niagara.