Monday, August 22, 2011

Libby Hague: Sympathetic Connections at the AGO's Young Gallery

Libby Hage: Sympathetic Connections
Loop Gallery member Libby Hague’s installation called Sympathetic Connections transforms both the inside and outside of the Young Gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  This three-dimensional work combines representational and abstract forms created out of woodblock prints on Japanese paper to fill the gallery. These paper sculptures dangle from the walls and cascade down from the ceiling, while a wall-mounted print of a nuclear power plant looms in the periphery, an image inspired in part by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan earlier this year.

Libby Hague described her experience of showing her work at the AGO for this post:

"I was thrilled when Michelle Jacques gave me this opportunity because  the AGO is  a fabulous building. Its prominence  even got me the respect of the eavestrough guy and I thought - "Oh, that's how it works." More practical is the reality that until I have a specific  gallery to work in, I am more or less only rehearsing. My own studio has a grungy  functionality but there are too many things in it that interfere with my ability to read the work.  In my studio the work is  developed in sections and rather hopefully, if abstractly, in my imagination.  Installation artists need spaces like painters need paint. 

Libby Hague's installation at the AGO
The Young Gallery is thoughtfully designed so it brings a kind of formal clarity to the work . At the same time it's quite transformative because as you move around the room, the sculptures radically change depending on whether they are seen against the white wall or the city window. The first is a situation that I can control and the second  interjects  the human random chaos factor. I also put in an oscillating fan to move the pieces and  make them seem more alive and to shift  their relationships slightly. Additionally, the space  is like a huge window gallery that is visible 24/7 so the day to night shift is very interesting for me. 

An initial problem  which proved very useful was caused by the  mirrored facade on the Gehry reno. It makes it impossible to see in the gallery except at night and so happily the AGO accepted my proposal to do an intervention on the outside window as well.  This links the lines of the Gehry facade, the Henry Moore on the corner  and the sculptures I made inside. Once it was up , I loved how the mirror glass moved tour buses, people - Dundas St.   through the piece. It feels alive. 

Libby Hague at the AGO (exterior view)
A lot of my work has been about disaster and hope. This piece contrasts the exuberance of creating 3-D forms and by extension all creative activity with the pretty but disquieting  silhouette of the Pickering nuclear plant. The decision to put in the power plant came about because the Fukushima crisis happened while I was working on this. 

My reading of these  two elements, the sculpture and the power plant,  is that no happiness is so certain that  it can't disappear in an instant nor is it so simple that it is uninflected by danger or risk. A second reading , which I don't usually entertain, is that the sculpture is the disaster - post nuclear mayhem loosed upon a world that  loves a good disaster from a position of safety, of course. 

The show is up until September 11 and right now I am struggling with the possibility of having a puppet intervention that afternoon in the gallery."