Morgan Melenka: A provisional vista

February 13 - June 18, 2023

In the Project Space

A provisional vista offers a collage of forms that reference architectural and decorative elements commonly found in our contemporary built environment, such as bollards, awnings, wind-resistant mesh banners, and ornamental architectural facades. Positioned throughout the exhibition space in layers, these seemingly benign objects signal, in various ways, ideas of transition, aspirational living, commercial encroachment, and the hidden-in-plain-sight historical legacies entrenched within the spaces we inhabit.  

Through a combination of sculptural and printmaking techniques, Melenka recontextualizes materials typically found in and around new architecture and draws upon their formal qualities to reinforce a sense of varying flatness or volume, to highlight qualities of surface, and to question what they might represent. Each component here functions as a kind of veil, in turns revealing and concealing the artifice and desires embedded within our material realities.  

At the front of the exhibition space floats a Venetian window cut from MDF (medium-density fibreboard), a versatile but toxic material that combines wood fibre with wax and formaldehyde resin glue into pressed panels. Common in things like contemporary cabinetry and decorative trim, MDF as a material metaphorically gestures to the ubiquitous and quickly constructed homes in new (sub)urban developments across North America. The architectural form of the window itself points to our sustained obsession with deploying vaguely Anglo-European stylistic elements—such as Georgian or Edwardian flourishes—in contemporary builds, an enduring visual souvenir of the embedded colonial legacies of places like Calgary. 

Materials within the installation such as Formica (a composite laminate material for countertops and other domestic uses that is typically printed with patterns that mimic expensive stone and wood) or mesh banner material (typically found on construction hoarding as advertisement and/or camouflage) often act as aspirational stand-ins that are deployed create an illusion of affluence, to signal class or social shifts, or suggest a more fantastic version of reality. A false stone bollard and wall draping depicting images of a water feature taken in Calgary’s Devonian Gardens—a one-hectare botanical garden situated inside a downtown mall—recall the strange and fantastic scenography of the city with its architectural pastiche of chopped and remixed styles that combine to form a sense of narrative that North America tells to itself. 

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