Francois Morelli’s exhibition at Joyce Yahouda titled Volute, feels as though you have fallen through time and landed in a tiny surrealist universe. 10 year’s worth of artwork is on display in myriad incarnations: sculptures, large and small-scale drawings, books, stamps, video, and photo-documentation. Morelli’s work “explores the legacy of surrealist and conceptual sculpture” and thankfully escapes the temptations of nostalgia. His drawn and stamped figures are especially contemporary. Displayed all along the walls, they dance and writhe with emotive contraptions encompassing their heads that use the same visual language as his wire sculptures.
Morelli’s ‘spinning top’ wire form is a recurring theme in his sculptural and illustrated pieces. The word that rests foremost in my mind is turbulence. In his artist statement, he references the poetry of W. B. Yeates and ‘Gyres’ – the islands of plastic in our oceans – as inspirations for the form. It seems they also denote time and space. The spiraling sculptures seem like black holes absorbing or expelling everyday items like lights, plungers, and canes, although I can’t say that I encounter life-size doll heads on too regular a basis. Still, the spiral is a simple form with great depth in meaning and versatility, and in defense of the heads, they echo his drawings, or vice-versa.
The part of the exhibition I enjoyed most was the deep level of engagement supplied by the opportunity to interact with the drawn works. The gallery provides gloves so the viewer can leaf through smaller drawings hung on the walls as well as sketch diaries. I wonder why the sculptures were not placed on the floor (as in previous exhibitions); the elevated presentation of the sculptures made them feel more like artifacts.
Irrational actions and chance events were extremely important to the Dada and Surrealist movements. Morelli’s video performance work continues this sentiment as he measures the portion of Rue Ontario in his neighbourhood of Hochelaga Maisonneuve using a yardstick and a skateboard. In the process, strangers approached him to ask what he was doing, and in this random interaction, Morelli was able to get to know his community more intimately, something extremely important to him.
In interviews Morelli has spoken about his very direct relationship to art, and how he does not draw a line between his practice in the studio, gallery, or elsewhere. To him, the process should be fluid and undivided, and so taking to the street was another way of accessing a new space using familiar concepts. Overall, an admirable and humorous endeavor.
Volute is on show at Galerie Joyce Yahouda until November 1st and is accompanied by a video artwork by Alana Riley.
Galerie Joyce Yahouda, space 516
September 27th – November 1st