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Shannon Bool: Modernism and Its Discontents
16 May–23 August 2020
Contemporary Feature, Davies Foundation and Franks Galleries
Curated by Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre, Curator of Contemporary Art, Musée d’art de Joliette with Sunny Kerr, Curator of Contemporary Art, Agnes Etherington Art Centre

Shannon Bool’s recent practice takes on many forms, including tapestries, silk paintings, collages, sculptures or photograms, all of which gravitate around a central theme: a critique of Modernism through unconventional material processes, combined with her own interpretation of psychoanalytical concepts. By examining the flip side of modernist currents, the artist reveals repressed aesthetic influences in both visual art and architecture.

This exhibition foregrounds Bool’s current research on a series of erotic drawings made by Le Corbusier in Algeria during the 1930s. These coincided with the initial stages of the architect’s urban plan designs aimed at transforming Algiers into a modern imperial capital, thus asserting the French presence in North Africa. With her Bombshell series, Bool detects in the architect’s curved urban designs the direct consequences of his voyeuristic sessions; the sensuality of Moorish bodies, by association and projection, informed his proposals to redesign the city. By literally superimposing the megastructures of the Plan Obus onto the bodies of colonized women posed within Orientalist settings, Bool reveals the violence behind the idea of progress in Le Corbusier’s proposals for the city’s modernisation, and does so through a postcolonial, feminist lens. Named after the image of a projectile flying through space, the Plan Obus was based on the idea of a linear city, but never evolved beyond the planning stages. Among its distinctive features was an elevated highway overlooking the Casbah, a Muslim neighborhood preserved by the architect for tourism purposes, among other things.

Shannon Bool, The Weather, 2018, jacquard tapestry, embroidery. Courtesy of the Daniel Faria Gallery (Toronto) and the Kadel Willborn Gallery (Düsseldorf)

Shannon Bool, Villa Muller Sampler, 2019, silkscreen, cotton embroidery on hand dyed silk. Courtesy of the Daniel Faria Gallery (Toronto) and the Kadel Willborn Gallery (Düsseldorf)

The role of architecture in controlling both bodies and behaviour is also at the core of Bool’s approach, which identifies objectifying strategies used in interior design, specifically in the arrangement of niches, alcoves and site lines within domestic spaces. This is apparent in her recent works of embroidered floor plans, and her tapestries investigating iconic viewpoints in the architecture of Mies van der Rohe. Additionally, her latest photographic series, Horses of Oblivion, is inspired by a surrealist apartment nicknamed the “House of Oblivion” designee by designer, architect, and amateur erotic photographer Carlo Mollino.  The powerful animal silhouettes uncannily house the raw functionality of selected brutalist buildings and allude to atavistic power structures embedded in modernism.

This exhibition is produced by the Musée d’art de Joliette in partnership with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. Iterations of this project initiated by the Musée d’art de Joliette have been presented by the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, and the Kunstverein Braunschweig in Braunschweig. We thank the Canada Council for the Arts for their support.

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