Carvings of bones and skulls, disintegrating everyday objects restructured and taken apart in uncomfortable ways, Rubric, an exhibition of Maskull Lasserre’s latest sculptures currently on view at the Côte-Des-Neiges Maison de la Culture, is a study in the macabre. But beyond death and decay, each piece has something new and unexpected to offer—a narrative, an observation, an unexpected or uplifting detail.
The show stresses tension, transience, and a defamiliarization of the commonplace. “[I]t is in the contemplative process of careful examination, dismantling, and reconstitution of the quotidian world where my interest lies,” the artist’s statement explains. If this is what art is expected to address, Lasserre’s work takes it to another level. A philosophy graduate currently working on a post-graduate visual arts degree at Concordia, he is fascinated with complex philosophical themes.
At the centre of the exhibition, charred, blackened logs fall chaotically about the floor. The piece, Murder, reveals wood that has been carved into crows which group and fawn together in strangely life-like fashion. The title is not unsuited to the unsettling effect of the scene, playing on the expression “a murder of crows”.
Close by, the star of the show, Lexicon, generates instantaneous fear and discomfort. Lasserre has painstakingly carved a human skeleton into a grey block and clamped it with a massive, rusting bun press. Closer inspection reveals that the block is made up of a stack of countless newspapers. The piece encapsulates Lasserre’s self-professed fascination with linguistics and ontology, the transient and the everyday. Incidentally, the bun press also has the horrifying air of a medieval torture device.
Lasserre uses a variety of materials, from clothes hangers, to rocking chairs, to old books and newspapers. He carves teacups into journals, skulls into bedposts, flowers into dated weeklies. “The materials bring as much to the work as the work brings to the materials,” he says during a chat at the opening. When asked whether he intended the top newspaper of his carving Still Life to date September 11, Lasserre smiles sheepishly. “Sometimes previous meanings enter in unexpected ways,” he says. “You have to be receptive to what objects bring. Art is a constant improvisation. The pieces reveal secrets in unimaginable ways.”
In Rubric, things are not always what they seem. The exhibition is an examination of mortality, as haunting as it is fascinating. But the show impels us to look beyond our visceral responses, to delve deeper into the interrelationship of different materials. Visitors may be surprised at how looking closely at a piece illuminates and transforms initial feelings of revulsion.
“What might be interpreted as a preoccupation with death is only the surface quality, the most literal coordinate, of an investigation into thresholds and changes of state,” Lasserre explains in his artist statement.
Look deeper, his work urges us. You may just find structure in chaos, meaning in death, growth in disintegration—and beauty in the everyday.
Rubric continues at Maison de la Culture, 5290 Ch. de la Côte-des-Neiges March 19 through April 26; Tues and Weds 1-7 pm, Thurs and Fri 1-6 pm, Sat and Sun 1-5 pm.