Joanna Malinowska. Holy Philip Guston Pray For Us

6 Jun 2024 – 19 Jul 2024

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10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

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CANADA is pleased to present Holy Philip Guston, Pray for Us, Joanna Malinowska’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery. This new body of work reflects on the seemingly unquenchable human desire to build into the sky, and explores the possibility or impossibility of creating a universally satisfying monument for our radically polarized society—a monument capable of embodying contradictions.

As a feasibly unfeasible solution, Malinowska proposes the concept of the Ivory Tower—a metaphorical place of mental isolation and intellectual pursuits and, in the Christian tradition, an epithet for the Virgin Mary. The Ivory Tower also represents a very real Armageddon for ‘ivory-producing’ animal species, doomed to provide building material for such aspirational structures. Malinowska elaborates on this fantasy and its relations to other cultural phenomena through a series of sculptures, and a collection of renderings and works on paper, created in conversation with Thomas Pace, a young architecture student.

In 2010, in the Polish town of Świebodzin, a 172 ft. sculpture of Christ the King was erected and upon its completion registered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the planet’s tallest representation of Christ. The competition for the world’s tallest Jesus is ongoing. Today, the Jesus of Świebodzin is no longer the tallest, but continues to hold a respectable position in third or fourth place (depending on whether the pedestal and crown are considered). It also happens to be a particularly unimaginative depiction of Christ and looks as if it was produced by the world’s biggest 3-D printer. The sculpture, in all its kitschy glory, sparked Malinowska’s fantasy of building an ivory (or faux ivory) tower that would be taller by a few feet.

The artist credits a childhood memory for inspiring her interest in the Ivory Tower; she recalls accompanying her grandmother to church when the Litany of Loreto was being recited during a service dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The litany, which has many perplexing and mystically poetic images, includes the line, “Tower of ivory, pray for us”. This provoked perhaps her first experience of "critical thinking," as she tried to analyze and process the fascinating and terrifying proposition of such a structure. Sitting in her pew, she tried to imagine how many elephants would have to be slaughtered to provide enough ivory to erect a vertical building that deserved to be called a tower.

Malinowska’s imagery and materials—cow bones as a substitute for precious ivory, flying saucers to be smashed, teeth, chains, boomerangs, and mammals fighting snakes—carry a loaded and irreducible set of meanings that are the essence of her playfully anxious and spiritually messy cosmology. A cosmology where Philip Guston exists as a prophet, speaking divine truths through dark talismans distilled from visions of hooded Klansmen, bare light bulbs and wrist watches.

In addition to the drawings and sculptures, a sound installation A Morning in 1953 (Messiaen Reversed, Birds Released) will be presented in the project room. This 8-channel work is based on Réveil des Oiseaux, a composition for piano and orchestra by the legendary Modernist composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1982). Premiered in 1953, the piece is claimed to be the fruit of painstaking transcription of the songs of 38 species of birds. Working together with the sound engineer, Katarzyna Figat, the artists re-create and re-construct the original score by removing (most of) the man-made sounds and replacing them with recorded bird calls from the collection of Cornell’s Macaulay Library, calls that Messiaen used as “prototypes”. Alongside the sounds of birds, viewers will encounter a group of small cat and bird-related pieces by Grace Sachi Troxell, Laura Robert, Jan Baracz, and Hans Witschi.

Joanna Malinowska’s projects have been exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean at venues such as the Sculpture Center, Art in General, Postmasters, and CANADA, all in New York; Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Paris; and Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, United Kingdom; Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, Japan; Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle and Zacheta—National Gallery of Art in Warsaw. She was also included in the Whitney Biennial 2012 and the 56th Venice Biennale 2015 (in collaboration with C.T. Jasper). Her most recent museum presentation was Suplement (2022), a two-person survey show with C.T. Jasper at Muzeum Emigracji in Gdynia, Poland. A graduate of the sculpture departments at Rutgers University and Yale School of Art, Malinowska has received awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, among others. Her work is included in the collections of the Saatchi Collection in London, Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., and Takashi Murakami’s Collection in Japan.

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Joanna Malinowska


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