Thursday, January 20, 2011

City of Lights: A Tour of Some Public Art in Toronto

A few weeks ago, the Toronto Star asked me to try and devise a little tour of public art in the city that lights up our long, dark winter nights. It was a real learning experience for me as I was previously unaware of just how many artworks--particularly ones developed under the Percent for Public Art Program--have been using the LED medium in recent years.

You can read the resulting tour today in the Star's Entertainment section. An excerpt:

Mitosis Courtyard
Pierre Poussin (2007-2010)
Cityplace Panorama, 38 Dan Leckie Way
Toronto’s Poussin first trained as a biochemist, and it shows. These two-dozen columns, with circular patterns inspired by cell division, come across a bit as orderly, phosphorescent mushrooms. The result? An unlikely sense of play and enjoyment brought to the dark underbelly of the Gardiner. Granted, litter around the courtyard means some of the underpass’s dinginess remains, but it’s a great example of how art and design could grow good vibes for this overlooked zone in the future.

You can read the rest of the tour here. A couple of clarifications I'd just like to add to the overall piece:

-The Percent for Public Art Program isn't a compulsory program for private developers in Toronto. Though PPAs can be compulsory in some other cities, the way it works in Toronto, from what I understand, is that it is most often implemented as part of community compensation for a given developer's height- or zoning- or density-variance requests.

-The ratings that I offered for each piece reflect my experience of the work in nighttime. So this was most difficult for me to do when it came to the new Ed Pien work at Wellesley-Magill Park. I love Pien's gallery work, and by day I loved seeing how this piece brought techniques and images he usually conveys with fragile paper cutouts and tranfers them onto a heavy, durable steel medium. I also really loved seeing his work at such a large scale. But... at night I found the lighting element wasn't really sufficient to draw viewers in or give them a good sense of the imagery. So I reluctantly gave it a lower "night rating" even though, as I explain in the piece, the darkness of the lighting makes sense in the context of Pien's content and past work.

-The cost listed for each work is approximate, is privately funded, and covers everything from calls for submissions to jurying to construction and fabrication to artist fee.

Anyway, those were just a couple of notes I wanted to add. Any favourite public artworks of yours in the light realm or otherwise in Toronto? Feel free to share. If I learned anything from this piece it's that I haven't seen half of the public art stuff that's going on in Toronto.

(Image of Pierre Poussin's Mitosis Courtyard from World Architecture News)


John Rajourn said...

This is a wonderful article!!! And I love Pierre Poussin's Mitosis Courtyard!!! Especially at night time!! Thanks for covering this wonderful emerging artist!!!
John R.

Leah Sandals said...

Thanks for your enthusiasm, John!

Since the article was published, I picked up a copy of Design Lines and saw that Poussin was also featured in the Spring 2011 issue. So looks like we may be hearing a lot more about him in future!

John R. said...

I just read the article in Design Lines and it's fantastic!
Thanks for letting us know about it!!
I had never heard of a biochemist turned artist/designer!
Such a wonderful career change filled with a unique perspective and approach to art and design! Can't wait to see what other projects he comes up with!!