Robert Walker, the stale air of the cities

Robert Walker, l’air vicié des villes

Robert Walker
The experienced photographer is not lacking in either humour, or eye for complex compositions. In the documentary presented as a complement to the expo, Robert Walker said refuse the perspective of the Renaissance.

The years pass and, as a matter of fact, the cities change. Streets to urban freeways. Working-class neighbourhoods become those of the new rich. Of the towers, rather than trees, growing in parks. This is the progress, it seems, and we can’t do anything.

Artists often have the skill to address the realities of the most twisted. Without surprise, sometimes. This is the case of a project of Montreal native Robert Walker, a renowned street photographer. The exhibition Griffintown. Montreal changing, at the McCord Museum, reveals to shots of color images, the transformation of this neighborhood located at the edge of the Lachine canal.

The project of Walker surprises him a little, because it points to the gentrification of the urban life, a phenomenon, let’s say, universal. To attack this form of rejection of the poor, to denounce it, is without doubt laudable and justified, but the photos, also large format are, they seem harmless.

The twenty images on display — or more, if one considers the slideshow which is scrolled on a screen — surprise may be little, they yet possess the power of attraction of their subject. For decades, the claw of Robert Walker clings to these images of seduction which abound in the public space : the ads. In other words, and more specifically in the corpus, alleging that the Borough, 2018, and 2019, this game is beautiful and the dream turns against itself.

As he did in New York in the 1980s, but also elsewhere (in Warsaw, in particular), the artist draws his material in large billboards that he encounters in the streets. These are not only a trap visual, they are based on a cumulation of fireworks.

A car too long in here, an arm and a face women there, or even inside a condo non-existent… These views, the images of Walker is put in contrast with the reality of the street. Reports of scale (the presence of a passerby, for example) are grafted to the reports of sense. The luxury, stability and peace, which love is associate with the real estate market in contrast with the dilapidated, the temporary and the noise of work in progress.

The experienced photographer is not lacking in either humour or eye for complex compositions. In the documentary presented as a complement to the expo, Robert Walker said refuse the perspective of the Renaissance. The photo that opens the course, Rue Rioux, is emblematic of this choice.

On a same plane, the heavy machinery and the wall being destroyed are confused to such a point that the still standing, on the opening play of trompe l’oeil. This old window, or door, is like a pub, like a mirage. However, it is the reality that is unfolding before our eyes, that of the destruction of the past in Griffintown.

With this exhibition, the McCord Museum is launching a series aimed at documenting by photographic projects the transformations of montreal neighbourhoods.

During this time, in Rome

The eternal City, it is as well that it refers to the Italian capital. And it’s on its countless layers of history and life that looked Jean-Maxime Dufresne, other Montrealers known for his work on the street by taking pictures. The artist, who is not only a photographer, has pulled out of a stay in Rome, a project seemingly disparate, but rather coherent in a discourse, combining environmental health, power struggles, and architectural and cultural heritage.

The expo centre here, in the Mile-End, is called A. L. M. A., an acronym pointing to the four urban elements : acqua, luce, materia and aria. Each letter corresponds to a chapter focused on a form of ” excesses and failures in the handling of resources that are related to the water, the light, the material and the air “, one reads in the text of the presentation.

Among the images speak for themselves, include one where a worker washing a sculpture, a victim no doubt of the ambient pollution, an activity which is undoubtedly necessary for the conservation of the thing, but more and more politically incorrect. A symbol of prestige and progress at the time of the roman Empire (aqueducts, baths…), the water has become a source of concern. Even in Rome, once the ” queen of water “, struggling with a strong wave of drought during the stay of the artist in québec.

The expo is of this order, a beautiful complexity and scope of issues little simple to resolve.

Griffintown. Montreal changing

Of Robert Walker. At the McCord Museum until the 9th of August. / Jean-Maxime Dufresne. In the center Case, 545, avenue de Gaspé, until 29 February.

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