Spatial Drawings presents a field of large scale works made of wood that curl and twist in seemingly impossible gestures. While each autonomous sculpture performs discretely, the larger group assembled causes something more choreographic to take place. The lines of each lead into one another and their relationship to the existing architecture of the gallery is put into service either as a method of physical support or engaged in a conceptual manner. The domestic hardwood members that make these uncommon gestures require assistance to maintain their imposed forms. These are objects in the making, animated visually, seemingly coming into being. The architecture, the mechanical interventions, and the included objects – all allude to the provisional nature of the sculptures’ original gesture and its reliance on external forces. This complexity cracks the door on the depth of practice and the referents at play in the work of Emily Hermant.
The simplicity of the forms invites an engagement with minimalism and formalist concerns. American minimalist, Robert Morris, is most often referenced in the print discussion of her work due to his assertion of the possibility of form to be found in making itself. I would posit a more direct link to dance pioneer, (and his onetime lover), Yvonne Rainer with her suggestion of the artist as a doer – a performer of tasks – as well as the maintenance performances of Mierle Ladermans Ukeles that asserted those tasks not only as gendered, but tied to the construction of (political) space and its potential for larger social change. It is this less spoken history that is critical in the understanding of how an artist like Hermant, trained and developed within textile traditions, comes to this kind of production. While she states her practice is essentially one of drawing, it is deeply rooted in a possible material manifestation. Her training and affections are in part belied by her deep knowledge of material – the red oak she is using here is not best understood as a domestic construction material but as a cellulose fibre. The ability to alter the wood to this degree is made possible by both its root matter and simple forces. That Hermant uses an existing product to work with as opposed to compressing or steaming the wood herself shows that her labour is, at least in part, conceptual. Her tasks are of embodied knowing, Duchampian choice and the association of materials in space.
These methodologies engage and conflate the implicit and potential political associations of each of their distinct histories.
Formally the work is deeply engaging, as its surface is intertwined with its structure, and in part, as its scale and comportment are oftentimes anthropomorphic. Its production oscillates between the discrete objects of formalist and minimalist traditions and the suggestion of the inadequacy of that history demonstrated by their reliance on the intervention of the everyday object to stay standing. I cannot help but consider this line from a 1968 interview with Yvonne Rainer in reference to feminist Audre Lorde’s famous statement that posed, “You can’t dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools.”1 Rainer rebutted her theory by stating, “You can, if you expose the tools.” I think Hermant’s project is not to dismantle but to complexify, directly engage, as well as to implicate herself, the long history of making, as well as labour itself into the larger canon. This is done through equally elegant and seemingly impossible gestures, through the presentation of forms in becoming, it is sketched out and proposed, pinned together with supporting objects, and just as these drawings in space lay bare the tools of their own making, so one might reconsider just what is being built.
1 Audre Lorde’s idea is paraphrased by Rainer in the interview found in: Yvonne Rainer Feelings Are Facts: A Life. (Cambridge, Massachusetts & London: The MIT Press, 2006). The original quote : “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change….” Is found in the germinal essay by Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” in Sister Outsider, (Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, The Crossing Press Feminist Series (1984) ).
Emily Hermant is an interdisciplinary artist whose large-scale sculptures, installations and drawings explore themes of communication, labour and gender, and are imbued with a profound sense of embodiment. Hermant received her BFA from Concordia University in 2004 and her MFA as a Trustee Merit Scholar from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Evanston Art Center, The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts and Articule in Montréal; and group exhibitions at Virginia Commonwealth University, Triennale di Milano Museum in Italy and the Museum of Arts & Design in New York. Her work has been reviewed in ArtSlant, Espace Sculpture, The Washington Post, Time Out Chicago and American Craft Magazine, among others. Hermant has been awarded grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des Arts et Lettres du Québec and the Fonds Québecois de Recherche sur la société et la culture, as well as residencies at ACRE, The Millay Colony for the Arts, The Vermont Studio Center and Studio XX. Hermant is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Fibres and Material Practices program in the Studio Arts Department at Concordia University.
Jake Moore is an artist, curator and cultural worker. She has a diploma in Furniture Design and Construction from the School of Crafts and Design at Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario, and holds both a BFA in Sculpture and an MFA in Fibres and Material Practices from Concordia University in Montréal. She has exhibited widely in Québec and Canada, including solo exhibitions at Parisian Laundry, FOFA Gallery and Optica in Montréal, AXENÉO7 in Gatineau, Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, Alberta and various venues in Winnipeg, Manitoba.