Post by Travis Fachette
Meet the artists behind “Duplexity”
“Duplexity” is an unusual word. It means to be doubled, to convey the same message on two channels, but it also calls to mind stacks of residential buildings. That’s exactly what Brenda Dunn and A. M. Benz are evoking with their dense, square compositions in this two-artist show at the AOE Gallery—the layered, condensed, chaotic spill of inhabitation over the landscape.
Dunn is interested in how people occupy and manipulate their space, and how that space responds to their demands. Her pieces here are colourful and bright, made up of square angles and straight lines arranged in organic, fractal patterns. Some are inspired by the quilted look of farmland seen from the air; some are made from the transit systems of major cities, stitched together; one section is a cluster of 47 identical suburban houses in different colours.
Like much of Dunn’s work, there’s a childish side to this aesthetic, but here it’s less gleeful and more of a reprimand. Children can also be demanding and short-sighted. The colours are bright and fun, but the patterns are an abstraction of an environment built to satisfy short-term urges and a desire for immediate gratification. The chaos redoubles on itself, the squares are crammed in and layered on top of each other, and in some sections things can get a bit claustrophobic. Each identical suburban home has a one-sentence tag, and some of them are pretty creepy. This show is concerned about sustainability and the failure of city planning, despite its cheerful skin.
Just a few of the MANY iterations the reassembled sculpture went through! Thanks #ottawa for helping put it back together with me. Huge thanks to all the folks who helped one little local artist get the word out. All you #amplifyers out there make all the difference. . . . . . . . . . . . #ottawa #myottawa #sculpture #ottcity #ottarts #canadianart #architectonics #duplo #buildingblocks #urbanart #urban #grid #instagood #instart #igersottawa #interactive #communityengagedart #community #interiordesign #decor #artistsoninstagram #artistsofinstagram #urbanization #abstractart #abstractpainting #painting #buildings #thingstodoinottawa #artshow
But it’s not all so grim—as a community-engaged artist, Dunn also sees a dense city as a giant playground, and she reaches out to involve other people. “I’m curious what happens when it’s more open-ended, when it’s not just my brain,” she says. Her first question is “What are we playing?” This time, the game is made up of 350 Duplo blocks spread out around the city, hidden but not too carefully. People who found them were directed to the vernissage on Sunday May 27 at the Shenkman Arts Centre, where their blocks were reunited and they built a sculpture together. With this bait, Dunn hoped to pull in some different people, create a more inviting space, and temper the kind of haughtiness and detachment that we so often expect from visual art and galleries in general.
At the gallery, Dunn is paired with A.M. Benz, whose work is painstakingly built using pieces of glass to reflect and channel light. The fractal mosaics she assembles are unearthly and difficult to describe—you’ll have to see them yourself.