Hadley (l) +Maxwell (r)
When the massive Art Gallery of Hamilton exhibition, <are you experienced? ends its six-month run a few days after New Years, Canadian artists Hadley + Maxwell will be well on their way to owning the title of Canada's most sought after sculpting duo! The pair not only front-page the Hamilton contemporary art exhibition, they are also in the process of installing an outdoor sculpture in Toronto that will metamorphose the new community called West Don Lands.
Hadley+Maxwell consist of Toronto born 42-year old Hadley Howes and Montreal's 49-year old Maxwell Stephens. They currently live and work in Berlin, Germany and travel the world collaborating on significant art pieces for public galleries, institutions and well-heeled collectors.
When talking about themselves and their work, they eschew their birth names. They appear to see themselves as the Hadley + Maxwell brand because their work is done exclusively in collaboration and, they find their inspiration in shared ideals. Recently that shared artistic vision is based on appropriating iconic images and traditional forms to make public pop-cultural statements!
At the Hamilton gallery Hadley+Maxwell's WW1 inspired sculpture -- When That was This -- dominates the 8,000 square foot exhibition dedicated to cutting-edge 21st century contemporary art. This piece fills the AGH's largest space, it is a gallery filled with hanging body parts that turn in a kaleidoscope of light, video and sound. It is one huge mash-up faces, hands and feet in a space of ever changing lights.
"The title refers to how when we think of things in the past, we think of them in the present," explained Hadley. "In this sculpture we are working with sound and light to offer many different ways of experiencing the moment."
"We collect fragments from other public monuments and public memorials, by taking this substance called cinefoil, a heavy grade of aluminum foil, and pressing it into these other sculptures (to form molds)," she continues. "It is a collection of about 200 pieces from sculptures we have interacted with all over the world. Seven different cities."
When That was This
"We really have collected a three-dimensional collage," says Maxwell. "We focus on faces and facial gestures. It is a way of making history free for a present (day) conception of it."
Although they live and work in Europe, Hadley+Maxwell spent much of 2015 in Ontario, supporting the Hamilton exhibition and working on their latest public installation in Toronto. And even after are you experienced? closes in Hamilton, they will be back in Toronto throughout the spring overseeing the installation of Garden of Future Follies, their latest project.
In 2014 Waterfront Toronto awarded a public art commission for Front Street East in the West Don Lands (a new community space that was used to house athletes during the 2015 Pan Am Games). While the Pan Am Games are being converted into housing, Hadley + Maxwell have been on the promenade out front putting together Garden of Future Follies.
"Garden of Future Follies will bring the past to life by fragmenting and rearranging parts of monuments, sculptures and architecture from all over the City of Toronto," explains Ciara McKeown, public art program manager at Waterfront Toronto in a recent blog. "Based on the idea of the folly -- a fanciful and purely decorative structure popular in 18th and 19th century romantic gardens and landscapes- this project reimagines a 'garden of follies' incorporating elements from monuments that are normally high above the street and physically out of reach, bringing them down to street level where they can be celebrated and enjoyed."
This new sculptural work is now being installed on the corner of Front Street East and Bayview Avenue. This section of the new Front Street promenade is using the Hadley + Maxwell creation and two other commissioned works by Canadian artists to define the emerging neighbourhood. The sculptures are expected to have a public unveiling early in 2016
In the current Hamilton show and the soon-to-be launched public artwork, Hadley and Maxwell are touting the idea of the public monument and its new role in an urban environment.
When That was This
I assisted Toronto videographer George Socka when he interviewed Hadley + Maxwell in Hamilton earlier this year. The short YouTube video is at https://youtu.be/ODPAZsKDt2g