Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Couch Monster - elephant perched on a ball

An unusual elephant for sure as it is cast in bronze but looks like it was made with old leather couches. The work is by artist Brian Jungen and is displayed outside the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) at Dundas and McCaul streets - the museum's first public art commission. The inspiration from the work can be found in St. Thomas (see my post here of the Jumbo statue).

From the AGO's website, "Entitled Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill Jungen’s new sculpture for this outdoor space is a monument to creative form and engineering. In his first large-scale work in bronze, Jungen has constructed the figure of an elephant from discarded leather sofas. “The use of discarded couches came from my experiences of walking the streets of Toronto and seeing them abandoned on the sidewalks waiting to be picked up at night,” said Jungen. “This was foreign to me and surprising, but to the residents of this city, accustomed to seeing them, they are invisible. I look forward to making them visible again.”

Intrigued by the tragic story of Jumbo, a captive circus elephant who made international headlines when it was killed by a train in St. Thomas, Ontario, in 1885, Jungen is deeply concerned with the terrible price all living things pay when forced to perform for others. That concern is embedded in the title of the work. “Once captured and trained, things are no longer themselves: Jumbo was no longer an elephant, but a monster created by humans for entertainment. Its will and spirit were broken,” he says. The Dane-zaa subtitle of the work, “Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill” translates to “My heart is ripping.”

After construction was completed in Jungen’s studio in March 2020, the full-sized model was then transported to the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington state to be cast in bronze. Renowned for its work with some of the world’s preeminent contemporary artists, the Walla Walla Foundry was mutually selected by the AGO and the artist, for its track record in realizing large-scale works by Yayoi Kusama, Jeff Koons, Kehinde Wiley, Jim Dine, and Jenny Holzer, among others. Jungen travelled to the Foundry to oversee the finishing touches of the sculpture this spring, ahead of its transport to Toronto."

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