Critics’ Picks

Jessica Williams, Midnight at Orsini, 2018, oil on canvas, 60 x 48".

Montréal

Alexia Laferté-Coutu and Jessica Williams

Projet Pangée
372 Saint-Catherine West Studio 412
January 19–March 2

For artists Alexia Laferté-Coutu and Jessica Williams, the city is a medium. At Projet Pangée, Williams’s bright, dissonant oil paintings surround Laferté-Coutu’s relic-like glass sculptures, which are laid out on a table at the center of the gallery. These hypnotic and weighty objects could be the rubble of a crystalline statue, but they were made from clay impressions of Montreal’s monuments, cited in each of their titles: Statue de la Victoria, 2018, for example. Collectively, they craft an intimate portrait of the Québécois city as a still and rigid landscape.

Laferté-Coutu's offerings stand in stark contrast to Williams’s mise-en-scènes of another city: Los Angeles. Her paintings aren’t so much attempts to capture its architecture as they are stories inspired by it. Midnight at Orsini, 2018, for instance, depicts a faceless female figure perched on the balcony of the Orsini, a luxury apartment mega-complex that stands at the juncture of the 110 and 101 freeways. Unlike the Statue de la Victoria, the Orsini lacks not only historical significance but also personal significance for the artist. Passing by the development on the 110, one senses its haunting and monumental irrelevance, suspecting that it may be completely unoccupied.

Facing the grave work of Laferté-Coutu, Williams’s anxious brushstrokes bring to life an alternative vision of the city not as a foreground for some mournful meditation on materiality, but as the backdrop of what might be a romantic neo-Gothic tale. There’s a certain extroverted attitude here that characterizes Los Angeles itself, proposing this cosmopolitan void as a site for self-fashioning and fanciful—even mischievous—speculation.