Studiolo: The Collaborative Work of Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe, a major retrospective exhibition and accompanying book (Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Artextes Editions and Art Gallery of Windsor, 1997-1998)
Covering all of our large scale site-specific work to date, Studiolo charted — as book and as exhibition — the overarching vision of these projects and the links between them along lines of leitmotifs and major pre-occupations. From the explorations of public service and urban fabric in Projet Building / Caserne #14 to the ‘history of the body’ that was Le Musée des Sciences and the origins of museums that we had examined in The Wilds and The Deep and beyond, Studiolo gave us an opportunity to reflect on a singular practice that was at its core collaborative.
Here is the artists’ statement from the Montréal version of the exhibition:
Studiolo is a project in and of itself. Its very subject is our work, which the public knows as a series of projects that punctuate what is, for us, a rich continuum. We wish to give those who have visited our site works — as well as those who have not — a sense of the seamlessness with which we ourselves experience the long and fruitful collaboration that we two have had to date. In purposely leaving open the vast volumes of two of the MACM’s exhibition rooms, we remind visitors of the huge spaces in which we have worked. Creating clusters of similar objects and counter-pointed images from widely differing projects, we also form intimate zones of reflection on the many threads which weave together our artistic practice. Most of the artworks which remain after one of our projects has been completed are those which were made or gathered together in the studio, created in a fertile research period before we even inhabit a site with which the public will always associate one or the other of our projects. These works, unlike those which we make as part of the buildings themselves, often return to the studio when the project is over. There, they become integrated into a living visual continuity; fragments of all the projects exist together side by side for us two in our home, creating new constellations of meaning, and revealing over time the formal, visual and ideological links between projects. This evocation is the message of Studiolo. Already resonant with the memory of each site project, each object also participates now anew in revealing to the public the artists’ view of our own work.
At the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, the curator who brought the exhibition into being was Gilles Godmer; at the Art Gallery of Windsor, it was Helga Pakasaar. The show brought together work from private and public art collections including the National Gallery of Canada, Le Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Brown University Art Museum, and others.
Studiolo the book was already underway as a major publication project when the idea of an exhibition was formed: it was Lesley Johnstone, then Director of Publications at Artextes Editions, who had come to us early in the 1990s with a book proposal. Her vision and tenacity were essential to the book’s success, as was its designer, EA Hobart of Zab Design and Typography, who collaborated closely with us — literally page by page.
This is the flyleaf text:
The large-scale building projects of artists Martha Fleming & Lyne Lapointe are legendary in certain circles. And yet, because of the independent nature of their production, a comprehensive overview of this seminal work has not yet been published. This book fills that gap.
A document, a bookwork, a manifesto, Studiolo explores the extensive and varied creative process of this collaborative pair. It covers not only the site works produced for entire abandoned buildings in Montréal and New York City, but also the discursive underpinnings of their fifteen-year practice. The artists’ image research and aesthetic are part and parcel of showing and telling in Studiolo — itself a work of art.
Divided into two sections, the first half of the book is a lyrical docu-fiction by Martha Fleming in which key fragments of the artists’ experiences are offered as clues for the reader. The second half is composed of extensive conversations between Fleming, Lyne Lapointe, and Lesley Johnstone, Montréal critic and curator and the Director of Artextes Editions. Leitmotifs of the projects and links between them, their conditions of production, and the relationship the artists establish with their audience are all addressed in this wide ranging section. Over one hundred photographs of five major projects are reproduced for the first time, many in colour.
Lively, moving and visually stimulating, Studiolo is an essential chapter in an underground history of contemporary art and community activism.
[Image References: Studiolo, an exhibition by Martha Fleming and Lyne Lapointe, as installed at Le Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (1998) photographed by Richard Max Tremblay; pages from the book Studiolo (Fleming, Johnstone, Lapointe: Artextes Editions, 1997) designed by EA Hobart of Zab Design and Typography; the cover of the book Studiolo incorporated the photograph Four Girls Laughing, by Frank Cooke (1905) Courtesy of the Public Record Office of Great Britain]