press release

Ask the Dust, the first international touring exhibition of The Royal Art Lodge, is a survey exhibition organized jointly by The Drawing Center, New York, together with the Power Plant, Toronto, De Vleeshal, Middelburg, and Plug In ICA, Winnipeg.

At the center of an artistic renaissance in the geographically isolated Canadian prairie city of Winnipeg, The Royal Art Lodge is a group of young artists comprising Michael Dumontier, Holly Dzama, Marcel Dzama, Neil Farber, Drue Langlois, and Myles Langlois. Together and separately, they have begun to achieve recognition around the world fortheir drawings, sculptures, videos, and performances that combine accomplished and expressive draftsmanship, incisive and unforgettable characterizations, and a do-it-yourself, low-tech aesthetic to create an art of dynamic energy, whimsical charm, and surprising beauty.

Since mid-1996-- four of the artists completed their undergraduate degrees at the University of Manitoba School of Art that year-- the members of The Royal Art Lodge have been meeting in their shared studio, a nondescript warehouse in downtown Winnipeg, to collaboratively produce mixed-media drawings and collages, paintings, stuffed dolls, dioramas, kites, musical instruments, puppets, videos, compact discs, records, fanzines, and the various masks, costumes, props, and sets that their impromptu performances might demand.

Royal Art Lodge Untitled Untitled Mixed media on paper. 81/2 x 11” 2000. Collecton of The Royal Art Lodge

Drawing, however, constitutes the core of The Royal Art Lodge's practice, and that of the artists individually. It informs, inspires, and generates much of the artists' production in other mediums. It is, as well, the shared activity that helps bind the artists as a group, and it will form the focus of the exhibition. (They are further tied by bonds of friendship and kinship: Neil Farber is Marcel Dzama's younger uncle, Holly his little sister, Drue and Myles Langlois are brothers.) The collaborative works on paper that the Lodge members create every Wednesday evening propose eccentric personages and hybrid creatures in broken narratives that often elicit further discussion and elaboration in other works. Employing a provisional aesthetic that adapts virtually any mark-making material on hand, the artists will begin by informally marking a standard-sized (approximately 8 x 10 inch) sheet of paper and then passing the work on to another member of the group to add to a drawing's initial gesture or evolving sentiment.

The Royal Art Lodge's collective drawings evince the various thematic and material interests of its members, ranging from humorous takes on high art to the popular culture of film noir, romantic television comedies, tongue-in-cheek science fiction, children's book illustration, and, particularly, comic books. Odd juxtapositions in their work have the flavor of mild Surrealism, many times removed. Incorporating hand-drawn images, found photographs from the mass media, various discarded objects, and personalized texts, the drawings embody the constant verbal and visual dialogue among the six artists that has spawned the vast array of artistic production for which the Lodge is known. The members of the group determine the point at which a drawing is finished and the relative quality of each one. They are collected at the end of each evening and casually archived in old, symbolically coded suitcases (from a bright yellow rayed sun cut out in felt for those they deem the most successful, to a skull and crossbones for those 'To Be Destroyed').

Royal Art Lodge Untitled Untitled Mixed media on paper. 81/2 x 11” 2001. Collection of the Royal Art Lodge.

The Royal Art Lodge' s working process is at the heart of the exhibition, which will center on a body of about 250 of the best collaborative drawings from the group' s production of the past six years. Works that grow out of this unique process-- collaboratively made dolls, puppets, costumes, and videos, as well as paintings, instruments, and works on paper by the individual members, including the most well known, Marcel Dzama and Neil Farber—will show the remarkable range of the Lodge's production. This range will be further articulated by display cases filled with the group's ephemera, which includes record, cassette tape, and compact disc sleeves; video boxes, 'zines and hand-drawn comics; photographs, exhibition announcements, and catalogues evoking the history of the Lodge; and scrapbooks of early drawings and collages that feature works made with two founding members, Jonathan Pylypchuk and Adrian Williams. In addition, during the run of the exhibition, one or two evenings may be given over to live performances by The Royal Art Lodge, including a puppet show and music played by one of the group's several band lineups. Currently, The Royal Art Lodge has completed a new work, a multi-part, environmental group drawing exploring both familiar and new themes that will fill The Drawing Room, The Drawing Center's approximately 450 square foot project space.

A fully illustrated, 96-page exhibition catalogue, designed by Susan Chafe and edited by Adam Lehner, has been published in collaboration with The Royal Art Lodge. As well as comprising an artists' project in its own right, it features hundreds of color and black-and-white illustrations of selected works in the exhibition, a critical essay by Lytle Shaw exploring the group's practice and their position in the unique and burgeoning cultural milieu of Winnipeg (which has also produced contemporary artists such as Tim Gardner and Eleanor Bond, and filmmakers such as Guy Maddin and Noam Gonick), an interview with the Lodge members by Wayne Baerwaldt and Joseph R. Wolin, a chronology, and a bibliography.


The Royal Art Lodge: Ask the Dust

17.1.03 - 8.3.03 The Drawing Center, New York
21.3.03 - 25.5.03 The Power Plant, Toronto
15.6.03 - 31.8.03 De Vleeshal, Middelburg
14.11.03 - 14.2.04 Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

kuratiert von Wayne Baerwaldt, Joseph R. Wolin