The exhibition features a selection of wallpapers designed by artists and chosen from the Library’s collection. Rather than disappearing into the background, as Walter Reade Brightling recommended for wall-coverings in 1908, these papers are very much in the foreground, interacting with the space or surface they occupy. They function simultaneously as works of art and décor.

 

 

Wallpaper (2014)

Fremont Center Residence

Sullivan County New York

(second printing)

 
   

 

French artist Daniel Buren places a great deal of importance on the physical positioning of his work, be it outdoors, in a domestic setting, or reproduced on the page of a publication (1). In 1981 he papered a Toronto apartment with vertical stripes of white and yellow in equal width, optically transforming the site. Sponsored by the Toronto artist-run centre A Space, the project was one in a series by various artists entitled Apartment Number, held offsite over a six-month period in a 1960s highrise apartment building. The visual effect of the striped wallpaper called attention to the size and physical textures of the otherwise bland rooms of the apartment. The paper’s repeated pattern destabilized the neutrality of the interior and invigorated the walls, creating restless, disquieting ambiguity

 

 

Wallpaper (1999)

Boardroom, Ernst & Young

Halifax NS Canada

(first printing)

 
   

 

Kennedy’s wallpaper design, GNK CV (3), for the NSCAD Archive project consists of a nine-page grid featuring his curriculum vitae silkscreened in yellow on white – one of the artist’s favorite colour combinations. By removing his CV from its original context and using it to create wallpaper for an executive’s office – thereby highlighting his own professional accomplishments in someone else’s space – Kennedy transformed an ordinary piece of biographical information into an ironic statement.

 

 

Wallpaper (2000)

Elkins Park Residence

North Philadelphia Pennsylvania

(first printing)

 
   

 

John Baldessari’s I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art (2) first appeared in 1971 as a wall work at the Nova Scotia College of art and Design’s (NSCAD) Mezzanine Gallery. An American artist based in California, Baldessari could not be at the Halifax gallery himself and therefore asked students to write repeatedly, as if in ‘collective penance,’ the statement that eventually covered the gallery’s walls. The artist’s handwritten sample was subsequently used in the gallery’s exhibition announcement and was later published by the College as a lithograph. To Garry Neill Kennedy, the former president of NSCAD, those words became ‘emblematic of the College’s mission.” Kennedy reiterated his endorsement in his book The Last Art College by adopting the work on the publication’s endpapers. In 2000 the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia commissioned Baldessari’s piece as one of twelve rolls of wallpaper by faculty members, alumni and guest artists from the College, marking the establishment of the NSCAD Archive.

 

Wallpaper (2014)

Fremont Center Residence

Sullivan County New York

(second printing)

 

 

A former NSCAD student, Lucy Pullen also designed wallpaper for the Archive project. Her paper is made up of blue ballpoint-like lines that are at once persistent and meandering (4). Although wallpaper usually tends to accentuate the flatness of the surface it covers, Pullen’s imperfect lines create the illusion of undulating, irregular surfaces, drawing us in and compelling us to interact with her work; the more we stare at the lines, probing for meaning, the more we are mesmerized by them.

Peter Trepanier
Head, Reader Services
The National Gallery of Canada

 

     
   

 

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