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By Karen Herland
A large crowd gathered at Concordia on April 20 to welcome the latest addition to the university’s collection of public art.
Guests were offered an overview of the importance of public art before they were escorted to the tunnel between the EV and MB Buildings where Yehouda Chaki’s The Four Seasons was unveiled bringing an explosion of light and colour into the passageway used by students, faculty, staff and local commuters.
“We are very proud of the role we play in bringing art to the public,” said President Judith Woodsworth, acknowledging the excellence of the university’s Faculty of Fine Arts, “It’s a responsibility we take very seriously.”
Woodsworth spoke in one of the art history amphitheatres before the unveiling of the second Chaki piece in the university’s collection. His first work at Concordia - The Express Train from Saloniki to Auschwitz, acquired in 1969, hung on the mezzanine of the Hall Building for nearly two decades and is now in the collection of the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery.
Prior to Woodsworth’s comments, Clarence Epstein, Director of Special Projects and Cultural Affairs, provided a presentation of the range of public art works both inherited from the university’s two founding institutions, and added to the collection since then. Some of these pieces, like the bronze bas relief by Yves Trudeau in the York Corridor of the EV Building are private donations. Others like the Nicolas Baier “bouquet” on the east facade of the EV Building are funded through public initiatives such as the province’s One Percent program.
The Baier installation is also one of the many glass-based pieces in Concordia’s collection. Acknowledging the Board of Montreal Museum Directors’ decision to establish 2010 as Montreal City of Glass, Epstein underscored the importance of this medium in our Nordic climate “where we appreciate light, colour and play during the winter months.”
Among the works Epstein discussed were Geraldo Pace’s The Heads of Engineering and Jesus Carles de Vilallonga’s Imaginary Portrait of 24 Universal Geniuses of Today. Both works, in addition to Chaki’s The Four Seasons, were gifts from the family of art patrons, Diane and Salvatore Guerrera.
Many of the speakers acknowledged the dedication of the Guerreras to bringing art to the broader community: a commitment clearly visible in the range of their donated art works displayed in the short distance guests travelled between the amphitheatre and tunnel for the unveiling.
Yehouda Chaki began his address by remembering when Salvatore Guerrera first approached him to produce the work. “He said, ‘I want you to do a window’ and I said, ‘great, what is the light source?’ and he said, ‘no light, it’s in a basement.’”
He added that it was precisely that kind of unexpected, seemingly impossible, juxtaposition that appealed to him about the project. “I knew right away that I wanted something simple, colourful, spontaneous and immediate.”
The piece itself was realized by Studio du Verre, who had the complex task of translating Chaki’s vibrant brush strokes into a unique language of stained glass.