Kids' stuff makes for a terrific new exhibition at the RAW: Gallery of
Architecture & Design. Curated by Susan Algie of the Winnipeg
Architecture Foundation, Building Toys showcases 20th-century
children's blocks, bricks and building sets.
The toys are illustrated
with little models constructed by local architects (and sometimes
architects' children), and with supplementary material like packaging,
advertising and instructions.
The show starts off with Froebel blocks, simple geometric shapes
designed by German educator Friedrich Froebel and famously played with
by the young Frank Lloyd Wright. The American architect later cited
these toys as a profound influence on his sense of form and material.
There are toys you might remember from your own childhoods: Meccano,
Tinkertoys and, of course, LEGO, the Danish system that became an
international favourite by being endlessly flexible and modular. (You
can combine LEGO blocks made today with LEGO blocks made in 1949.)
Kids of all ages get in on the action. (Jacqueline Young)
There are toy bricks, toy logs, and toy girder-and-panel systems for constructing glass-clad skyscrapers.
Taken together, these toys offer a miniature history of ideal houses and
cities over the decades, along with a brief history of North American
And good news for families: There is a play table with building toys,
old and new, for kids to experiment with. (Kids of all ages, clearly:
Late on opening night, the play table had been taken over by full-grown
architects obsessed with who could cantilever the farthest!)
In Saves Nine
, organized by the Manitoba Craft Council and on
view at aceartinc., curator Kerri-Lynn Reeves has put together a
beautifully edited show, with seven artists each offering absolutely
striking work. Like many recent MCC shows, this exhibition demonstrates
that the old boundary between art and craft has completely broken down.
These artists riff on traditional fabric, stitching, needle and craft techniques to produce provocative, layered art.
Detail of Five blanket suite: jack pine Hudson bay blankets, wood, 2008-2013 (Leah Decter)
Leah Decter's work is deeply political. The Winnipeg-based artist starts
with Hudson's Bay blankets, icons of Canadiana, sure, but also
artifacts with fraught associations for First Nations history.
rug-hooking techniques, Decter deconstructs the blankets to their
"point" colours, and reconstructs abstract framed pieces that use the
titles of Group of Seven paintings, another pointed historical
There is a very clever piece of conceptual craft from Steven Leyden
Cochrane, and "haloes" constructed from soft maple and gold leaf by
Deborah Scott. An exquisite embroidered Arctic fox pelt by Willow Rector
questions the line between nature and culture, while Gaëtanne Sylvester
uses "lacework" made from ceramic to explore the relationship between
fragility and strength.
Erika Lincoln draws on traditional Panamanian
reverse appliqué techniques to make bright geometric patterns that
represent electronic gadgets, offering a sharp, funny interpretation of
what 21st-century North American "folk art" might look like.
Corrie Peters combines craft with what is called "relational art." (Her
material list for the work act of trust includes "people.") Thinking
about the vulnerability of people who sleep in public or semi-public
places--usually the homeless, the poor, the very young and the very
old--Peters has supplied old afghan blankets and "nap zone" signs to
encourage people to try snoozing in public places.
Building Toys, runs at RAW: Gallery of Architecture & Design, 290 McDermot Avenue, until August 31. Saves Nine, is on at aceartinc., 290 McDermot Avenue (second floor), until August 31.