Tag Archives: Emmanuel Monzon

Exhibition: Robert Kananaj Gallery – Emmanuel Monzon

Robert Kananaj Gallery is honoured to bring to the Toronto public an opportunity to experience the photographs of Emmanuel Monzon. When so much is invested in what is loud and in your face, Monzon’s “Urban Sprawl” series finds an opposing refuge in emptiness and silence. The artist invites one’s experience, conversing in a no-man’s land bordering the collision of cultures.

Urban Sprawl:  Emptiness
Emmanuel Monzon
Photographs
16 March – 4 May, 2019
Reception: Saturday 16 March 2 – 5 p.m.

Emmanuel Monzon at Robert Kananaj Gallery
Exhibition Essay by Cary Benbow

The work of Emmanuel Monzon embodies an approach of capturing the aesthetic of the banal, and grasping the everyday scene in such a way as to render it both an image and a screen for the projection of wishes and fantasies in the intermediate zone between urban and rural America. The uneasy emptiness found there results in an independent identity.

Monzon’s work falls into a space bordered traditionally and contemporarily by Giorgio de Chirico, Edward Hopper, Richard Misrach, and Michael Kenna. Formal aspects of Monzon’s images echo aspects of rendering the inanimate and the animate in a play of light and shadow, forms and patterns. Monzon’s animate elements are blatantly absent, but nonetheless, this deliberate strategy is hauntingly reminiscent of their cropping, use of foreground and concentration on visual elements which Monzon uses to make a comment on urban sprawl, and the twenty-first century tension experienced between occupied and unoccupied spaces. Kenna and Misrach both deal with the subject of landscape and explore the effects of human interaction and isolation. Their visions are achieved through long exposures, or expansive vistas, but Monzon chooses to take the baton of simplicity and clarity, and drive away with it. His automotive wanderings spur meaningful photographs in his response to the land. His quiet studies of shape, form, pattern, signage and landscape are a respite amidst the uneasy ‘non-places’, which he associates to the expansion of the urban or industrial landscape in the American natural landscape.

Monzon chose to photograph the in-between state found in the American landscape. He captures places of transition. A visual segue which gives the traveller an enigma. The limbo caught by his lens holds the viewer in check, and begs the question: am I leaving someplace or entering another? The disconcerting environment inspires him. The emptiness in both the urban landscape, and in the great American spaces. He mixes two approaches: The codes of the new topographics and the concept of ‘in-between two states’ as inspired by the anthropologist Marc Auge. These transitional non-places are like intersections or passages from one world to another, such as going from a residential area to an industrial area. Monzon includes views of tourist locations which are altered by human influence. We often find a feeling of emptiness, of visual paradox when encountering these spaces when traveling throughout the United States. By displaying structures humans built to serve their own needs, but in a rare state of absolute idleness, he creates a disconcerting environment. The visual irony of the significant impact of people upon their surrounding environment, and their notable absence in his images results in an eerie, surreal tension that stops viewers in their tracks.


Robert Kananaj Gallery
172 St Helens Avenue, Toronto ON, M6H 4A1 | 416 289-8855 | Tues-Sat 11AM-6PM

The Robert Kananaj Gallery was established in 2011 to promote and exhibit Canadian and international contemporary art. The gallery’s scope includes installation and photo-based work, as well as a strong commitment to painting and sculpture.
Director Robert Kananaj
Co-Director Roberta Laking Kananaj

For more information see RKG website at robertkananajgallery.com/

The Uncommonly Common Photos of Emmanuel Monzon

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Emmanuel Monzon is a french photographer and visual artist based in Seattle, WA. He graduated from the Academy of Beaux-Arts in Paris, France with honors. His work has been featured throughout the US, Europe and Asia. 

The work of Emmanuel Monzon focuses primarily on the idea of urban sprawl and the urban expansion of its periphery. Monzon photographs urban banality as though it were a Romantic painting, trying only to be “stronger than this big nothing” in controlling the space by framing the subject. Monzon’s aesthetic of the banal obeys its own rules: a ban on living objects, a precise geometrical organization, and the revelation of a specific physical and mental landscape blurring the lines between city and suburb, between suburb and countryside, a process that results in an independent identity.


Monzon’s images are often shot at a low perspective right off the ground. This approach gives the viewer a fresh take on how we observe the world around us; buildings, cars, even the sidewalk that is flatly underfoot takes on depth and scale not seen otherwise. This is one of the strengths in Monzon’s work that gives a new perspective at what we often overlook.

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In no particular order, Monzon says this about his work and his creative process:

  • My plastic artist and painter background influences my photographic work.
  • I am a photographer who paints or a painter who uses photography – I am caught in the middle, in an “in between state”.
  • This in-between state can be found also in my landscapes or urban sprawl series. I photography places of transition, borders, passages from one world to another, am I leaving a city or entering a new place?
  • My landscape pictures always feature human traces (billboards, traffic lights, poles, roads), a reminder of urbanity built by human beings but no human beings are ever shown in my pictures.
  • I always admired painters such as Giorgio De Chirico, and Edward Hopper.
  • Living in the US, I have the impression to live in the painting, in the picture, being able to move around within this frame, to be part of this American mythology which keeps reinventing itself.
  • I choose square frames because it focuses on the subject and allows me to distance myself from the photography
  • I like repetitions, I like series, and I like driving around.

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For more information about Emmanuel Monzon, or to see more of his signature work, visit his blog or portfolio.