Source: Vancouver Courier, BC –  September 15, 1999, Article by Christopher Brayshaw


Jason Fitzpatrick neither romanticizes or passes judgment in East/West

Artist’s installation mirrors outside world


THE MATERIALS LIST FOR New Brunswick sculptor Jason Fitzpatrick’s installation at the Dynamo Arts Association Gallery reads like a building contractor’s shopping list.  Items include:  concrete (4,000 lbs), printer cartridge ink (36 litres), wax sealer (eight lbs), wood framing (144 running feet), industrial staples (one box), an eighteen foot-by-four foot styrofoam sheet,, and a work team of 14 street youth.


It’s a tribute to Fitzpatrick’s sculptural skills that none of the chaos this list implies is visible in the finished installation.  What’s most surprising about the sculpture is its simplicity.


Four thousand pounds of concrete sounds like a lot, but in fact it’s just enough to build two narrow L-shaped concrete troughs filled with black ink that shines under the gallery lights.  The foot-high troughs completely fill the gallery and are meant to be walked around.  During the day, when the gallery is flooded with light, the ink looks smooth, like a lead line.  At night its appearance changes, creating the illusion of a bottomless deft that plumbs the building’s foundations.


A hand-held video and book of photographs depicts a work team hauling heavy buckets of wet concrete up a steep flight of stairs to the second floor gallery while down on the street, a curious crowd of local residents, store owners, and drug dealers gathers around to watch.


Taken together, Fitzpatrick’s sculpture and its accompanying documentations creates a strong impact, quite unlike any other work recently seen in Vancouver.


Fitzpatrick says his initial inspiration to make sculpture came from encounters with the work of American artists like Richard Serrra and May In.  Like Fitzpatrick, these artists create simple shapes in industrial materials, then use these form to subtly alter how viewers think forms to subtly alter how viewers think about the spaces surrounding them.  Whereas many public sculptures in Vancouver are simply flung into place with little regard for the relationships that exist between art works and the places where they’re installed, Fitzpatrick’s installation emerged from a careful consideration of the Dynamo gallery’s neighbourhood.


Fitzpatrick pointed out the ruined façade of the old Woodward’s building across the street from Dynamo, the broken faces of the abandoned buildings lining the 100 block of West Hastings, and the grey concrete shells of high-rises and condominiums going in on either side.


To Fitzpatrick, the 100 block of West Hastings is a space most Vancouver have ceased to see, a place to be avoided or quickly driven  through.  But for those who look closely, there is much to see:  a history of urban decay and renewal not addressed by the  mainstream media, who simply report that the block is overrun by drug dealers.


Fitzpatrick’s strength lies in his ability to borrow images from the rundown world outside the gallery to comment on that world from within.


This is a dramatically different approach from many exhibitions presented by West Hastings Street galleries which treat the gallery space as a small white cube, barricaded off from the dangerous world outside.


Fitzpatrick, a self-taught artist who spent time on the streets, doesn’t romanticize Hastings Street

s decay, or the lives of people living there.  Nor does he judge the software developers and young professionals moving into the renovated warehouses and condominiums near the gallery.  Instead, he presents a deceptively simple allegory of the powerful forces currently remaking the Downtown Eastside, ensuring that gallery visitors will not linger in the gallery without also giving thought to the world outside it.