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Scott Lyall
3 September – 3 November 2003

Since his first exhibition eight years ago, Scott Lyall has consistently challenged ideas about sculpture. His work engages the medium of sculpture and its history, from public monument through modernism to site-specific installation. What he is after, he says, is a subject for sculpture. In his words, "the challenge is to name and develop this subject in the circumstances of an abstract and image-based culture, with its preference to keep moving through exchange and transmission... all sculpture, and every art of built frames, must reconsider its status in terms of conductive efficiency."

For his exhibition at the Art Gallery of York University, Scott Lyall presents a new work of sculpture, OK!lahoma, designed to occupy much of the space of the main gallery. The new work shares some characteristics of LyallÍs earlier projects, Plugged and Unplugged (1996) and Washington Square (1997-98). In Washington Square, stacked platforms, a leveled arch, and other elements provided a sequence of stages and spatial ideas, reflecting ideas drawn from a Henry James novel of the same name, the civic park in Greenwich Village, and certain Mondrian paintings. With OK!lahoma, there is a similar potential for association. Parallel lines and stacked risers are held below 29 inches - the height between the floor and the underside of a desktop - and may resemble a sequence of frames for performance, or a flat landscape idyll (the state of a mid-western plane).

OK!lahoma is less a title than a keyword for the sculpture, its first two letters alluding to a standard interface icon. As such, it provides no meaning or interpretive framework per se, but supplies parameters for naming and considering its subject. Lyall refers to his work as a "settlement" with this subject, a term suggesting a rift between built form and its images as well as a negotiation with the abstractions of transmission-based culture.

Writing, research, and diagrams are important parts of Lyall's process, and are stored as files on a computer screen's desktop, over long periods of time in advance of an exhibition. Only portions of a file can be used for each sculpture. OK!lahoma was developed as an accumulation of such deposits, by tracing the biography of a little known playwright, Lynn Riggs. Riggs, a bored farm boy in early twentieth century Oklahoma, achieved minor celebrity in New York in the 1940s for an off Broadway play entitled Green Grow the Lilacs, the book source for Rogers and Hammerstein's musical Oklahoma!. Information about his life is readily available on the internet, but Riggs is neither the implied inhabitant nor an alter ego for the sculpture.

The materials Lyall tends to use for his sculpture are inexpensive and readily available, such as particle board, polystyrene, cotton fabric, and cardboard. These materials lend an incomplete or interrupted aspect to presentation, which seems both haphazardly constructed and carefully calibrated. The work suggests states of transition, or else waiting: either before or after an event not yet happened.

The exhibition also provides a unique opportunity to consider Lyall's sculpture and drawings together. Like his sculpture, Lyall's drawings find their shape on a desktop, and are output directly to photographic or drawing paper. Located carefully in the spaceless procession of images, the drawings seem like mobiles of thinking, an imagination now delegated or externalized to the interface, blurring photography and drafting in vernacular screen graphics.

Scott Lyall was born in Toronto in 1964. He received his MFA in 1993 from California Institute of the Arts, Valencia. He has had solo exhibitions at Susan Hobbs Gallery, Toronto and Greene Naftali, New York. His work has been included in group exhibitions at Goldman/Tevis, Los Angeles; Delfina Studio Trust, London; KunstWerke, Berlin; and American Fine Arts Co. and P.S.1 in New York. Scott Lyall lives and works in Toronto.

Artist's Talk
As part of an ongoing series of public talks held in conjunction with each exhibition, artists will discuss their work, and aspects of the work in the exhibition and its context are examined. Scott Lyall will speak about his work at 7:00pm on Wednesday October 9th, in the art gallery.

Contemporary Art Tour
Please join us on Sunday October 20 for a free guided tour of Scott LyallÍs exhibition at the AGYU, Ruth Liberman: Blind Image at the Koffler Gallery, and Eldon Garnet: Dust at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. Bus departs from the main entrance of the Ontario College of Art and Design, 100 McCaul St at 1:00, and returns around 5:00. Seats are limited, please call 416-636-1880 ext. 270 to reserve.

An exhibition catalogue, the first on Scott Lyall's work, with essays by Los Angeles based art historian Daniel Adler and assistant curator Kathleen McLean, will be published in November 2002. To place an order, please email or call the gallery.

Funding for this exhibition has been provided by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.

Kathleen McLean
Art Gallery of York University | Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street | Toronto ON M3J 1P3 | agyu [at]