Review: Gab Bois’s House Party Exhibition at MURAL Festival

Montreal Visual Artist Gab Bois premieres her first 3-D installation at Espace 8, as part of MURAL Festival

In Bois’s favourite series, Barbie dolls lounge in a toilet Photo Caitlin Yardley
Bois uses interlocking C’s of the brand Chanel to represent marijuana nestled inside of a rolling paper Photo Caitlin Yardley
Bois plays with the viewer’s sense of reality by replacing a zipper with a light switch Photo Caitlin Yardley

It’s not up for debate. House Party was without a doubt one of the standouts of the MURAL festival.

It was the first 3D, solo exposition by Montreal based photographer, Gab Bois.

The mostly self-taught artist is one to watch, and this exhibition was concrete proof of that statement.

It was held inside of Espace 8, a small gallery space located at 4040 St. Laurent Blvd. The exhibit was held from June 14 to June 17 in conjunction with Mural Festival, which aims to showcase the talent of local artists.

You may have seen Gab Bois’s photography on Instagram.
She toys with concepts of accepted reality by taking everyday household objects out of context to startle the viewer, playing with their perception of what is real and surreal.

Small, blonde, and pixie-like, she’s reminiscent of a hipster Tinkerbell fluttering around the room on the exhibit opening night, asking and re-asking visitors, “Ca va? Ca va? How are you? And how are you?” Hands gesticulating, long pastel neon green fingernails drawing the eye towards her in the stark white gallery space.

Bois comes across as an unusual example of someone who is both extremely cool and humble at the same time. “I was looking at [the interested asteriks] on the Facebook event] and having a stress moment like how is it at 1500 people already, it’s not going to fit, it’s not going to happen…it was overwhelming, but it was good, it was nice,” said Bois.

This was her first 3-D exhibit, a departure from the photos she has become known for. However, the way she plays with the idea of decontextualizing reality was very apparent in the thematic presence that House Party had. The overall vibe of House Party was more playful than those of her photographs. An example of this is the series of five toilets displayed in the middle of the room. One has Barbies drinking blue cocktails arranged on it. This was a fun (yet serious) exhibit to experience. Only after leaving did its deepest depth truly hit me.

If part of the artist’s role in society is to represent it, Bois has done that, and insightfully so.

The viewer doesn’t receive the impression that Bois is disdainful of the people or culture she is showing in sharp, scary, focus.

This exhibit points out certain negative aspects of life for 20-somethings’, like an obsession with designer brands, and Instagram clout culture which in turn represent a search for something deeper in a shallow, materialistic, capitalistic culture. However it never feels judgemental.

An oversized ivory mans’ polo shirt hangs by a wire hanger on one wall. Another childlike detail that Bois references is the practice of elementary school aged kids writing notes with two boxes asking the recipient to mark one with an answer. In sharpie on the shirt there are two black boxes: Nike or Adidas. The bottom box is Adidas checked with the instantly recognizable Nike swoop. It’s silliness points out the intense allegiance people have towards these brands.

The viewer doesn’t receive the impression that Bois is disdainful of the people or culture she is showing in sharp, scary, focus. She could be likened to a parent shining a flashlight into a closet, gently and artfully highlighting the monsters instead of only finding air, toys and kids clothing.

House Party was an example of surrealism. It was reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s 1962 Campbell’s Soup Cans in the sense both artists addressed and manipulated the viewer’s concept of everyday reality by taking household objects out of context.

Bois continued with her theme relating to the millennial generation’s use of designer brands as a form of validation and tribal signifiers. She explained that she works at a consignment store and witnesses people going to great lengths to obtain certain designer pieces, something she can not personally identify with but that has been a significant influence on her work.

When you first enter the gallery, you’ll see a shower curtain printed with black phrases saying MAKE IT RAIN. The curtain is half open and hanging from a circular shower hung from the ceiling with transparent thread. The showerhead spouts silver chains.

This is the first installation that plays with the viewer’s perception of reality, almost making you wonder if you’ve confused what water is this whole time.

She describes the physical contents of the exhibit as, “things pretty much everyone can relate to.”

A pair of medium wash boyfriend jeans were hung up on the wall by a white wire hanger. On the top zipper was a familiar image, the 3-point Basquiat crown. The basquiat crown is a symbol adored by many millenials. If you visit to the Plateau you’ll be sure to see it tattooed or printed on t-shirts or totes. However Bois had added two x’s for eyes inside of it. The transformation of familiar generational symbols is hallmark of Bois’s work.

A long rectangular table displayed bowls of alphabet soup—but remixed. Here interlocking C’s mean Chanel Paris, and L’s being crossed by V’s mean Louis Vuitton.

Beside the five bowls of gelatinous alphabet soup there was another rectangular table that had five dust bags (a dust bag is a cotton bag with a drawstring intended to protect designer accessory purchases) filled with various kinds of chips, overflowing onto the table.

“That’s how I feel about my art, I just present it and people take it in and and do whatever they want with it,” said Bois.

On the exhibit’s opening night, it was noticeable that numerous visitors were taking pictures and posting Instagram stories of Bois’s installations. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were missing the point of the exhibit.

Later, I observed that @gabbois had posted Instagram stories of the event making me feel like a pretentious jerk.

Maybe the real take away from Bois’s exhibit was that the use of these everyday objects was inevitable and should be accepted not denied. Her work urges the viewer towards increased self criticism and awareness of what is commonly accepted, something lacking in a culture with a short attention span.

Artists such as Bois are needed in this world because of an ability to see through the accepted reality and point out its flaws and logical fallacies

. House Party is an example of her laser eyed vision and how it created a new physical reality to be exhibited and understood. We would all be very lucky to see more from this burgeoning artistic talent.