November 19 - December 24, 2011

Maskull Lasserre: Vertigo



Maskull Lasserre: Vertigo

Master Maker: The Subversive Artefacts of Maskull Lasserre
James D. Campbell, October 2, 2011

Maskull Lasserre's sculptures span and synch two or more seemingly incompossible realities, and the sparks that fly in the process light a fire in the imagination.

By modifying seemingly mundane objects—a meat cleaver, an axe, a piano —whether through juxtaposition (the cleaver melds in mortise and tenon fashion the neck and keys of a musical instrument) or material substitution (the piano morphs from the familiar wood to hot rolled steel), Lasserre creates seamless and subversive hybrids that he calls "instruments of understanding" designed to challenge our assumptive contexts – and which invariably explode our preconceptions as though a tiny nuke had been launched into the forebrain.

His great love of music plays a significant role in his thinking sculpture beyond the limits of the present. No exaggeration on my part to suggest that Lasserre's practice is that of a latter-day 'philosophical mechanic' (as they used to call instrument makers in the 18th century) and one capable of uniting mind and hand in the making of instruments that bring new understanding and exhilaration to the experience of his subversive and entirely diverting artefacts. In the latter half of the 18th century, such makers referred to themselves under the rubric of mechanic or mechanist, or were known by the trades in which they had been apprenticed: instrument maker, millwright, ironmonger. Drawn to things like weapons, tools, natural history specimens and musical instruments, Lasserre chooses objects as salient source material that "dialogue with people's experience and bring their own history to the work," as he says.

His work fluidly morphs between the remnant of what lives and the representation of what has died. An axe takes on snake vertebrae, a predatory simian skull manifests itself within the bare edge of a wood plinth, a violin-like instrument births a handgun. Everything is crafted with exquisite precision and is,well, eminently functional. His work is not confined to optical or scientific devices per se, and his work can be unavoidably feral, fraught with jeopardy, but vision is still the mainstay of all his 'instruments'. His signature mordant wit is co-extensive with a profoundly subversive streak that challenges the viewer's presuppositions even as it earns our continuing engagement, gratitude and delight. Given the sheer diversity and delicacy and extraordinary precision of invention here, is it at all surprising that I think not of his fellow artists when seeking kindred spirits – nor will I subject him to that taxonomy overmuch – but of the British "Master Maker' Jesse Ramsden whose work betrays a bewildering range of instrument-making (from electrical machines to telescopes, optigraphs, dividing engines) and yields a far better analogy over two centuries ago. However, if one were to look really hard for antecedents in the Canadian school, only the brilliant and iconoclastic London, Ontario native Murray Favro comes to mind.

If it seems that I am suggesting that Maskull Lasserre may in his thinking hearken back to an earlier era, what I am really saying is that his work defies and dovetails temporal categories. It is grounded in a once-glorious and all-but-dead past of pure invention, yet poised on the cutting-edge of art in the present tense, and trembling on the cusp of the future. Like all great invention, it is not about dating, quotation or forerunners but about prophecy and intention, formal purity and unassuming grace and, above all, the birth of the new.

Maskull Lasserre was born in Alberta, Canada in 1978. He spent much of his childhood in South Africa before returning to Canada. He has a BFA from Mount Allison University (Visual Art and Philosophy), and an MFA from Concordia University (Sculpture). He now works out of studios in both Montreal and Ottawa. Lasserre’s drawings and sculptures explore the unexpected potential of the everyday through allegories of value, expectation, and utility. Elements of nostalgia, accident, humor, and the macabre are incorporated into works that induce strangeness in the familiar, and provoke uncertainty in the expected. Lasserre has exhibited across Canada and in the United States. He is represented in the collections of the Government of Canada (Transport Canada, DND), Canada Council for the Arts, and the City of Ottawa, amongst others. He is also a recent participant in the Canadian Forces War Artist Program in Afghanistan.

The artist would like to thank Pamela and Monty Lasserre, Mirana Zuger, Kalessy and Colin Twigley, Jonathan Villeneuve, Dominic Pappilion, Mark Peter, Matt Thompson, Pierre-François Ouellette and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.


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C   C

steel, hardware, rock, 40ft. free-fall
188 x 78 x 158 cm (74" x 31" x 62")
Coriolis (detail)
SD   Mammoth and Bird

Self Doubt (Macaque)
carved wood, bell jar
147 x 33 x 33 cm (58" x 13" x 13")
Self Doubt (detail


Secret Carpentry
carved ax
68.5 x 15 x 5 cm (27" x 6" x 2")
Secret Carpentry (detail)
O   O

carved wood
58.5 x 48.25 x 5 x cm (23" x 19" x 2")
Oracle (detail)

E   E

bronze, violin
25.5 x 78.75 x 20.5 cm (10" x 31" x 8")
edition 3/3
Epiphany (detail)

Three Octave Composition
piano parts, frame, hardware
35.6 x 25.4 x 71.1 cm (14" x 4" x 6")
Three Octave Composition (detail)


Six Shot - Six String
wood, strings, hardware, flocking, 357 cal. revolver
66 x 33 x 40.6 cm (26" x 13" x 16")
Six Shot - Six String (detail)

Sonata Blade
wood, steel, brass, hardwood cutting block
35.6 x 10.2 x 15.2 cm (14" x 4" x 6")
Sonata Blade (detail)

For more available works by Maskull Lasserre please click here

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view of the show1   view of the show2
view of the show3   view of the show4

Bryne McLaughlin. "Maskull Lasserre: Playing to Extremes" Canadian Art online December 8, 2011
Yaniya Lee. "Magical sculpture" Montreal Mirror 17 November 2011
Phillip Kennicott. "Adaptive artwork" Washington Post September 24, 2011
Interview with Maskull Lasserre at Don't Panic
For more information on Maskull Lasserre please visit his website:

click icon below to download a recent C.V. of the artist (adobe PDF)

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