Lyla Rye is a Toronto-based artist whose work explores spatial perception and its often hidden physical and psychological effects.
Known for sculpture and installations that draw the viewer into subtly illogical situations, Rye is interested in the interrelationships between architecture and its inhabitants, and her work challenges our assumptions as to how the many varieties of space — social, ceremonial, industrial, domestic, personal, and liminal — shape us even as we attempt to shape them.
Lyla Rye began her studies in architecture at University of Waterloo before receiving her BFA from York University (1989), and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (1994). She uses installation, video, and photography to explore human experience of architectural space.
Her work has been exhibited across Canada and internationally including exhibitions in San Francisco, New York, Adelaide (Australia), Paris, and Berlin. She has work in the public collections of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, York University, Cadillac Fairview Corporation, The Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Harbourfront Centre and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery.
Starting in the early 1990s she was a founding member of the sculptors’ collective NetherMind. Since that time she has worked in a number of collectives including 5 things, hic and Persona Volare focusing on site-specific installations in non-gallery spaces. She has had exhibitions in a women’s prison, various industrial basements, a storefront window, a Debates Room, a juniper bush, a classroom, an elevator, and on the edge of the Canadian Shield.
She is a sessional faculty member in the Art and Art History joint program between Sheridan College and University of Toronto Mississauga and the founder of Mentor Lyla Rye.
My practice explores our relationship with space. Although we spend the majority of our lives indoors, the effect that architecture has on us is mainly unconscious. I have made sculptural and video installations, chalkline drawings, single channel videos and digital photographs that draw attention to the impact of rooms on our psyche. My aim is to create architectural experiences that are slightly unsettling using strategies of physical imbalance, optical confusion and material incongruity.
Recently I have been exploring the liminal space of the stage through parallel investigations in video and sculptural installation. I became interested in the work of Buster Keaton as his films place him between the theatrical vaudeville tradition and the beginnings of cinematic conventions. He designed many of his own film sets and was both lead actor and director of his best works. I’ve used source footage from a number of his films, often undermining his humour and narrative to reveal an inherent anxiety about architecture. In works such as Spectregraph and The House Haunted, I explore how his cinematic architectural gags can be represented spatially, while in works such as Upstage and Erratic Room I generate a theatrical space in three dimensions.
I have also been making installations that recreate architectural aspects of the stage. In Swing Stage a hovering platform is suspended by chains, replicating and inverting the function of the ceiling trusses at Olga Korper Gallery, a former industrial space. Glossy black flooring reflects the ceiling and creates an illusory gulf beneath the viewer’s feet. A video projected on a circle of plexiglass becomes a virtual view out of a circular window, mirroring the one in the gallery. The video employs both made and found footage such as views from the gallery roof, screen captures from Google Earth, and pages from a 1930s industrial catalogue from the original factory on the site. Varying from excruciatingly slow to almost incomprehensibly fast, the video intensifies the viewer’s physical experience of instability in order to draw attention to the changing function of the building through history.
Memory Palace, another recent large installation, draws upon notions of spatial memory and the transitory nature of stage sets. The title references an ancient mnemonic technique which utilizes the mind’s innate ability to remember spaces in order to memorize large quantities of information. Comprising seven ‘pop-up’ tarpaulin rooms depicted using the most minimal of means, the work does not attempt to be architecture, but rather to approximate certain types of rooms as stage sets do. As a material, tarps imply transitory or makeshift shelters or coverings. They also colour the light within them, dramatically altering the atmosphere of each space and triggering recollections of similar rooms for the viewer.
Without narrative or characters, my installations alter space and become virtual stage sets where the viewer is cast as actor, free to imagine the plot. Conceptually, I want the encounter to be like watching a theatre performance from behind the scenes. I hope to fully engage the viewer while also allowing them to be immediately aware of the artifice involved.
Links / Updates
Shani K Parsons: “ERRATIC ROOM | LYLA RYE”
TYPOLOGY Projects (catalogue), 2013
Ryan Doherty: “Cyclorama”
Southern Alberta Art Gallery, 2013
Gil McElroy: “Lyla Rye: Cyclorama”
Espace Magazine. Issue 103/104, pp 67-68, 2013
Terence Dick: “2011 Critic’s Pick”
Akimblog. December 13, 2011
Etienne Turpin: “Lyla Rye”
Koffler Gallery (catalogue), 2011
Tess Edmonson: “Lyla Rye: A Platform for Ideas”
Canadian Art Online. August 11, 2011
Manori Ravindran: “Big Suspenders”
National Post. August 5, 2011
Catherine Osborne: “High Art”
Azure Magazine Online. August 2, 2011
Leah Sandals: “At The Galleries”
National Post. July 30, 2011
Terence Dick: “Lyla Rye at Olga Korper”
Akimblog. July 19, 2011
Tony Massett: “Upstage”
Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film. July 2011
Lyla Rye: “Erratic Room”
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (brochure), 2010