Prefix ICA » Lara Almarcegui: Guide to the Leslie Street Spit

May 4 to July 22, 2023

Lara Almarcegui
Guide to the Leslie Street Spit

Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art is delighted to present a major new public art project by acclaimed Spanish artist Lara Almarcegui. The culmination of more than three years of planning and preparation, this original commission represents the organization’s sophomore venture into public art, following its highly successful project with Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi in 2018, and the artist’s first solo exhibition in Canada. Titled Guide to the Leslie Street Spit, this project serves, as its title suggests, as a guide to the spit, an artificial peninsula formed by the dumping of waste deposits from Toronto’s construction industry into Lake Ontario. Accordingly, the project addresses a subject of vital interest locally and globally — construction, development, and the use of the land and water. Curated by Scott McLeod, the project is presented as a core exhibition of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival.

The exhibition opens to the public on Thursday, May 4, 2023, at Urbanspace Gallery, the central commons of 401 Richmond in which the public, by purpose or happenstance, gathers to engage with the subjects of art, architecture and urbanism. An informal opening reception will be held on Friday, May 5, 2023, from 6 PM to 8 PM. The curator will be present. Urban-space Gallery is located at 401 Richmond Street West, Ground Floor, Toronto. Gallery hours are from Tuesday to Saturday, 12 PM to 6 PM. Admission is free. The exhibition continues until Saturday, July 22, 2023.

In her artistic practice, Lara Almarcegui examines processes of urban transformation brought on by political, social and economic change. Specifically, she studies those characteristics of cities that are not typically the focus of attention: wastelands, construction materials, and underlying structures. Since the late 1990s, her projects have fallen into two main categories: installations comprising mounds of raw materials of the type that were used to construct the buildings in which they are housed, and guides to the wastelands of various urban centres throughout the world. For the latter category, which is the approach taken for this project, Almarcegui explores the history, geology and ecology of neglected or overlooked sites, carefully noting their lack of urban planning while cataloguing and highlighting each site’s tendency toward entropy. Her original research culminates in a major installation consisting of a video in the style of a slide show and a publication in the form of a guidebook, the latter of which serves as an interpretive tool which visitors may take away.

For her original commission in the city of Toronto, Almarcegui uses these old-school formats to tell the story of the Leslie Street Spit, as yet little known or broadly understood, in an unexpected and engaging way. Initiated sixty years ago as a breakwater for harbour expansion, the spit was ultimately not required for this purpose due to an unanticipated decrease in lake shipping. Today, it has been claimed by all forms of life, both human and wild. The evolution of the spit — largely accidental and unplanned — provides an extraordinary example of the processes of urban and ecological succession. As such, the site offers an ideal subject for Almarcegui’s practice, seamlessly integrating the city of Toronto into the continuum of her work on wastelands in the cities of London, New York, Rome, São Paulo and Venice, among others.

Public Programme
Writer, educator and urbanist Shawn Micallef offers a behind-the-scenes perspective on the making of Guide to the Leslie Street Spit by Lara Almarcegui. In this informal talk, he reviews the genesis of the project, beginning with his first meeting with the artist for the Urban Field Speakers Series in 2014.. The talk, which will be followed by Q&A and exhibition viewing, will be held on Saturday, May 27, 2023, at 1 PM, at Urbanspace Gallery, located at 401 Richmond Street West, Ground Floor, Toronto. Presented by Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art in partnership with the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival and Urbanspace Gallery on the occasion of Doors Open.

About Prefix ICA
Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art is a registered charitable organization, based in Toronto, that fosters the appreciation and understanding of contemporary photographic, media and digital arts through exhibitions, publications, public programmes and related activities.

For their support of Guide to the Leslie Street Spit, Prefix ICA gratefully acknowledges the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival and Urbanspace Gallery. For their institutional support, Prefix gratefully acknowledges the Canada Council for the Arts.

Prefix also extends its appreciation to the following individuals: John Carley, Andrea Chreston, Jeff Hubbell, Walter H. Kehm, Karen McDonald and Wayne Reeves.

Supplementary credits
Prefix ICA and the artist gratefully recognize the contributions of the following individuals and corporations: Andora Graphics: Printing; Agatha Cinader: Research assistance, copy editing and fact checking; Felt Design: Stools; Floor Koomen: Graphic design (publication); Ryan Legassicke and Allan Kosmajac: Installation; Shawn Micallef: Location scouting, additional copy writing, and editing; Darren Rigo: Videography; Pablo Gil Rituerto: Video editing; Saman Design: Signage; Underline Studio: Graphic design (exhibition); Eliot Wright: Colour conversion (still images).

Photo: Lara Almarcegui, selection from Guide to the Leslie Street Spit (2023). Courtesy the artist.

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