45 YEARS OF ART
AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Jeff Childs x Modern Fuel

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Jeff Childs was a versatile artist based in Kingston known for his work with sculpture, painting, drawings and installations.

 

Child’s concern for nature conservation and expanded use of space pioneered the “interactive multimedia environmental installation”- complex exhibitions/artworks that used a huge variety of mediums, materials, and techniques to usually address environment protection issues through immersive art compositions.

Jeffrey Beaumont Childs was born in Long Island, New York, and moved with his family to Canada in 1953. He was a versatile artist based in Kingston known for his work with sculpture, painting, drawings and installations. Childs studied music at the Royal Conservatory of Music and art at the Ontario College of Art between 1969 and 1973, where he also completed post-graduate studies in 1974. In the 1970’s he worked extensively with sculpture in the Kingston area and in 1976, had a studio located at the museum dedicated to Canadian sculpture- opened by Lawrence Hayward (1930- 2015)- near Chaffeys Lock Road at Rideau Lakes. His initial work creating forms in laminated wood gave way to the use of painted wood and polished steel in a later phase. His first group exhibition was at the Gallery 76 in Toronto in 1971, and Childs’ first solo show was at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre between August and September of 1976. There, he displayed numerous sculptures, drawings, and paintings. The sculpture Green piece (1976), a 120cm high piece in painted steel illustrating the Agnes exhibition folder, is a good representative of this creative period. In the 1980’s Childs started working with sculptural installations and exploring the relations and boundaries of space, materials, and forms. This approach is illustrated in his 1982 exhibition Tensile Fabric Works at the Kingston Artists’ Association Inc. (KAAI), known today as the Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre. Child’s concern for nature conservation and expanded use of space pioneered the “interactive multimedia environmental installation”- complex exhibitions/artworks that used a huge variety of mediums, materials, and techniques to usually address environment protection issues through immersive art compositions. The use of original music with natural components, collected and stylized artifacts were combined to deliver unique public-oriented experiences with performative elements. These environmental installations are “presented as reaffirmations of technological mans [sic] vital links with the natural environment” (1986) and “the consequences of having lost it all” (1990), revealing a very compelling and relevant problem faced by contemporary society. Examples of this unique artistic approach of exploring the idea of art as place, a pivotal working concept for the artist, can be seen in projects like Burial Ground (Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 1980), On the Beach (Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre, 1996), and in Souvenir/Lifeguard (Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre, 2015)- his last Modern Fuel collaboration. Previously he also exhibited works at the KAAI/Modern Fuel Opening Show (1978) and on at least two Members Shows (1979 and 1980). He not only showed his works multiple times at KAAI/Modern Fuel, but was also a founding member and director of the Gallery- taking part in several important projects and activities. He was involved in the organization of the Kingston Art Event (1979)* and was a Co-founder and two years Director of The Millennium Project (1991-2000). The Millennium Project - Art for Earth’s Sake, was an exceptional 10-year exhibition program that selected artists to create site-specific works addressing the theme “humanities re-integration with nature” to be installed permanently or temporarily at the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area in Kingston. Jeffrey Childs was involved in its conception and created the installation Sacrifice for the Project’s Year One (1991-1992). Childs’ remarkable trajectory allows us to understand the importance of Modern Fuel and other artist-run centres as public independent art spaces that support and provide opportunities for local artists and their communities. The artist Noel Bullock (1948-2021) was his close friend and a partner not only in the KAAI/Modern Fuel organization but also in installation exhibitions such as Form, Tension, and Space (White Water Gallery, North Bay, 1982)**

 

*See our special poster about the Kingston Art Event - TBD.
** See our special poster dedicated do Noel Bullock at The Grand Theatre.

See the exhibition poster on display at Novel Idea Bookstore - August 2022.

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About the Curator

Gabriel Bevilacqua

Gabriel is an archivist and historian who is responsible for digitalizing the past 45 years of Modern Fuel Archives. In addition to his role as an archivist, Gabriel has curated a series of off-site exhibitions titled, "45 years of Art in Kingston Through the Lens of Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre," which includes the exhibition above.

He holds a Master of Science degree in History where his research focused on databases and digitization and conservation of performance and conceptual art in Brazilian and Canadian art museums. He is the collection manager of the aarea.co digital art platform and a consultant in cultural heritage digitization and preservation projects. He has been working with cultural heritage collections for the past 20 years. He was an archivist and collection manager in Brazilian art museums such as the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo and the Instituto Moreira Salles. He served as a board member of the ICOM Brazil National Committee, ICOM International Committee for Documentation (CIDOC), Associação de Arquivistas de São Paulo (São Paulo, Brazil) and the Instituto de Arte Contemporânea (São Paulo, Brazil). He also works as a volunteer and collaborator in cultural heritage projects and organizations such as the Vulnerable Media Lab (Queen's University) and the Museu Afro Brasil’s documentation and reference center (São Paulo, Brazil).