Partners in Art is proud to support the AGO’s bold new public sculpture by acclaimed contemporary artist Brian Jungen – the museum’s first ever public art commission and the artist’s first large-scale work in bronze.
Jungen, who is of Dane-zaa and European heritage, engages with both Indigenous materials and traditions as well as Western art history and popular culture in his practice. With Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill, Jungen has constructed the figure of an elephant from discarded leather sofas. “The use of discarded couches came from my experiences of walking the streets of Toronto and seeing them abandoned on the sidewalks waiting to be picked up at night,” said Jungen. “This was foreign to me and surprising, but to the residents of this city, accustomed to seeing them, they are invisible. I look forward to making them visible again.”
The artist was intrigued by the tragic story of Jumbo, a captive circus elephant who made international headlines when it was killed by a train in St. Thomas, Ontario, in 1885. Jungen is deeply concerned with the terrible price living things pay when forced to perform for others, a concern embedded in the title of this work. The Dane-zaa subtitle of the work, “Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill” translates to “My heart is ripping.”
As an homage to British sculptor Henry Moore, whose work Jungen has long admired and engaged with, the artist’s decision to work in bronze reflects his own interest in materiality. After the sculpture’s construction was completed in Jungen’s studio in March 2020, the full-sized model was transported to the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington state to be cast in bronze. The artist travelled to the Foundry to oversee the finishing touches of the sculpture in Spring 2022, ahead of its eventual transport to Toronto.
Image: Brian Jungen, Couch Monster: Sadzěʔ yaaghęhch’ill (2022). Bronze. Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Commission, with funds from Government of Canada/Gouvernement du Canada, Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program, The Renette and David Berman Family Foundation, Charles Brindamour & Josée Letarte, Bob Dorrance & Gail Drummond, Angela & David Feldman, Hal Jackman Foundation, Phil Lind & Ellen Roland, T. R. Meighen Family Foundation, Partners in Art, Paul & Jan Sabourin, an anonymous donor, and with funds by exchange from Morey and Jennifer Chaplick, 2022. © Brian Jungen