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// Photo by Karenia Niedzwiecki

Building Blocks

By Katie Chalmers-Brooks

What do you see in Eli Bornstein’s iconic abstract of blocks and colour?

Some say an aerial view of farmland. Or open books waiting to be read. Even groups of people, with outsiders separated from the rest.

As a fixture at Winnipeg’s airport for decades, Structurist Relief In Fifteen Parts captured our imagination between flights. Restored and relocated last year to its outdoor home at the University of Manitoba’s Max Bell Centre, the three-dimensional aluminum piece from the 1960s comes alive with natural light. As the sun and clouds shift on campus so do the shadows, revealing new dimension and colour reflections.

“In a sense it’s the best it’s ever been,” says Oliver Botar, U of M art history professor. “You don’t just walk up to it and kind of look at it superficially, you experience it.”

A long-time art professor and department head at the University of Saskatchewan, Milwaukee-born Bornstein—at 92—is still creating art every day in his studio. “He has always had a lot of energy,” says Botar, who curated a 2013 Bornstein exhibit of new work, An Art at the Mercy of Light. “He’s a true perfectionist, everything that he does just has to be perfect. I think that’s one of the reasons why his work really has lasting power.”


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