Noah’s Ark Myth Denied, 1998. Steel, 16.5 x 101 x 54 in. Photo: courtesy the artist.

Ed Zelenak: Mapping the Allegory

While Ed Zelenak’s sculpture seems to reflect that intense period when Pop Art and Minimalism occupied center stage on the arts scene, in hindsight one realizes that his works are highly individuated, with a narrative element, some allusions to science, and even allegorical elements. Zelenak describes that era, when he found his footing in the world of contemporary sculpture, as verbose, consumptive, and very much extroverted. He grew up in tobacco country in southwest Ontario and rapidly came to public attention with a series of monumental fiberglass works that seized the imagination. One of these, Traffic (1968–69), attracted comments for its aplomb. Originally sited next to the old National Gallery of Canada on Elgin Street, the work was subsequently moved, not as a result of public outcry but because the establishment in Ottawa did not want to ruffle the feathers of a not-so-art-literate public. Traffic conjured a real sense of the visual as spectacle, of art as occupying a state where it could re-direct the social vision and engender a public aesthetic.