| David Burnett
Galerie Gilles Gheerbrant, Montreal, October 4 - November 3 
Gallery Artists [Charles Gagnon, Guido Molinari, Greg Curnoe, Richard Mill, Leopold Plotek, Irene Whittome and Serge Tousignant]
Yajimal Galerie, Montreal, October 4 - 27 
artscanada #232 / 233, Dec. 1979 - Jan. 1980.
[ 898 words ]
Gilles Gheerbrant has reopened his gallery. It is now located on St. Catherine Street near the Place des Arts and, in contrast to the Crescent Street location, has a series of excellent and well-lit spaces. The reopening was marked by an exhibition of photographic works by Pierre Boogaerts: Serie Ecran: Promenade.
The work comprises wall pieces each made from a series of coloured photographs taken by Boogaerts on walks through the streets of New York. Each series is composed of shots taken by panning the camera upwards from the horizontal through ninety degrees, then turning to face in the opposite direction, and traversing the camera downwards again to the horizontal. The sequence thus records the view from one end of the street to the other in something like a parabolic pan-shot. The buildings on both sides of the street are included in each shot, squeezing in towards the centre as dark, sharp-edged shapes. Boogaerts arranges each series of photographs in an appropriate formal structure: there are six vertical columns about eight feet high, two 'T' arrangements and two 'X' arrangements (the latter reflecting Boogaerts's position at street intersections).
Although I have just described in positive terms the photographic subject and structure, I have in reality described the images negatively, for what in essence is shown to us is not the description of a street but rather the shape that it gives to the sky. The photographs are slightly underexposed, which all but excludes definition of the buildings, turning them into dark, monolithic blocks; but the sky gains a richness of blue that ensures its prominence as a positive formal value against the solid masses of the buildings.
In some respects this reminds me of Monet's Rouen Cathedral paintings where perspective, three-dimensionality and shape all become functions of colour as light; that is, where the subject of the work is Monet's experience of light in a particular place. Here, the subject is Boogaerts's experience of light as space which is given structure by the perspective and three-dimensionality of the particular place. Boogaerts's exhibition presented a relationship of form and content where ambiguity is recognized as an aspect of experience, not as a weakness to be concealed.
The show of Yajima Gallery artists was valuable not so much as a presentation of new work, but as a reminder that the gallery deals with a remarkably well-chosen cross-section of current art. The seven artists exhibited just one work apiece, each of which marked a stage of work-in-progress. Three of them, Charles Gagnon, Guido Molinari and Greg Curnoe, already have substantial reputations and major exhibitions behind them. Of the other four it is worthwhile noting that three, Leopold Plotek, Irene Whittome and Serge Tousignant, took part in the Quebec 75 exhibition. That exhibition, which brought together a wide range of younger artists then working in Quebec, was the focus of considerable debate and controversy at the time. The significance of that show at that moment grows because so many of the artists have continued to justify their inclusion in it by the further development and strength of their work; this is particularly true of Irene Whittome and Serge Tousignant. While Whittome has probably moved ahead more quickly in terms of the notice given to her work, both deserve more consideration, more exhibition and critical discussion.
Curnoe was represented at Yajima by one of his bicycle 'portraits', Mariposa T. T. (1979) a serigraph on Plexiglas; Molinari by an early painting (1977) in the Quantificateur series. Richard Mill and Plotek each showed a recent painting and Whittome a four-part lithograph and drawing, M24.03.79. I want, however, to draw special attention to the works shown by Gagnon and Tousignant. The Gagnon, Sunday Painting Redislocation Tempérée (1979) nicely and literally encapsulates matters of image and visibility, and meaning on an intimate scale. The piece is a single mat with five openings. In the four upper ones are small watercolours in the form of his large Cassation paintings. They are arranged in the mat to suggest the panes of a window. The fifth opening, set in the lower centre, contains the title. The window form implies visibility and the eye is drawn towards the small watercolours by their atmospheric quality; but at the same time they deny visibility, they 'quash' it (as Cassation implies). The title further disturbs the relationship of visibility and meaning: the precision of time and the implications of 'Sunday Painting' (particularly because it is watercolour) are disturbed by the neologism 'Redislocation' and the fact that the 'Redislocation' is 'tempérée,' that is restrained or temperate. Géoétrisation Solaire Carrée, Bi-Modulaire (1979) by Serge Tousignant comprises two sequences, each of nine photographs. Each photograph shows four twigs stuck into sand and positioned so that the shadows they cast form, in one sequence, a square, and in the other a diamond. The angles and directions of the sticks are changed for each shot, but the figures made by their shadows remain constant. In one way it is like the natural magic of the past, a matter of secret geometry; in another it is a metaphor for the connection between natural phenomena and the rational terms in which we relate to them.
artscanada, December 1979/ January 1980, #232/ 233
Text: © David Burnett. All rights reserved.
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