Culture & Conversation

Summer Warms Up Exhibit

A stroll through St. Henri’s former industrial district may not bring to mind visions of France, but it is home to the Parisian Laundry art gallery and their latest exhibit, Summertime in Paris. This group show has a medley of works on display from both up-and-coming and established artists. You’ll be able to lose yourself in the mystical landscapes of Rick Leong and ponder the abstractions of Jennifer Lefort. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Janet Werner is known for her portraits of women. Her paintings tend to convey a romantic feminine ideal. Make-up, blouses and pearls are often seen. Long hair is swept away from the face with headbands, barrettes and ponytails, or it is left hanging down in soft curls. The painting style is chunky in its application of colour and the faces articulate a cold or forlorn expression. The portraits emanate a sense of loss that juxtaposes keenly with the idyllic beauty of them. While kitsch is sometimes used to describe her work, the paintings are not superficial in the ways that the word suggests. Peach Lips and Lady in a Headdress are two excellent pieces displayed in the exhibit.

Also presenting a series of portraits is Alex Da Corte. His colour photographs are part of an on-going project called “Activities.” He invites strangers to perform a simple task using a variety of props that include food, balloons and make-up. In Activity #9 – stuffing strawberries in your mouth, you see a headshot of a guy with numerous strawberries shoved into his mouth. Activity #21 –glitter face shows another a guy who has had silver glitter thrown all over his face. These aptly named works are about catching someone in a moment of “letting go.”

Nine artists are represented in Summertime in Paris, a seasonally recurring exhibit at the gallery. There is no obvious theme linking the works together and the presentation is also kind of generic. Works are mounted in a single row along two facing walls and there are some nearby chairs for visitors to sit in. Parisian Laundry is a dynamic gallery space that is often used very well, but it seemed a little flat this time.

Speaking from an architectural standpoint, the building itself is quite unique. In lieu of skylights, all four walls have giant windows (a rarity for buildings constructed in the ‘20s and ‘30s) that allow natural light to flood the space and gives the main gallery a bright and open feel. The basement (otherwise known as the bunker) is an altogether different experience. You descend into a dark room and must pass through a narrow passage to arrive in the large cement and brick space that used to house heavy machinery. The contrast between these spaces and the concurrence of contemporary art and industrial architecture help make the experience memorable.

Despite the disconnected, potpourri feel of this show, there are some good things to see, but the exhibit may not wow first-time goers . But don’t miss out on the bunker. Trust me, it’s worth the fleeting claustrophobic hesitation.
Summertime in Paris runs until September 5, 2009 at Parisian Laundry, 3550 St. Antoine Ouest. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12h to 17h. For more details go to Parisian Laundry.

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