Culture & Conversation

Displaying The In Between

The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is busy setting up for the winter’s major exhibitions (Marcel Dzama, Etienne Zack and Luanne Martineau) that open on February 4th. Some rooms are closed to the public in preparation for the shows, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some great art to see now. Riopelle, Anselm Kiefer and David Altmejd are just a few of the artists with major works on display through April 5.

At the bottom of the stairs, inside the small room that is the Info Gallery, you will find some very compelling contrasting artworks. Two watercolours and one oil on canvas by Riopelle hang on the far wall. Sans titre (1946 and 1947) have black ink lines running all across it and the watercolour pigments are applied in block strokes similar to the oil painting Sans titre (1949). In comparison, the watercolours seem rigid and restrained. The oil not only allows for a more richly textured and three-dimensionally emerging image, but it also allows the colours to overlie and merge in ways the watercolours cannot. Turn around and you will see something similar in the Paul-Émile Borduas paintings.

Upstairs, Cubes, Blocks and Other Spaces showcases many artists who tackle the city, its structures and the activities that occur within it. Painting, sculpture, video and photography are used to explore “the underlying form which this everyday reality can take.”

Bill Woodrow’s Parrot Fashion (1984) is the first thing that grabs your attention. With an outboard boat motor for a base, a painted car hood mounted vertically on top and a parrot perched on the hood, this sculpture reconstitutes items in a new and striking form. László Moholo-Nagy’s silver prints (1926-1927) do the same thing in a series of photo montages. It takes images from various sources and recombines them in a surrealist fashion that plays with space and narrative, and sometimes reminds you of Monty Python’s Flying Circus animations.

Serge Tousignant’s clever Hommage à Magaritte (1970-1974) plays with optics. Three strips are pasted to the wall. A black strip runs along the bottom while a green and a red strip divide the space over top of it. An easel stands with a mirror almost in the middle. As you walk by the mirror, you will notice that the red strip appears to turn green as you pass by. Even more entertaining is Fischli & Weiss’s Der Lauf der Dinge [“The Way Things Go”] (1987), a 30-minute film that shows a long, causal chain of events using everyday objects that is similar to a Rube Goldberg machine.

On the same floor, you will find the Major Gifts exhibit. David Altmejd’s Le Dentiste (2008) is a towering sculpture of mirror, teeth and quail eggs. The mirror is smashed in places with teeth protruding to give it a mouth-like appearance. Quail eggs sit behind glass in small cubes that recess into the sculpture. Altmejd likes to make works that are “shiver-inducing,” so you’ll have to see how this one resonates with your mental portrait of dentists.

Anselm Kiefer’s Karfunkelfee (1990) and Die Frauen der Antike [“Women of Antiquity”] (1999) are outstanding. These large-scale works incorporate paints, resins, sunflowers, branches, clothing, seeds and various other media. These works evoke feelings of neglect and loss as they confront humanity’s violent and sombre past.

Yes, you are probably going to hold out until tomorrow to see the new shows. It’s a good strategy. Just don’t forget to check out the other works that are hanging around. They’re quite good.

The exhibits run until April 5th and the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. For more information consult the MACM site.

Photo: Kiefer’s Die Frauen der Antike.

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