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Extreme Painting at Joyce Yahouda


Extreme Painting has taken over Montreal. Sixteen galleries across the city have adopted the theme for the summer of 2010. While Division, Orange and Donald Browne galleries (among others) have opted for monumental proportions and excessive applications of paint, guest curator Nicolas Mavrikakis at Joyce Yahouda gallery has chosen a different route. Highlighting the work of an edgier collection of artists, Mavrikakis looks at the gesture of painting and its position in the twenty-first century. Are we indeed in an age of post-painting? Or, will painting live on as an eternal tradition?

1.Simon Bilodeau front view
Simon Bilodeau. Imagine ce que j’aurais pu peindre, 2010. Installation. Photo: Simon Bilodeau.

2.Simon Bilodeau back view
Simon Bilodeau. Imagine ce que j’aurais pu peindre, 2010. Installation. Photo: Simon Bilodeau.

The legacy of painting as a medium is undeniable; it seems to haunt some of the artists on display. For example, in Glamor Minimal Art After Mondrian (2003-2006), Céline B. LaTerreur re-imagines Mondrian using fake nails. While a bit contrived, the shiny nails of the canvas only further cement to what degree key figures of art history have become common currency. Simon Bilodeau, on the other hand creates an installation in which a piece of his studio wall becomes a canvas onto which other canvases are affixed; the wall itself glows from behind thanks to fluorescent lights. In this work, entitled Imagine ce que j’aurais pu peindre [Imagine what I could have painted] (2010), Bilodeau takes a not-so-subtle jab at the idealization of the artist and the reverence (whether deserved or not) of both the finished products and the process behind the works.

5.exhibition view Lefevre+Beausejour
Exhibition view with work of Mathieu Lefevre on the right, 2010. Photo: Simon Bilodeau.

Those works within the Joyce Yahouda that go beyond surface and beyond material speak most about the age of post-painting. Mathieu Lefevre displays scans (2010) of parts of his body he had inscribed with Manet and Watteau’s names, Malevich’s Black Square, Picasso’s Portrait of Jacqueline, and a still life by Matisse. The cult of history’s great artists becomes re-appropriated to be painted permanently on the body, a demonstration of just how insurmountable the past has become.

Besides Brittany Pratt’s reframing of the BP oil spill as impossible art project (Hommage to Smithson and Pollock; 2010), the most compelling piece, in my opinion, was Alana Riley’s video Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Grey (2009-2010). In this work, the camera pans overhead as the artist mops the concrete floor of a workspace with a large central red-painted passageway bordered by two yellow stripes. The image slowly travels down, the central band a continuous loop, the mop-laden artist slowly coming into view and slowly disappearing. Extrapolated from the formal act of painting, the artist here takes on the same central gesture.

4.Alana Riley
Alana Riley. Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Grey, 2009-2010. HD color video, 2 min. 7 sec. Photo courtesy of Galerie Joyce Yahouda, Montréal.

And perhaps painting has become that banal. The artist is but a small part in the much greater world of art of the present and over time, slowly appearing and slowly disappearing. While the bold hyper-abstraction and materiality on display for the Extreme Painting exhibits at other galleries does speak to the local history of abstract painting (Paul-Emile Borduas’s Automatism comes to mind), the collection of work at Joyce Yahouda goes beyond material. The mélange of works inspired by painting takes a more distanced point of view and engages in a philosophical reflection on the state of contemporary painting.

Extreme Painting runs at Joyce Yahouda until 25 September. Extreme Painting also on display at the following galleries: René Blouin, Division, Trois Points, Parisian Laundry, PUSH, Simon Blais, Lilian Rodriguez, Roger Bellemare, Dominique Bouffard, Donald Browne, Orange, Pangée, D’Este, Han Art and Projex-Mtl.