Concordia artists take the MAC 

By Barbara Black

With 135 works by 38 artists, the Quebec Triennial: Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed, is one of the most ambitious shows of contemporary Quebec art ever mounted by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC).

Adad Hannah, <em>Aphrodite</em>, 2008. Digital colour  print, 1/3. 101.6 x 135.9 cm, Image produced with the permission of the Prado Museum, Madrid. Magnifying glass

Adad Hannah, Aphrodite, 2008. Digital colour print, 1/3. 101.6 x 135.9 cm, Image produced with the permission of the Prado Museum, Madrid.

It took three years to put together. The proud curators call it “a veritable research laboratory,” because they acted as investigators, seeking out art everywhere in the province. The resulting show is a group portrait of the current art scene chez nous — design, installation, painting, performance, photography, sculpture and video.

The Globe and Mail wrote about it admiringly under the headline “Is Montreal the real art capital of Canada?” Calling it “tightly considered and expertly installed,” the Globe’s Sarah Milroy wrote of its vitality and freshness. “Instead of received ideas, they have delivered us news.”

It didn’t escape her notice that 18 of the 38 exhibitors at the monumental show attended, graduated from or have taught art at Concordia.

Nicolas Baier, who designed the huge, leafy work on the exterior east-facing wall of the EV building, has a magnificent installation based on scanned mirrors. The effect of the work, appropriately named Vanités 2, is of a postmodern quilt, or to use his words, “visual polyphony.”

Adrian Norvid’s work is redolent of the 1960s and robustly humorous. He has three works in the Triennial. One is a big cartoon of aging hippies he calls Hermit Hamlet. He painted a Hammond organ entirely in a black-and-white pattern, calling it Very, Very Shaky.

Adad Hannah shows arresting photos that combine revered artworks with live models to point up the relationships between past and present, stasis and fluidity. He explained in the catalogue that he has been making real-time video-recorded tableaux vivants for the last seven years. “By creating videos that mimic the appearance of a photograph, I can stretch out the privileged moment of photography.”

It’s also a provocation. By showing unorthodox behaviour in a museum, Hannah is commenting on how we regard great art, keeping it at arm’s length.

Cynthia Girard, a poet as well as a visual artist, is represented by large paintings of apparently random objects — a broom, a door, turtles, a chair, a dragonfly, a checkered tablecloth. She knows that as the artist, she controls this environment. “The guilty parties beg me with languid eyes, knowing that I can make them disappear with a mere sweep of the brush.”

Etienne Zack, <em>Monkey or Conduit</em>, 2007. 198 x 167 cm. Courtesy Equinox Gallery, Vancouver, and Art45, Montreal. Magnifying glass

Etienne Zack, Monkey or Conduit, 2007. 198 x 167 cm. Courtesy Equinox Gallery, Vancouver, and Art45, Montreal.

Etienne Zack’s “paintings about painting” got a lot of favourable attention from the media. The rising young artist, who won the prestigious RBC Painting Competition in 2005 and has spent most of the past decade in Vancouver, is the son of Laurie Zack, Director of Concordia’s Department of Internal and Web Communications.

Here is the list of Triennial exhibitors from Concordia: Nicolas Baier (Attended 94), Anthony Burnham (BFA 97), Patrick Coutu (MFA 05), Michel de Broin (Attd), Manon De Pauw (BFA 97), Louis-Philipe Eno (BFA 04), Cynthia Girard (Visiting Professor, Studio Arts), Adad Hannah (MFA 04), Emanuel Licha (BFA 96), Michael Merrill (PT, Studio Arts), Tricia Middleton (MFA 05), Adrian Norvid (GrDip 85), Jonathan Plante (BFA 00), David Ross (BFA 00), Carlos Sanchez (BFA 04), Karen Tam (BFA 00), Chi-Chien Wang (MFA 06) and Etienne Zack (Attd 97).

Some of the artists have been giving talks at the museum about their work. Those yet to be given include Plante, Tam and Hannah on June 18, and De Pauw on June 25. The talks start at 6 p.m. There are tours of the exhibit on Wednesday evenings (one is in English at 6:30) and on Sundays at 1 and 3 p.m. in French and English. Entry to the MAC is free on Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m.
La Triennale québécoise continues at the MAC on Ste. Catherine St. near Place des Arts until Sept. 7.


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