Jean-Paul Riopelle exhibition opens at Nationwide Gallery of Canada

The present, which is offered chronologically by decade, takes up a number of thousand sq. ft of ground area within the gallery and contains many epic summary work.

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In case your view of the work of Jean-Paul Riopelle is restricted to thickly painted abstracts on large canvases, the brand new exhibition on the Nationwide Gallery of Canada will depart your head spinning with the range and creativeness of the well-known Canadian artist, who died in 2002. 

Riopelle: Crossroads in Time is a placing retrospective of the artist’s work, the grande finale in a 12 months of celebrations marking the a centesimal anniversary of his beginning on Oct. 7, 1923.  It runs till subsequent spring.

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The gallery’s new director, Jean-François Bélisle, is a Canadian artwork cognoscenti who’s been immersed in Riopelle’s work for months, beginning initially of the 12 months when Bélisle was nonetheless government director and chief curator of the Musée d’artwork de Joliette, which featured a centenary exhibition of 15 works by Riopelle. 

In contrast, the variety of items offered in Crossroads on the Nationwide Gallery of Canada — the primary main exhibition underneath Bélisle’s management — is sort of tenfold, with greater than 130 works on view. 

“I feel that it’s actually attention-grabbing to shut the Riopelle 12 months with an exhibition like this,” Bélisle mentioned in an interview. “I discovered that quite a lot of the tasks which have occurred on Riopelle prior to now 12 months have been very targeted on a selected interval, or particular topic or particular approach, however that is like the massive coming-together second the place you could have entry to fifty years’ price of artmaking.”

The present, which is offered chronologically by decade, takes up a number of thousand sq. ft of ground area within the gallery and contains lots of these epic summary work. Nevertheless it additionally contains Riopelle’s sculptures, prints, collages and figurative drawings — in addition to a considerate number of items by up to date artists that assist as an example Riopelle’s affect, and generally present a counterpoint to his perspective. 

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The curator of the exhibition is Sylvie Lacerte, a Canadian artwork historian whose space of experience is up to date artwork. Notably, she was not a Riopelle specialist when she was recruited three years in the past because the present’s visitor curator. As a substitute of an professional, the gallery needed a recent perspective on the prolific Montreal native. 

What she discovered throughout her analysis shocked and delighted her, Lacerte mentioned in an interview. 

Sylvie Lacerte
Sylvie Lacerte, curator of the Jean-Paul Riopelle exhibition on the Nationwide Gallery of Canada. Photograph by Jean Levac /Postmedia

“As I found Riopelle’s work all through the 50 years of his follow, I noticed issues I had by no means seen myself, and I used to be simply astounded at how up to date a few of these works nonetheless look,” she mentioned. “A few of them, just like the collages from the 60s, look so recent. The shape, the sensation and every part provide the impression they have been accomplished the day earlier than yesterday. That was an enormous shock and it received me actually excited.”

Riopelle got here to consideration early in his profession as one of many 16 Quebecois artists and intellectuals to problem Le Refus world (Whole Refusal) in 1948, an anti-establishment and anti-religious manifesto that referred to as for a brand new social and inventive motion within the province. In rejecting the tutorial and non secular teachings that restricted freedom of expression, the group was impressed by surrealism and its principle of automatism, a stream-of-consciousness method to art-making. 

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In his early years, Riopelle favored to work on this trend, laying out his paints and instruments and dealing day and night time till a portray was full. His 1949 portray, The Inexperienced Parrot, which is included within the exhibition, is a good instance of the approach, Lacerte mentioned. 

Riopelle’s automatiste works advanced into his well-liked mosaic work of the Fifties, which have been created, not with brushes, however with a spatula, knife and thick globs of oil paint. Considered one of his most well-known work of this era is the huge triptych Pavane (Tribute to the Water Lilies), which reveals a sculptural high quality in the way in which the textures seize and mirror mild.

Via the 60s and 70s, Riopelle continued to experiment, producing collages created from prints he had made, and casting sculptures in bronze. A sequence of items within the exhibition present his fascination with nature, together with his monumental sculptures, The Bear and The Accompanied Owl. Within the 80s, he labored with stencils and spray paint, and got here up with the goose motif that was a trademark of that interval.

Additionally included are the black, white and gray work from the Iceberg sequence that illustrate Riopelle’s fascination with the Far North, a area he visited a number of instances within the late 70s. Hung in an all-white room, the impact is like strolling immediately into an iceberg. 

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So as to add to the affect, a sculptural illustration of a whale skeleton, product of plastic patio chairs by Vancouver artist Brian Jungen, hangs close by, whereas one other piece by Caroline Monnet, an artist of Anishinaabe-French heritage who grew up in Gatineau, confronts Riopelle’s romanticized view of the area. Her work, entitled The Future Left Behind, consists of a whole lot of squares of air-barrier membrane sewn on material, serving as a robust reminder of the Inuit housing disaster.

Different up to date artists whose work is featured in Crossroads embody Françoise Sullivan – who celebrated her hundredth birthday this 12 months, Roseline Granet, Thomas Corriveau, Patrick Coutu, Manuel Mathieu, Marc-Antoine Ok. Phaneuf, Marc Séguin and Aïda Vosoughi. 

Riopelle stopped making artwork in 1992 for well being causes. Considered one of his ultimate items was the fresco, Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg, a tribute to his long-time associate, the American artist Joan Mitchell, who died of most cancers that 12 months. Crossroads contains work by Mitchell, in addition to work that Riopelle created in the identical type as Rosa, with spray paint and stencils.

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“Some individuals, establishments and collectors, have been a bit shocked as a result of they’d have favored him to remain within the comfy interval of his mosaics within the 50s, for which he turned internationally identified, however he wasn’t like that,” mentioned Lacerte. “It wasn’t his curiosity if it bought. He actually needed to evolve in his follow. He went from discovery to discovery, and that’s the way in which he was.”

Riopelle: Crossroads in Time is on view in Ottawa till April 7. Afterwards, it is going to be on the Winnipeg Artwork Gallery from June 1 to Sept. 29, 2024. 

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