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Arts

Nuit Blanche: The Contemporary Art Museum

Posted by Christine / March 6, 2013

20130305-Cohen.jpg Saturday night, I stealthily angled my body sideways, hunched slightly, and slipped through the crowds milling around Place-des-Arts -a city sashaying method I've perfected over the years. I paused and wiped away the snowflakes that had clustered over my eyelashes to observe a Ferris Wheel whose frame was outlined with vibrant blue and fuchsia lights. Leaving the whirl of fluorescence behind me, I eventually landed at the end of a line curling around the Contemporary Art Museum. Rosy-cheeked children in snowsuits sat on their fathers' shoulders while the adult boots below shuffled along intermittently. Couples leaned in to one another for added warmth or for added romance, maybe both. Their coats, all of them, were dusted with snow.

Once inside, I attended four exhibits in the following order: A Matter of Abstraction, On Abstraction, Lynne Cohen, and Laurent Grasso.

The abstract art exhibits displayed a hundred or so works produced between 1939 and now. The collection boasted a vast array of mediums such as: paint, sculpture, drawing, photograph, and video. Despite this versatility in expression, there were many commonalities between the pieces. Use of texture could be seen as much in generous sweeps of paint on canvas as in the massive sculptures that protruded from the floors and walls. Use of pattern could be observed in television static as well as oil paint color blocking. Quebec artists were prominently featured here.

According to the official Contemporary Art Museum website, the Lynne Cohen exhibit "... features forty photographs by Lynne Cohen, most of them recently produced. Since the early 1970s, Cohen has been using a view camera to photograph "found" interior spaces, always empty of occupants, which the works' titles usually do not specifically identify... Whatever the (sometimes ominous) nature of the places pictured, the artist underscores the humour, artifice and illusion that lie therein, documenting her fascination with how "the world echoes art.""

I would highly recommend you attend this exhibit with one or more people. I walked through the rooms of photographs with a friend and we took a particular joy in stopping before each one, absorbing clues, and speculating as to the where the shot was taken. The emptiness of the pictured locations, the lack of people actively using the spaces, lent them an ambiguity of purpose. Even with the inclusion of unusual objects, like taxidermy or mannequins, it was still a surprisingly difficult guessing-game. A pool's tiles did not appear so different from a waiting room's tiles or a home office could be mistaken for a business lounge. Many photographs elicited complete confusion. One such image depicted a room carpeted with Astro Turf and featured a small pine tree, a cushioned chair, a surveillance camera, and what appeared to be a two-way mirror. "Whoa. What?"

According to the official Contemporary Art Museum website, "The exhibition Laurent Grasso: Uraniborg, co-produced by the Musee d'art contemporain de Montreal and the Jeu de Paume in Paris, offers a unique foray into space and time. Videos, paintings from the Studies into the Past series, drawings, neons, objects and sculptures cohabit in a presentation conceived by the artist as a work in itself. Here, Grasso continues his exploration of space and temporality as he seeks to create what he calls a "false historical memory." In this in-between place where true and false intermingle, the all-pervading observation of the sky underlies a broader examination of seeing, watching and surveillance, at the same time as it opens up a path to possible worlds."

This exhibit was displayed within a dark labyrinth of portable walls. You can literally get lost in it (uh, not that I'm speaking from experience). In a removed artificial space such as this, it's easy to take liberties with reality. In my overly referential mind, I imagined a particularly humorless museum attendant as a uniformed Minotaur and smiled to myself. A wild and wicked kind of smile.

The collected works here were so diverse, the overall experience was incredibly stimulating; a quick shift in cinematic mood from somber to frantic, a burst of florescent light here and use of shadow there, a bold color image, then black and white cross-hatched drawings.

My favorite portion of this exhibit was a film about The Park of the Monsters (Parco dei Mostri) in northern Lazio, Italy. The gardens were created during the 16th century and were populated with massive statues that were frequently carved directly into the relief. The creatures depicted include: Pegasus, Orcus, Hannibal's elephant, Cerberus, and Aphrodite. It is Pier Francesco Orsini's work, who apparently created the gardens while mourning his wife, whom he loved deeply.

These exhibits are still on display at the Contemporary Art Museum. See them while you can!

The Contemporary Art Museum is located at 185 St. Catherine West.

Image of a photograph by Lynne Cohen from the Contemporary Art Museum's official website.

Discussion

11 Comments

Estela / April 19, 2013 at 06:10 am
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