Riopelle Exibition a Success

With the excitement and utter anticipation of a new fall semester, what is the best way to kick off the first days of a new academic year? You got it… play hooky!

Come on, it’s so much fun and they won’t really know you’re not there until they read off the class list and figure out you’re actually not there. But even then, tell them you got lost, I’m only a directionally challenged first-year student.” Anyway, they’ll most probably just hand out a course outline and read it to you because after all, it’s university and we haven’t yet mastered the phonetic skills required to do it on our own.

So, with all this free time on your hands, what better to do than become immersed in Canadian culture.

For a limited time you can experience our own Montreal grown, Automatist-lovin’ art superstar- Riopelle.

Upon Jean-Paul Riopelle’s death last March, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) commemorated his life with a long-since prepared retrospective.

It certainly demands our attention as it presents for the first time all of the artist’s paintings, works on paper and sculpture in the museum’s collection as well as many others which were generously loaned and will be shown for the first time in public.

Having studied under Paul Emile Borduas and a co-signer of the manifesto Refus Global in the 40’s, Riopelle’s oeuvre is firmly founded in the automatist’s particular ideology of abstraction.

His early works resembling Pollock’s frantic ‘action painting’ like Untitled (Large Composition) (1951) and Composition (1952) are large canvases thickly laden with a web of multicolour paint whose tactile texture begs to be touched when grumpy monsieur security dude averts his eyes.

However impressive, the numerous canvases in this style become slightly repetitious and the violent “paint ball gun splattered” composition becomes unnerving.

Despite this they do serve to trace his progression to far more captivating works in the 1950’s when his gentle canvases became a tapestry of illuminating colors.

Such works as Sun Spray (1954) and The Jacob Chatou (1954) are created with the smooth softness of the palette knife or spatula and like a computer screen displaying its color card, deliver endless shades of bright, luminous colors.

Indeed, as if he smashed a masterful stained glass window and glued it back together in random brick shaped arrangement these works remain the masterpieces of his 1950’s ‘Mosaic period.’

While the aforementioned works leave a lasting impression on the viewer, his final paintings and revived sculpture after the 60’s to his death, areceived the most praise from critics, and earned him international recognition and the title of ‘the greatest Canadian artist of his time.’

This period is almost exclusively devoted to his love of nature, a relationship which he describes as replacing the now obsolete “common symbolic language” of abstraction.

During this period Riopelle’s works shifted to a subtle representational style and his Homage to Grey Owl (1970), Morning at Cape Tourmente (1990) and Mid Lent/Merry go Round (1990) were created in a final exploration of techniques, materials and subject matter.

Altogether, these 73 creations tracing Riopelle’s earliest works under Automatist influence to his figurative ‘nature’ paintings and sculptures are a definite must see for any abstract or Canadian art enthusiast.

The show ends Sept. 29 at the Michael and Renata Hornstein Pavilion at 1379 Sherbrooke Street West. If abstraction isn’t your bag then stay tuned to the MMFA’s next exhibition Richelieu starting Sept. 20.


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