Silent nights: Fernand Leduc at Olga Korper
Well, it's about that time, when everything non-retail discount related rolls up its front steps, bars the door, and waits for the inevitable necessity of a new year to re-engage with the world. Over the next couple of weeks, very little will be happening in the art scene, for this very reason; most galleries will shut down until at least the first week of January. That said, I recently saw a show that wil stretch well into the new year, at Olga Korper, that I'm more than happy to recommend.
You might have come across the satisfying show of the radical Quebec group Les Automatistes at the Varley Art Gallery in Markham, which follows their activity from 1941 to 1960. The gang of young Quebec artists, which included Paul-Emile Borduas, Magdeleine Arbour, Marcel Barbeau, Bruno Cormier, Claude Gavreau, Marcelle Ferron, Françoise Sullivan, were a genuine creative and social revolution, adding to their artistic activity which, as the name suggests, was drawn from Surrealist ideas of primitivism and the unconscious, a bonafide manifesto: Le Refus Global, or Total Refusal, was drafted by Borduas in 1948, and signed by all members, and it did nothing more than issue a comprehensive challenge to Quebecois social, political and religious standards of the day. They called for "an untamed need for liberation," attacking the "cassocks that have remained the sole repositories of faith, knowledge, truth, and national wealth" in French Canada.
Needless to say, it was daring and risky, and sparked an outcry; Borduas lost his job at Ecole du Meuble, a Montreal Museum, and members were blackballed by official Quebec cultural institutions and society -- which, some contend, still exists today. Some historians generously also mark the manifesto as the point where contemporary French Canadian culture began.
In any case, one of those young ruffians is showing at the Korper Gallery through January 23. Fernand Leduc, now 93, has here a serene suite of abstract colourfields notable for a sense of absence; all the Modern hallmarks are here, stressing light, colour (or its lack) and proportion over all; it's a quietly contemplative assemblage of recent work, and easy enough to forget that, at one time, this was the stuff of revolution. Don't. Leduc was one of the few true radicals this country's art world has ever produced. Just this once, let your mind guide your eye for the full experience.
Happy holidays to you and yours. See you in January.