10-10-18 3:00 PM EDT | Email Article

Marcel Barbeau. In Movement

Canada NewsWire

New Exhibition
From October 11, 2018 to January 6, 2019

QUÉBEC CITY, QC, Oct. 10, 2018 /CNW Telbec/ - The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) is proud to devote a major retrospective to Marcel Barbeau (1925-2016), a bold, committed, uncompromising artist and a well-known figure in Québec contemporary art. From October 11, 2018 to January 6, 2019, Marcel Barbeau. In Movement will offer an outstanding panorama of the artist's output through more than 100 especially rich, diverse works spanning seven decades.

Marcel Barbeau, Rétine prétentieuse, 1965. Acrylic on canvas, 241.5 × 203 cm. Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montréal. Gift of Marie-Marthe Huot Elie (985.002) © Estate of Marcel Barbeau Photo: MNBAQ, Idra Labrie // Marcel Barbeau, Chanson de salamandre, 2013. Acrylic on canvas, 137 × 137 cm. Ninon Gauthier Collection, courtesy of the Trépanier Baer Gallery, Calgary © Estate of Marcel Barbeau Photo: MNBAQ, Idra Labrie // Marcel Barbeau, Bec de brise, 1959. Oil on canvas, 148.3 × 298.4 cm. Musée de Lachine. Gift of Chantal Laberge (RD‑1988‑L15‑37) © Estate of Marcel Barbeau Photo: MNBAQ, Idra Labrie // Marcel Barbeau, Prum, Prum, Foula, 1969. Acrylic on canvas, 417 x 244 cm. Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal. Gift of Gérard Lortie (D 70 5 P1) © Estate of Marcel Barbeau Photo: Denis Farley (CNW Group/Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec)

The biggest exhibition ever devoted to the artist will thus encompass his entire career, from the mind-1940s to his most recent work, and elucidate the noteworthy periods of his artistic development to attentively take a new look at this vital but little-known approach.

Centred on five flagship themes, the exhibition will highlight outstanding works, including: Rosier-feuilles (1946), Natashkouan (1956), Tomac (1960), Rétine optimiste ou Salute (1964), Kitchenombi (1972), Fenêtre sur l'avenir (1991-1992) and Graviers dressés sur l'algue (1999). Visitors can also admire La Piémontaise (1988), a newly restored masterly sculpture.

"Like the world we live in and life, my paintings and sculptures are constantly changing. I like to surprise others and surprise myself, since each surprise offers another glimpse of the beauty of the world."
Marcel Barbeau

Barbeau, the perpetual explorer

Barbeau helped initiate numerous avant-garde currents and artistic trends in the country. In the 1940s and 1950s, he made a vital contribution to the development of nascent pictorial abstraction and is internationally renowned for his contribution in the 1960s to optical art.

Spurred by astonishing creative boldness and imbued with an insatiable aesthetic curiosity, Barbeau never confined himself to a single direction or form of expression. Over time, his multidisciplinary attraction expressed itself in such varied artistic disciplines as drawing, painting, collage and sculpture and in pictorial performances produced with actors, musicians and dancers. Moreover, his role in the development of transdisciplinary performance was recognized in the summer of 2013 in Paris with his participation in the Nouvelles vagues international event organized by the Palais de Tokyo.

In fact, the artist was a precursor in the decompartmentalization of artistic boundaries. Very early on in his career, Barbeau adopted the stance of a researcher in the development of his approach. He embarked upon a singular artistic path free of any compromise that constantly renewed his output.

Exhibition highlights

Among the 100-odd works assembled for the exhibition, visitors can admire several masterpieces by Marcel Barbeau in the exhibition rooms of the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion. Rosier-feuilles (1946) is a major work from the 1940s. It features a composition in which the hierarchy of the elements gradually blurs and the viewer is drawn by the movement of the strokes that traverse the entire surface of the painting.

Mention should also be made of the strength of Tomac (1960), one of the most accomplished paintings of the period, which explores the concept of a latent fall, a force that is at once tranquil and tragic, in which the shapes seem poised to fight to preserve their position in space.

The painting Rétine optimiste ou Salute (1964) is an emblematic work of optical art. Barbeau produced it in New York, where he lived from 1964 to 1968, stimulated by the hubbub, furious pace and dazzle of the city's neon signs.

The painting Kitchenombi (1972) stems from the artist's first pictorial performance at the Théâtre de Caen in France in 1972 at a poetry recital organized by director Gabriel Gascon, in association with percussionist Vincent Dionne, during which a series of five monumental paintings was produced before the audience.

Lastly, the large sculpture Fenêtresur l'avenir (1991-1992) seems to showcase the narration of the shapes in the artist's paintings (Les Grappes lucides and Sentinelle desondes), which evoke the numerous viewpoints that the sculptural volume offers. The correlation between Barbeau's two-dimensional and three-dimensional works is at its height in this series.

Marcel Barbeau, in a nutshell

Marcel Barbeau was born in Montréal on February 18, 1925. Between 1942 and 1947, he studied at the École du Meuble, a linchpin of Montréal's artistic avant-garde at the time, where he trained in cabinetmaking and design. Paul-Émile Borduas, whose influence is acknowledged on the development of his initial practice, was one of this teachers. His classmates included Jean-Paul Riopelle and Maurice Perron. With them, he frequented Borduas' workshop, which welcomed young people from different cultural backgrounds sensitive to the avant-garde who wished to unshackle themselves from the conservatism of artistic institutions, a core group that shortly thereafter formed Les Automatist.

Different periods shaped his output. The first, so-called "automatiste" period, from 1946 to 1956, highlighted the free expression of the subconscious and spontaneous gestures. Around 1946, his allover paintings, displaying vigorous lines, spurts and drips of paint, were unique in Québec's artistic landscape. Big paintings and black-and-white drawings were the hallmarks of his work in 1959 and 1960. The negation of the boundaries of the frame then gave way to the duality between form and content in his compositions. In the early 1960s, the artist initiated an optical experience and took an interest in kinetic painting. This new research, which evokes contemporary music, is centred on the illusion of movement. His works reflect the op art movement, a striking trend in New York and in Europe, of which he is one of the pioneers in Canada. The 1970s witnessed the artist's pictorial performances produced in collaboration with musicians and dancers, his return to sculpture and the adoption of a vaguely impressionistic tachiste aesthetic in the 1980s and, more recently, recourse to geometric, dynamic abstraction.

Marcel Barbeau's works have been frequently exhibited and are widely collected in Canada, the United States and Europe. Prestigious awards, including the Governor General's Award and the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas, both received in 2013, have highlighted his outstanding career and acknowledged contribution to the contemporary visual arts. The artist sustained his artistic practice until his death on January 2, 2016

A rich, diverse, bold catalogue

A publication accompanies this huge retrospective. The 242-page book, richly illustrated with nearly 250 photos, includes an essay by Eve-Lyne Beaudry, Curator of Contemporary Art at the MNBAQ and Curator of the Exhibition; a portfolio of all of the works exhibited; Souvenirs épars d'un poète visuel, a testimonial from art historian and sociologist Ninon Gauthier, PhD, the artist's widow; and Danser la peinture, an essay by artist, writer, pianist and composer Rober Racine. An illustrated chronology elaborated in collaboration with Marc-Antoine K. Phaneuf and Denis Castonguay rounds out the catalogue, whose graphic design was assigned to Marc-André Roy.

Distributed by Dimedia, Marcel Barbeau. In Movement is a bilingual work (in French and English) available at the MNBAQ bookstore-boutique and in bookstores for $49.95
ISBN : 978-2-551-26325-7

We wish to thank the law firm Séguin Racine for its generous contribution to the production of this catalogue.

Formes instants, a previously unreleased musical experience

On December 11, 1958, Marcel Barbeau attended a new music concert at the Université de Montréal, where he discovered Stockhausen's music and experienced an aesthetic thunderbolt. The new sounds transformed his output and spurred him to embark on new artistic explorations. To reflect Barbeau's passion for contemporary music, the MNBAQ invites visitors to discover the exhibition through the Formes instants musical experience. Through 30 very brief musical gestures embroidered with coloured silences that emerge and create unexpected harmony between the works and the sounds, visitors can explore the artist's universe through a truly astonishing musical touch. Curator Yannick Plamondon selected the musical excerpts that make up this soundscape through an appeal launched among Québec contemporary composers.

We wish to thank the law firm Bellemare and Bender & Associés for theirs generous contribution to the production of this musical experience.


The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec has organized the exhibition Marcel Barbeau. In Movement presented from October 11, 2018 to January 6, 2019 and generously supported by the Canada Council.

Project Director
Christine Conciatori
Director of Exhibitions and Mediation, MNBAQ

Eve-Lyne Beaudry,
Curator of Contemporary Art
(1950 à 2000), MNBAQ

Set and Graphic Design
Marie-Renée Bourget-Harvey

Operations Management
Yasmée Faucher, MNBAQ

Projet Manager
Mylène Renaud

Mediation Coordinator
Marie-Hélène Audet, MNBAQ

Digital Mediation
Anne-Josée Lacombe, MNBAQ

The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec is a state corporation funded by the Gouvernement du Québec.

Marcel Barbeau. In Movement
Pierre Lassonde Pavilion of the MNBAQ
From October 11, 2018 to January 6, 2019


SOURCE Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec

View original content to download multimedia: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/October2018/10/c2273.html

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