De Visu – Shaping the space of the “white cube”

To what extent have contemporary multidisciplinary artistic practices transformed our perception of the gallery or museum? This question is at the heart of the exhibition Three paintings. A sculpture. Three spaces presented at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery at Concordia University. Based on recent works by Claude Tousignant, curator Michèle Thériault offers us an intriguing reflection on the relationship between the work of art, the viewer and traditional exhibition spaces, commonly called “white cubes”.

Recognized mainly for his role in the visual arts movement in the 1960s, the artistic activity of Claude Tousignant, now aged 75, has always remained attached to the rigorous practice of geometric abstraction. This exhibition gives the opportunity to appreciate the recent production of this artist and makes it possible to understand to what extent his research remains very current.

As the title suggests, the exhibition presents simply four works: a series of large-format monochrome white or black paintings and a painted aluminum sculpture. When you enter the room, you are first struck by the refined feeling that emanates from it. The works are carefully demarcated and presented in different sections of the gallery. This presentation is reminiscent of the 3X3 exhibition we saw at the same place last January and which showed the work of Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Dan Flavin. In fact, Tousignant’s large monochrome paintings have a minimalist sculptural quality that closely resembles the work of these artists. This impression is reinforced by the way they are placed, flush with the ground and slightly offset from the wall.

What interests the curator is the deeply “spatial” quality of Tousignant’s work. Faced with these works, the viewer is invited to reflect on his relationship with the exhibition space: the large monochrome abstractions echo the large white panels that divide the gallery while their geometric shapes also refer to the window, the ceiling and even in the office at the back of the room. The gaze is therefore not only attracted by the work on display but also by its context and its environment. We realize that the entire space of the gallery and all its components participate, in a symbiosis, in the creation of a larger “artistic installation”.

We read in the text of the catalog: “We know that a gallery has the power to transform a work and vice versa. It is therefore a material that is shaped and shaped. ” We thus become aware of the importance of the role of the curator and of the fact that our experience of art is directly influenced by the place of exhibition which “shapes” our point of view. Indeed, one can wonder if the works of Tousignant would have had the same impact if they had been placed in another way or shown in a more “public” space which would not be imbued with the same aura as that of this gallery. .

Conversely, one can wonder if the proliferation of contemporary artistic practices, anchored in sound, audiovisual or “relational aesthetics”, has not transformed our perception of these same premises. The question is therefore to know whether we are now witnessing a redefinition of these “traditional” art distribution centers, namely galleries and museums. On this subject, Michèle Thériault says: “We agree that art is manifested today in a variety of places. It would be wrong, however, to deny the still important role that institutional white space plays in the challenges of the art market and the consecration of the artist. ” It is therefore all the complex dimension linked to this “white space” that she skillfully succeeds in bringing out here.

Another interesting addition to this exhibition is the inauguration of two new programs which will be presented by the gallery and which revolve around the permanent collection. The first, entitled “Collection”, currently brings together paintings from the Square Dances series produced in 1964 and 1965 by Yves Gaucher. The second, entitled “Capsule”, offers us a reflection by the writer Scott Toguri McFarlane around two abstract works by the artist Roy Kiyooka.

Collaborator of Duty