Presence at Wilder & Davis


One of my favorite galleries is Wilder & Davis Luthiers. Mostly because its primary purpose is not to display art, but to fix and make violins, violas and cellos (and maybe the occasional double bass as well). It’s in a wonderful two story building just down the street from my place. I’m friends with Elizabeth Barbosa who is the director of the space. There’s something extremely comforting and nice about people who know bend and shape exotic wood so that it can sing also like not only having pretty pictures around, but also opening up their place of business so that other people can see them as well. All in my neighborhood as well, what more could you ask for?

Installation view of Judith Klugerman's work in Présence at Wilder & Davis
Installation view of Judith Klugerman’s work in Présence at Wilder & Davis

In my mind, it’s pretty much a perfect example of how Quebec culture works. Not only making sure it is an integral part of life, but so completely integrated into the fabric of the community that to be without the art life would seem weird. While Wilder & Davis Luthiers aren’t a government run Maison de la Culture, they are the for-profit commercial equivalent, and in certain respects might actually be doing better than any of the Maison de la Culture as they are open 8½ hours/day 6 days/week, which is far more than any MdC.

Installation view of Nicole Doré-Brune's work in the Violin room at Wilder and Davis.
Installation view of Nicole Doré-Brune’s work in the Violin room at Wilder and Davis.

This particular show is called Présence (it is up on their walls until July 20). Guest curated by Wah Wing Chan it features fourteen different artists all showing work on paper that somehow is an interpretation of the word presence. Kind of a stretch if you ask me, since it is an extremely vague and nebulous concept that could potentially be used on just about any piece of art.

None the less, tossing the title and concept out the window, it also was an opportunity to see some good work, some great work as well as some not so great work (as is the case in just about every group show I’ve ever seen or organized). On the positive side though by viewing art in a real-world situation, such as a working luthier, it enables the art that is not so strong (read as a polite way to say something not so good) to become background and not stick out so much.

Installation view of Jean Fitzgerald's work in Présence in the Cello room of Wilder and Davis.
Installation view of Jean Fitzgerald’s work in Présence in the Cello room of Wilder and Davis.

On the flip side, seeing good and great art in a real-world situation ends up making it somewhat more difficult to fully appreciate. With all the distractions, it can get a little bit dicey. But invariably great art will win out and win over its surroundings in kind of the same way that the sun always manages to be seen despite any temporary clouds.

Now I think is the time to start naming names, the fourteen artists are Hannah Alpha, Marie-Ange Brassard, Nicole Doré-Brunet, Jean Fitzgerald, Mustafa Hacalaki, Julianna Joos, Ingeborg Jürgensen Hiscox, Judith Klugerman, Ann McCall, Mary Milne, Yveline Montiglio, Rolande Pelletier, Anaïs Ronceray and Todd Stewart.

Todd Stewart, Saint Zotique, Print, 2011
Todd Stewart, Saint Zotique, Print, 2011

Google Street View of the same house.

There was nothing really earth shattering. As I mentioned, the art ran the gamut from not good to very good. The combination of the instruments and the art had a calming effect, not quite the same as being in a church, but similar. It gave a certain weight to the prints that I don’t think they would have had in say a cafe. A sense of comfort if you will.

Another reason why I’m not all that keen on the concept of the exhibit is that Présence (in French) and Presence (in English) have different meanings. The primary definition in both languages is fairly similar, but once you get below the surface – which, to my understanding is what art is supposed to do – the meanings diverge widely, with the French being much closer to the ideas of church and spirit, and the English sticking to the more concrete. But that all being said, it’s still a good collection of artists in an extremely nice setting that is not your standard issues white cube.

Présence at Galerie Wilder & Davis, 257 Rachel Est until July 20.