Last week I went to see the Armand Vaillancourt exhibit at the Galerie Lounge TD in the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan. Off the top; I think that M. Vaillancourt is the bomb. Kick-Ass. About as close to godlike status you can get when you’re agnostic, atheistic or just can’t be bothered. So as advance warning, it is not likely that I am going to be objective.
The first thing that surprised me was that I wasn’t the only person in the gallery. I had heard that there had been some sort of peinture-en-direct event the week previous and figured that the folks behind the Jazz Festival, the Francofolies, the Hydro-Quebec festival of electricity (now that I write that name in jest, why hasn’t any Jewish, Hindu or Persian organization raised a fuss about Spectra completely co-opting Hanukah, Diwali and Chaharshanbe Suri? – For the agnostics, atheists and folk who just can’t be bothered in the house, Hanukah, Diwali and Chaharshanbe Suri some fairly heavy duty religious holidays that are also known as Festival of Light. The Spectra folk do this thing called the “Festival en lumiere” in order to rationalize how much money Hydro-Quebec gives them, that happens in February. Not that I’m saying anything. But just saying…
But I digress. Apologies. As I was saying, I completely and utterly expected to be the only person in the room, seeing as there hadn’t been any advertising that I had seen talking about how this was your last chance to see the Armand Vaillancourt exhibit. You know, the kind we’re about to be bombarded with for the Jean-Paul Gaultier show at the MBAM… But I wasn’t. There was actually a healthy crowd. I would venture a guess of about two dozen folk wandered in and around me during the hour that I hung out there. But as long as I’m being the extreme cynic, I’m convinced that all of them, all two dozen were heathen tourists from beyond our borders who wouldn’t know kick-ass art if it hit them in the ass and just were mindlessly following some hack tourist guide book that had taken journalistic shortcuts by republishing press releases issued by Spectra. Or maybe Spectra has started publishing tour guide books. I don’t know, but it was very surprising.
What wasn’t surprising, was that most of the work being exhibited was for sale and at very healthy prices I might add. Unfortunately I didn’t see any red dots signifying works that had sold. But that just might mean that the Spectra folk who are responsible for the gallery don’t know about red dots and how they are used to signify that a particular piece of art has in fact been sold. Although when I inquired at the desk (which thankfully was not staffed by a 20 year-old woman in a black micro mini skirt and 12 inch heels) if there was a list of all the works in the show, I was told that all the information was on the wall tags. Which would lead me to believe that if I had indeed (or one of the tourists) wanted to purchase a piece I would have been given M. Vaillancourt’s telephone number and told to contact him myself. So my best guess would be that a) nothing sold and b) that the Spectra folk don’t know about red dots.
But enough about the organization of the show, what about the art? Well, it was mostly made up of painting and prints. There were a couple of sculptures scattered about the room along with a couple of political pieces as well. The paintings and prints expressing quite clearly that M. Vaillancourt is an amazing sculptor. The political pieces show he has a great sense of humor but is better served earning his living as a sculptor than as a stand up comedian.
There’s not much that can be said about the colorful abstract paintings. Well actually there is an awful lot that can be said about them. Things like the colors, the method of application to the canvas, the density, the patterns that they create and lots more. So if I were to be more precise, there’s not an awful lot that I want to say about the colorful abstract paintings. And even less about the monochromatic abstract prints. They are perfectly suited for hotels, large corporations and benefit auctions, all places where people like having “serious” art but really don’t spend all that much time looking at it and where the name “Armand Vaillancourt” will elicit sage head nodding and depending on what benefit auction or large corporation certain feelings of Quebecois pride.
One look at the political pieces and you get the point. They’re the proverbial one-trick pony. Which depending on your point of view is either exactly how they are supposed to work; get the point across quickly, easily and forcefully. Or their downfall; simplistic, lacking any depth and cartoonish. I tend to think of them as both. Sort of like a three-dimensional editorial cartoon designed to bring attention to some cause through the use of M. Vaillancourt’s name. It would be nice to have shown some of the more obscure causes that M. Vaillancourt supports instead of going for well-known and easy ones. But no one asked me.
Which pretty much leaves us the maquettes or sculptures. There were four of them. If I remember correctly, they were called something like “Place Publique” or something else equally memorable (as an aside I made the complete and utter faux-pas of neither taking notes, nor taking pictures of the wall tags. I was totally unprofessional. Does anybody have a wet noodle handy? And sorry, I promise it won’t happen again.
But now that I have that out of the way, I gotta say that despite the silly cutouts of people from magazines, that they were drop-dead gorgeous and amazing. I, honest to god, caught myself on a couple of times doing one of those reverse whistle intakes of breath and even once letting out a long low whistle. If they hadn’t been playing so much music from the 1980s in the place where I’ve been writing this, I might have even gone so far as to quote the band Berlin.
All but one were on stainless steel bases and used (what I presume) were recycled bits of metal to create forms based on symmetry and repetition. They kind of prove (to me at least) that M. Vaillancourt is a master of the form (or should I write that Master of the Form?) At some point I’m going to have to ask him how he came up with the ideas for them and how difficult it was to make them. From the monochromatic prints it is possible to see how they would lead to the maquettes. And I truly hope that they are indeed maquettes and not fully realized sculptures, because they would be breathtaking if blown up to monument size.
Unfortunately my snapshots don’t do them the justice that they deserve. Some of them were placed directly in front of windows and I haven’t quite figured out what buttons I need to push on my camera when objects that I want to photograph are back lit and I also am not in the habit of carrying around a set of lights with me. Next time, I promise.
Beyond that, there wasn’t much. It kind of left me torn, one one side I really really liked the maquettes or sculptures. On the other side everything else kind of seemed “meh.” And while “I think that M. Vaillancourt is the bomb. Kick-Ass. About as close to godlike status you can get when you’re agnostic, atheistic or just can’t be bothered.” This show did nothing really to support my belief. I dunno, maybe the out and out commercialism in the “Galerie Lounge TD” or the way that everything was set up more as if it was a store than an art gallery had a stronger influence than I would like to admit.