September 27, 2012

Jean Paul Riopelle and the Montreal School

Exhibition extended to November 17, 2012

October 13 to November 10, 2012

Please join Ms. Yseult Riopelle and TrépanierBaer for the opening reception of Jean Paul Riopelle and the Montréal School, Saturday, October 13 from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Opening remarks: Yves Trépanier and Jeffrey Spalding at 3:00 p.m.

In 2006, four years after Jean Paul Riopelle’s death, the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) organized a retrospective exhibition of the artist’s oeuvre. This comprehensive survey travelled to the Hermitage State Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia, and to the Musée Cantini in Marseille, France. It was long overdue:  the last exhibition of his work – which had spanned the years 1946 to 1977 – had been organized by the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1981 twenty-five years prior. The Honourable Serge Joyal in his introduction to the MMFA catalogue wrote: ” Jean Paul Riopelle’s oeuvre is so vast, complex and robust that it would be risky, or perhaps even pretentious, to hope to contain it within a single exhibition, however judicious and authoritative it may be.” Nevertheless the MMFA and its curator Stéphane Aquin took it on with an eye to present, to the fullest extent possible, the work of an artist whose robust and prodigious career had evolved with sustained energy, self-critique and heart for a period of over more than fifty years.

The critical appraisal of Riopelle’s work and career varies disparately within a constant lobbing of assessments being tossed from one critic, art historian and auctioneer to another, often pitting one body of work, or one decade of his career against another, meanwhile ignoring or discounting entire bodies of work; however as Stéphane Aquin states in his catalogue essay for the MMFA exhibition: “Riopelle’s achievement is not confined to the legendary 1950s. There is the artistic maturity of the 1960s, his sculpture, and his use of engraving, enameling, collage and charcoal. And then there is the final work, executed in spray paint, whose language is just as extraordinary and accomplished as the mosaics.” It is in this spirit of fullness that TrépanierBaer presents Jean Paul Riopelle and the Montréal School.

The exhibition will feature works from several periods of Riopelle’s career including works from the mature 1960s period, a major work from the critically acclaimed 1977 Iceberg series, as well as large scale sculptural works, collages, drawings and prints. Additionally, the exhibition will also feature works by artists who worked concurrently with Riopelle, including works by Barbeau, Letendre, Gauvreau, Ferron and works by artists who came later such as Edmund Alleyn, Jauran and Jean McEwen.

We believe that despite the range of commentaries about his oeuvre, many artists working today hold Jean Paul Riopelle in high esteem. He, like Philip Guston, is an artist who continues to influence, fascinate, inspire and inform. During the organizational phase of this exhibition we asked several artists TrépanierBaer represents to provide us with their thoughts about Riopelle: these comments will be posted online in the upcoming days prior to the opening of the exhibition. But it was curator Jeffrey Spalding in the closing remarks of his poetic essay for the catalogue for the 2006 MMFA exhibition that best summarized what some had put forward. Wearing his artist’s/painter’s hat Spalding wrote:  “When I first encountered his new work I knew instantly how I felt, I didn’t know what I thought. It was so urgent, so shocking, and so breathtaking…. I felt both elated and deflated. How strikingly new and vital…. The questions kept coming; they kept coming…. who else could re-conjoin late modernism with its noble beginnings except a genuine original contributor…. Many of us sat by as Riopelle performed for us miraculous feats; decade after decade of repeated creative leaps. I never got to meet him. I was planning to tell him that he had helped me immensely as a role model. He braced disdain and kept making wonderful paintings when it was not clever, opportune or politic to do so. He showed that it was possible to follow your feelings without abandoning astute, thoughtful self-critique…. He demonstrated that making objects of great physical beauty is still a serious, noble mission: that smart is heart. I wish I’d had the chance to tell him I thought so.

We invite you to join us along with Ms.Yseult Riopelle on Saturday, October 13 to celebrate the opening of Jean Paul Riopelle and the Montréal School.


Image Credit:
Jean Paul Riopelle
Titanic II, 1977
Oil on canvas, 180 x 200 cm