Art worlds collide in The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Big Bang exhibition, with filmmakers, fashion designers and musicians sharing gallery space with writers, architects and mural/graffiti artists, and more – each inspired by works of art in the museum’s century-spanning permanent collection. The multi-disciplinary, multi-media (and free) Big Bang isn’t your typical museum fare, but perhaps it should be…
Yes, in a relative-to-art-not-physics way, Big Bang lives up to its name, producing exciting new art via the pairing of different art forms from different eras. In this overt way, Big Bang points out why big museums and galleries exist in the first place: to show us where we’ve come from, where we are and where we might be going. That feeling of being a part of history is writ large in an entire gallery room covered in the black-and-white mural art and graffiti of Montreal collective En Masse paired with A.R. Penck’s 1982 cave-painting-like The Start of the Lion Hunt.
It’s also felt in filmmaker Denys Arcand and artist Adad Hannah’s installation: a celebration and a critique of pop art spanning the last half of the 20th century, done in a faux-leopard-skin party vibe. And even in Claude Cormier’s wall of plush toys looking at and being looked at by a 12th-century stone head of Christ.
In each of the exhibition’s offerings is something universal, a very human, if often unconventional, expression that binds artists and their art with viewers. Big Bang begins, as many good, refreshing things do, with a joke – graphic artist Michel Rabagliati, playing off Rodin’s The Sirens, pokes fun at the reverence given to art museums as hallowed, high-art ground, when in reality, much of the art here seeks to reflect life right back at us from new perspectives. This liveliness runs right through Big Bang, from Jeannot Painchaud’s translucent, filmed circus acts paired with Riopelle’s The Circus, to Jennifer Alleyn and Nancy Huston’s dreamy, heady take on the work of Edmund Alleyn, to an art-packed room that reverberates with the avant-guard jazz of Jean Derome.
Restful moments occur throughout the exhibition too, especially in landscape-related pairings such as photographer Geneviève Cadieux’s massive sky shots framing Tom Thompson’s small painting Northern Lights, and Collectif Rita’s rolling, soft benches that reflect the water, hills and sky of Lawren Harris’s Morning, Lake Superior – and provide a comfortable place to contemplate. Time is also needed to take in Wadji Mouawad and art director Raymond Marius Boucher’s installation Vierge au couteau, a deep, somewhat disturbing consideration of birth, life and death, formed around a brilliant Catherine Opie photograph.
After seeing the Big Bang exhibition, go downstairs to see a stunning retrospective of Montreal-born painter Dorothea Rockburne’s work. In bright colours and bold shapes, the 50 paintings in the exhibition, called In My Mind’s Eye, balance emotion with mathematical logic, surface with depth, to intelligently explore philosophical questions and the artistic process. As well, the museum’s contemporary art collection includes a new installation work by Quebec artists Louis Couturier and Jacky Georges Lafargue looks into daily life in the community of Resolute Bay in Nunavut. The museum’s newly inaugurated Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art is also open to the public for free, with featured exhibitions such as Michael Merrill’s Inner Space, Tête-à-tête: Portraits of Quebec Artists by Richard-Max Tremblay, and Quebec and Canadian Art 1980-2010.
Big Bang, November 6, 2011 to January 22, 2012
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1380 Sherbrooke West, (514) 285-2000