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Suzy Lake, Une simulation authentique de... no 2 | A Genuine Simulation of... no. 2, 1974. Maquillage sur photographie noir et blanc. | Make-up on black-and-white photograph. Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. Achat, collection Saidye et Samuel Bronfman d’art canadien. | Purchase, Saidye and Samuel Bronfman Collection of Canadian Art.

Olivia Boudreau, Sorel Cohen, Raphaëlle de Groot, Suzy Lake, Claire Savoie, Jana Sterbak
From November 12th 2011 to December 17th 2011
Archi-féministes! : Archiver le corps (1er volet)

Under the curatorship of Marie-Ève Charron (independent curator and art critic for Le Devoir), Marie-Josée Lafortune (director of OPTICA), and Thérèse St-Gelais (professor of art history specialized in gender and women’s studies at UQAM), the exhibition “Archi-féministes!” brings together a significant body of historical and contemporary work by female artists who have contributed to the centre’s history since 1972. For the first time, we are broaching that history from a feminist point of view, an archival feminism proposing a retrospective and updated perspective concerned, among other things, with performativity in artistic practices and strategies deployed through photography, video, and the document.

Drawing not only on the OPTICA Archives, but also on private, public, and the artists’ own collections, the exhibition will occur in two parts. “Archiver le corps” (“Archiving the Body”) will first broach issues of identity in contexts interrogating relationships with oneself, with the other, and with art history. The works of Olivia Boudreau, Sorel Cohen, Raphaëlle de Groot, Suzy Lake, Claire Savoie, and Jana Sterbak reveal figurative and sometimes troubled stagings that revisit representations of the body and its historicization, via an intimacy imbued with eroticism or emotion.


Olivia Boudreau holds a masters’ in visual and media arts from UQAM and has taken part in several events in Montreal and Toronto. Following her residency at art3, Valence (France) in 2010—as part of the joint residency program initiated by art3 and OPTICA, where she showed Les vaches in 2007—she presented her first solo exhibition in Europe at Néon, diffuseur d’art contemporain, Lyon (France). This fall, she is participating in the “Québec Triennial 2011” at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Boudreau is an artist in residence at the Darling Foundry, Montreal.

With arts degrees from the universities of McGill and Concordia, Sorel Cohen has had many solo exhibitions, in particular at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (1986) and Ateliers Nadar, in Marseille (1994). She has taken part in group shows in Canada and abroad, mainly in Cologne, New York, and Mexico. Her work was shown on several occasions at OPTICA—eight times between 1978 and 2000—where she has also been a board member. Cohen is represented by Galerie Donald Browne, Montreal.

With a master’s in visual and media arts from UQAM, Raphaëlle de Groot has, for the last ten years, been engaged in work that revolves around the figure of the artist. She has a great many group and solo exhibitions to her credit, the most important of which took place at Galerie de l’UQAM in 2006. In 2001, she took part in “Artists’ Gestures”, organized by OPTICA as part of the Saison du Québec à New York. De Groot is represented by Galerie Graff, Montreal.

Emeritus professor at Guelph University, Suzy Lake earned a master’s in multidisciplinary studies and photography at Concordia University. She has exhibited all over the world and was part of “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution,” presented at the MOCA, Los Angeles in 2007. She took part in “Camerart” (1974) and “Towards the Photograph as a Vulgar Document” (1988), two major exhibitions in OPTICA's history. Lake is represented by Michael Solway/Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, Georgia Scherman Projects Inc, Toronto, and Galerie Donald Browne, Montreal.

Claire Savoie is a visual and media arts professor at UQAM, from which she obtained her graduate degree. She has taken part in many group exhibitions, the most recent being “Femmes artistes: L’éclatement des frontières, 1965-2000” (2010) at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. In collaboration with the Mois de la Photo à Montréal 2011, she is presenting “Aujourd’hui (dates-vidéos)” at the SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art. She presented “Les épithètes” at OPTICA in 1994 and has been a member of its board of directors since 1998.

A graduate from Concordia and Toronto universities, Jana Sterbak—with many awards and distinctions to her credit—has taken part in several biennials, including the prestigious Venice Biennale (2003). Her work is included in major public art collections in Canada and abroad. Besides the solo exhibition “Travaux récents” shown in 1980, she was assistant to OPTICA’s founding director in the centre’s early years. Sterbak is represented by the galleries Toni Tàpies – Edicions T, Barcelona, Raffaella Cortese, Milan, Barbara Gross, Munich, and Donald Young, Chicago.


Marie-Ève Charron, Marie-Josée Lafortune and Thérèse St-Gelais
editing : Geneviève Bédard
translation : Ron Ross


OPTICA and the curators gratefully acknowledge the support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, volet soutien à des projets pour les organismes et les commissaires indépendants. Deepest thanks to the partner institutions that placed their trust in us : the Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery (Michèle Thériault, Director and Mélanie Rainville, Max Stern Curator); the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Nathalie Bondil, Director, Anne-Marie Chevrier, Loan Officer, Marie-Claude Saia, Technician, Photographic Services and Copyright, and Simon Labrie, Shipping Management / Exhibitions Services); the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Stephen Borys, Director, Helen Delacretaz, Chief Curator and Curator, Decorative Arts, and Karen Kisiow, Registrar). Thank you to Josianne Monette for the background research, to Geneviève Bédard for the loan process, to Marc Dulude and Pierre Przysiezniak for the gallery installations. Thank you to Olivia Boudreau, Sorel Cohen, Raphaëlle de Groot, Suzy Lake, Claire Savoie, and Jana Sterbak for graciously accepting our invitation.


A 'not to miss' for Fall according to Jérôme Delgado («Galeries et centres d'artistes - Photos et déclics historiques», Le Devoir, August 27th, 2011) and Nicolas Mavrikakis («Rentrée 2011 | arts visuels : Faits au Québec», Voir, September 1rst, 2011).

Other interesting reads : an interview with Olivia Boudreau, Marie-Josée Lafortune and Thérèse St-Gelais (Jérôme Delgado, «Les archi-féministes s'exposent chez Optica», Le Devoir, November 12th 2011), a critic on the webzine ratsdeville («Claire Moeder sur Archi-féministes! ~ volet 1», December 2nd 2011) & a parodical article signed Nicolas Mavrikakis («Matantisation, Germaines et Cie!», Voir, December 7th, 2011)!


Marie-Ève Charron lectures at colleges and teaches art history at UQAM. An art critic for the Montreal daily Le Devoir, she contributes to several art journals, including esse arts + opinions, where she is a member of the editorial board, and Parachute, for whom she was production coordinator and editorial assistant from 2003 to 2006. She has also overseen publications for artist-run centres and the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec and was curator of the exhibition “Au travail” at the Musée Régional de Rimouski in 2010.

Marie-Josée Lafortune is the director of OPTICA, a centre for contemporary art; she has been in charge of the gallery’s artistic, critical and editorial activities since 1992. She was also chairwoman of the Regroupement des centres d'artistes autogérés du Québec from 2006 to 2010. She has published articles in Parachute, esse arts + opinions, and Critique d’art (France). She also co-directed Creative Confusions with Lynn Hugues (Les éditions OPTICA, 2001), among others. In 2006, she initiated a joint research residency program with art3, Valence (France), a new platform for young creators from Quebec on the international art scene.

Thérèse St-Gelais is an art history professor at UQAM, where she lectures on contemporary art and on historical and contemporary issues related to art by women. She edited The Undecidable: Gaps and Displacements of Contemporary Art, published at Les éditions esse in 2008. In 2010, she organized the symposium État de la recherche “Femmes: théorie et création” dans la francophonie. She is currently preparing the group show “Loin des yeux près du corps” at Galerie de l’UQAM (January 13 – February 18, 2012) and a solo exhibition on the work of Ghada Amer at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (February 2 – April 20, 2012).