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Exibitions 1988

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Bill Burns, Alan Storey
From January 9th 1988 to January 31st 1988
The Art Train / Le train de l'art

Optica presents "The Art Train", an installation resulting of the collaboration of Bill Burns and Alan Storey, both artists living in British Columbia. This installation is accompanied by two Wall Works made by Bill Burns around complementary problematics.

"One of the central fascinations of contemporary art production is the elusive relationship between the gallery as a purified social institution and imagined real life. The over-heated and expansionary art market of recent seasons, characterised by the embracing of market values, is premised on the assumption that cooptation, commerce, and critique are passengers of the same train. The Art Train is gravity operated. It carries four basic forms around the pillars of the gallery. The ball, the cone, the cube, and the cylinder occupy a historically unalterable position within the theory and mythological structure of western art practice. The material - chocolate- of these cast basic forms attempts to highlight the seminal nature of this historical truth. "Chocolate Baggage" - "The Chocolate Grinder" - "Chocolate Fertility: the Easter Rabbit lays chocolate eggs". Gravity, the rhetorical glue of the tradition of sculpture, propels the train and its bitter-sweet cargo".

"The multi-panel wall works refer to commercial display systems. The colour schemes are mundane reflections on bureaucratic interior design programmes. The modernist tradition of one colour painting co-opted by commerce is again recycled. These works explore a kind of displacement between the uniquely crafted artefact and the photographic image of the mass produced object (in this case a train) ".
- Bill Burns
- Press release (Optica)

Bill Burns was born in Saskatchewan. He studied in Vancouver and Victoria, and more recently in London, England. He exhibited at Western Front, at the Walter Phillips Gallery, the Surrey Art Gallery as well as the London International Art Fair, at the Goldsmiths’ College (London), at the Trent Polytechnic (Nottingham), at the Manchester City Gallery, and at the Auto-Gallerie (Berlin). He was also part of “Project K-18” in Kassel, 1985.

Alan Storey lives in British Columbia, where he made his studies. He has realized numerous exhibitions, among which: at Open Space, at the OR Gallery, at the Walter Phillips Gallery and at Western Front, as well as the Contemporary Art Gallery, Mercer Union, the Surrey Art Gallery, and, recently, at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He was also part of the October Show and of the exhibition “From Sea to Shining Sea”, organized by Power Plant.

© Page couverture l Book cover, La photographie en tant que document vulgaire / Towards the photograph as a vulgar document, 1992.

Exposition de groupe
From February 6th 1988 to February 28th 1988
La photographie en tant que document vulgaire / Towards the Photograph as a Vulgar Document

Artists : Raymonde April, Charles Guilbert, Bob Burley, Tim Clark, Eileen Cowin, Lee Friedlander, Michel Gaboury, Suzy Lake, Lucie Lefebvre, George Legrady, Sherrie Levine, Laurie Simmons, Mitra Tabrizian, Andy Golding, Mark Lewis

February 26, 27, 28 1988

To celebrate its 15th anniversary as an artist-run space, Gallery Optica decided to produce an event that would function more as a “living archive”, than simply as a retrospective almanac. Subsequently, the gallery’s program history was reviewed to identify the (critical) issues that had recurred in it over time. The photograph as a vulgar document came from this pool of subjects.

Structurally, the project will include an exhibition, a symposium and a book. The exhibition is the visual coefficient of the analysis and the symposium is the critical address, while the book will combine reproductions from the show, texts by the symposium participants and an annotated document of Optica’s history.

“Towards the Photograph as a Vulgar Document” is not necessarily about obscene pictures. It is about how photography has questioned and explored the contradictions and potentials of the documentary picture over the last 15 years.

The vulgar document poses questions like: When you look at a photograph, do you believe what you are seeing? Is the world you see your world? Have you considered the photographer’s authority to edit your world? When you look at pictures, is there a place for you in them? Do photographs represent you as a woman or a man correctly?

Thirteen artists from Quebec, Canada, the United State and England are included in the exhibition: Raymonde April and Charles Guilbert, Bob Burley, Tim Clark, Eileen Cowin, Lee Friedlander, Michel Gaboury, Suzy Lake, Lucie Lefebvre, George Legrady, Sherrie Levine, Laurie Simmons and Mitra Tabrizian.

The vernissage will be held Saturday, February 6th, 1988 a 2:00pm. In conjunction with the symposium, there will be a “closing” party 8:30-12:00am Saturday, February 27th, 1988.

Next autumn, in collaboration with Parachute, Optica will publish the book component of this project. The book will be comprised of: an introductory essay by Dominique Guillaumant the gallery’s present managing director; and essay on Optica’s history written by Serge Allaire; the exhibition essay by Lorne Falk; documentation for the exhibition and articles written by the symposium speakers.

Gravel, Claire, « Place à la photo et à la sculpture », Le Devoir, samedi 20 février 1988, p. C-9.
Denis, Jean-Pierre, « La photographie en tant que document vulgaire towards the photograph as a vulgar document », Parachute, juin juillet août 1988, no. 51, p.31-32.
Svoboda , Jean-Luc, « Optica: La photographie en tant que document vulgaire », Photo Communiqué, Summer 1988, p. 35-36.
Gravel, Claire, « La photo en tant que document vulgaire », Le Devoir, mardi février 1988, p. 11.
Caron, Nathalie, « Les 15 ans à Optica: L'art vulgaire », Voir, 11-17 février 1988, p.12.

Jocelyn Gasse
From March 5th 1988 to March 27th 1988

Jocelyn Gasse’s Compositions are monuments to landscape. Simple architectural units are combined in step-like or pyramidal formations provoking a strong accessional movement. At floor level, various architectural strategies introduce a more intimate scale and evoke structures such as perrons, basins or hearths.

The presence of these monuments is reinforced by the density of their black painted surfaces where different qualities and properties of light are exploited. Reflective finishes mirror surrounding images. Internal or external light sources are integrated to create theatrical artifices. Darkness, or absence of light, enhances the luminous qualities of other hues. But, above all, light is atmospherically rendered as elements of landscape, which illuminate various zones of the work.

This manipulation transforms the constructions into screens. The divisions drawn by the edges of the structural units create a grid, discretely dividing the landscape into parts without destroying a sense of continuity between the various panels, contributing harmony and rhythm to the landscape flow. High and low, as indicators of locus, come into play. The upper limits of the panel are generally illuminated by the light of a setting sun, of dusk, of the hour “entre chien et loup”. In some cases a broad swath of darkness, modulated by tones suggesting stretches of desolate landscape, separates the upper regions from the lower where various constructed and painted strategies animate the forms. In other works, a cascading waterfall plunging through the darkness joins the higher regions to those below. The darkness, the desolateness, the mistiness are in no way threatening. They circumscribe a meditative time and place; time to bathe in atmospheres and to unravel the voyage to the barren, formidable and awesome Icelandic landscapes and its contradictory natural phenomena.

At floor level, reflective surfaces are articulated into concise forms, which, architecturally, welcome, greet, draw in, shelter. There is a transition from the distanced landscape to structures, which elicit notions of deepness, profundity, interiority, and continuity. A point from which the landscape is to be contemplated, not as a description of an external phenomenon, but as a firmly grounded state of being.
- Cyril Reade
- Press release (Optica)

Lehmann, Henry "Eclectic beauty on the Main", Montreal Daily News, Wednesday March 23, 1988, p. 28.

March 31st 1988
Bingo d'art

Stan Douglas
From April 2nd 1988 to April 27th 1988
Overture, Television Spot

The works of Stan Douglas are created in conjunction with the viewer, or more precisely, with a resituating of the viewer. Overture and Television Spots, requiring highly signifying technological frameworks, are critical statements in the artwork-receptor tradition. Is there a reversal of the subject/object dialectic as we watch the images pass before our eyes? And how is our awareness of this inverted mechanism mediatized?

As a metaphor for the position of the subject in relation to the object, Overture demonstrates the mechanics of our relationship to the artwork. It does so by means of a dialectic of consciousness (extract from Marcel Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past). By installing projection equipment where the spectator is normally situated- here he is victim of a perspective cliché (train tracks)- Stan Douglas undermines the narrative effect. This break is accentuated by the fact that the recited text remains independent of the image. The viewer is led to the minutest point that can be represented in the course of the railway through the darkness of lost time; the subject thus becomes the object of a new-found consciousness.

Television Spots, transmitted on a television screen, is directed towards the subject as consumer of stale images. Made up of seven exceedingly brief narrative scenarios- from eight to thirty seconds each- this work scrambles the (tele)spectators perceptual habits. “Their difference invites the activity of the spectator; they initiate a comparison that illuminates the constructs of the television performance” (Barbara Fischer). The subject, in that he or she is called upon to perform as an actor in the realization of the work, signals the pragmatic nature of the work of Stan Douglas. To simulate a kind of regularity with respect to the image, the artist imposes his own conceptual rhythm composed of quasi-subliminal messages (stimulating rather than dulling the senses): the work thus sets up a powerful interference with the process of image consumption.

Although the works of Stan Douglas seem at first view to be closed structures, they open up at the intervention of each subject. They therefore merit sustained attention, as they require the spectator to invent a scenario of his own remembrance of things past.
- Hélène Taillefer (translated by Jeffrey Moore)
- Press release (Optica)

Dumont, Jean, « Roméo Savoie, Stan Douglas et Jean Noël: Une oeuvre d'art n'arrive jamais seule... », La Presse, Montréal, Samedi 23 avril 1988, p.K5-K.6.

Violette Dionne
From April 30th 1988 to May 22nd 1988
Travers saint

“Since there is no way of classifying saints according to their saintliness, we shall have to content ourselves with calling saints (...) all those who had the honour, for whatever reason, of being represented in Christian monuments by Christian artists”.
- Marcel Pacaut, L’iconographie chrétienne, coll. Qui sais-je ?, Paris, PUF, 1952, p.96.

Some saints would seem to have had grave failings before becoming saints: other, whose saintliness is hard to see given their banal or bizarre lives, appear rather silly.

Violette Dionne was born in 1959, just in time to brighten up, with her first smiles, the thundering declarations of the Quiet Revolution.

It was the era in which religion was buried. From these burial grounds the artist has fashioned her statuettes, at once pious and fantastical representations of the ancient Heaven.

Three ages are represented: the red age, that of ceramic, comparable perhaps to the golden age of Hesiod; the white age, that of the hydrocal; and lastly, the hardest age, ours, the concrete age.

Some writers, imaginary hagiographers no doubt, place the life of each saint- false martyrs and sensual virgins alike- into a kind of Golden Legend of our times.

Be that as it may, this stony assembly had to be housed; for want of a church, they were accommodated by a gallery. Temporarily, the saints were placed on tables; work was started on a model cathedral; utopian portals were made, opening, however, on nothing save that which walls us all in, initiates and visitors alike.

Here, no one is obliged to pray. Refrain, however, from laughing ostentatiously; men are forbidden to utter blasphemies out loud, to chew tobacco or to spit on the floor; décolletés and mini-skirts are tolerated.
- François Hébert (translated by Jeffrey Moore)

All of these hard bodies were extracted from the mould of sainthood: they are therefore fitted with a thick halo, round like a ring. It is a handle that can be used to lift them up and transport them from one place to another. On this gigantic chessboard, the saint keeps watch, impassive to change, a monolith, whose hands, normally more voluble, indeed vulgar, blend in with the rest. Any peculiarities- flaws in the perfection, perhaps- will therefore only emerge gradually from the uniformity of the whole. Everything points to the fact that we are not in the presence of conventional beings, as traditional Christian iconography would have it, but rather of a collection of idiosyncrasies, the artist’s celebration of folly in particular.
- Violette Dionne (translated by Jeffrey Moore)

Launching of the catalogue and round table:
“L’hagiographie cuite” is published by Garamond du Rosseau Editions, 1988. This collection contains texts by Shalom Aléikoum, Bernard Andrès, Gilles Archambault, Julien Bigras, Normand Biron, Claude Bouchard, Violette Dionne, Brenda Dunn-Lardeau, Célyne Fortin, François Hébert, Jean-Pierre Issenhuth, Alexis Klimov, Nathalie Labrecque, Benoit Lacroix, André Major, Jean Marcel, Bruno Roy, Pierre Turgeon and a foreword by Louise Poissant.

The round table will consist of Violette Dionne, Brenda Dunn-Lardeau (editor of “Legenda aurea: sept siècles de diffusion, Bellamin, 1986) and Benoit Lacroix (medievalist) and is intended to develop different points of view concerning the exhibition.
- Press release (Optica)

Bélanger, Judith, « 3 expositions: C'est ma tournée ». Voir, 5-11 mai 1988, p. 13.
Villeneuve, Paul, « À la Galerie Optica: "Travers Saints" ou la sainte revue par Violette Dionne ». Journal de Montréal, Samedi 14 mai 1988.

Peter Bowyer
From October 1st 1988 to October 23rd 1988
First Lunar Dump

Over the past few years, Peter Bowyer's work has taken the form of complex sculptural tableaux and installations involving groups of images and scenarios, interacting to produce disjointed narrative situations. Despite their fictional character, seemingly remote in space and time, these curious tableaux present disquieting aspects of our evolution and confront the viewer with reflections on our present predicament. Referring to Bowyer's piece in "The New City of Sculpture" exhibition in 1984, Donald Kuspit wrote:
"A painting/sculpture construction with, appropriately Piero di Cosimo-like figures—some more fantastic, monstruous—in a situation of neolithic revolution. This is an extremey sophisticated primitivism...There is a strong allegorical dimension to this art, a subtly indeterminate allegory appropriate to the end-of-civilization feeling."

The underlying feeling the the human condition is showaht out of control continues to surface in the recent work Bowyer is exhibiting at Optica, "First Lunar Dump". This narrative mixed media installation is based on a sequence of ten black and white illustrations with the central theme of a hypothetical toxic dump on the moon. The outcome is a depressing allegory of contemporary technological culture.
-Press release (Optica)

Gravel, Claire, « De Pierre Bruneau à Yves Trudeau », Le Devoir, Samedi 15 septembre 1988.

Steven Curten, Ginette Legaré, David Moore, Serge Murphy, Danielle Sauvé, Louise Viger, Françoise Sullivan
From October 29th 1988 to November 20th 1988
Histoire de bois

“Histoire de bois” began as a more than two month-long workshop held during the summer of 1988 on the premises of the École-atelier de sculpture de Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. Organized by the Studios d’été de SJPJ, an independent organization comprised of Jean-Pierre Bourgault, Johanne Blanchette, Jacques Doyon, Roberto Pellegrinuzzi and Michel Saulnier, this project was meant to provide the artists with an opportunity to examine and confront the present pursuits of contemporary art with the traditional concern with materials and technique still alive in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli.

In the original spirit of a symposium, this workshop provided all conditions for intense work and discussion, drawing on the participants’ environment and its resources. Each artist was given a living and work space near the river, four experienced technicians were on the premises (Yvon Noël, Stéphane Guérin, Nicole Saint-Cyr and Sylvie Cloutier), all the necessary materials and machinery were on hand and the local artisans were available to help with their expertise and resources.

The project’s initiators also wished to demonstrate various strategies for the re-evaluation and appropriation of cultural strata, considered up till then, from the point of view of modernity, as residual or exogenous but which are today being reconsidered by present-day art as being an integral part of the culture. The works created in the course of this workshop do not in any way deviate from the pursuits of modernity, pursuits that can be schematically reduced, as does Margit Rowell, to a nature/culture polarity, or to an opposition between mythology, primitivism and the unconscious on the one hand and deconstructive and analytical rationality on the other hand. The works address both these attitudes as legitimate and move out into an area where the Other is inescapable and where certainties and absolutes are both relative and interdependent. The viewer will however find in all these works aspects of the artists’ concern with workmanship and fragmentary elements of equivocal narration or imagery, with analytical, symbolic or conceptual dominants. These are now yours to discover and explore.
- Jacques Doyon (translated by Sylvie Schmidt)
- Press release (Optica)

Launching of the catalogue and round table:
The round table, an event organized by “Art Talks”, will bring together Ginette Legaré, Louise Viger, Michel Saulnier and Jacques Doyon. They will discuss the organization and concerns of the workshop and its participants as well as its effects on their work.

Pringle, Allan, « Histoires de bois: Wormwood », Etc, No. 6, Hiver 1989, p. 68-70.
Guilbert, Charles, « Bonjour les Arts Visuels! », Voir, 25-31 août 1988, p. 10-11.
Lamarche, Lise, « Histoire de Bois », Vanguard, vol. 18., no. 1, Février-mars 1989, p. 32-33.
Martin, André, « Histoire de bois », Parachute, mars-avril-mai-juin 1989, no. 54, p. 60-61.
Gravel, Claire, « Histoires de bois », Le Devoir, Samedi 5 novembre 1988, C-13.
Caron, Nathalie, « Histoire de bois: Envoye la Pitoune! », Voir, du 3 au 9 novembre 1988, p. 18.

Geoff Miles
From November 26th 1988 to December 18th 1988
Foreign Relations : Re-W/riting a Narrative in Parts

"By the force of an incription you are w/riting before the word—Even as you ook over this fascination for an image—To see the rules of your expression becomes the laws of an exchange—In which detail is your obsession—And yet in difference is your undoing dancing the death of sameness.

"Foreign Relations" is multi-dimensional, multi-layered metaphor for the practice of photography as an art form and for its culpability in helping to maintain fundamental muths about visual representation, sexual difference and identity, knowledge and power. The title "Foreign relations" is the entry point to this work's agendas. By providing an initial reading for the work the title suggests a sense of rule and regulations, diplomacy and intrigue whose citing/siting/sighting takes place as much between he sexes vis a vis the agency of photography as it does between nations vis a vis the agencies of the body-politic. Indeed both senses of "foreign relations" can be found to operate in this work and in fact each depends on the other to tell the full tale written into the visual narrative of "Foreign Relations".
-Press release (Optica)

Geoff Miles is a photographer and is living in Toronto."