This might be the retrieval exercise of the decade, if not the quarter century. Curator Roald Nasgaard, on the heels of his 2008 book Abstract Painting in Canada, has put together a signature exhibition of the Automatiste movement that set Quebec on the road to its Quiet Revolution. Famed inside Canada for an avant-garde outlook and the Réfus Global manifesto, the Automatistes, under the leadership of Paul-Émile Borduas, never quite cracked the international scene to take their place as leaders in postwar abstract painting. The 60 works in Nasgaard’s exhibition, however, make a case for their achievement in setting Montreal alongside the New York and Paris scenes.
In a coup for the Varley Art Gallery, the exhibition travels in March to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, where well-known paintings by De Kooning, Pollock and Rothko will be shown in context with Automatiste work. (Nasgaard discusses this and other aspects of the show in a brief Youtube video.) The handsome accompanying catalogue, The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941–1960, published by Douglas & McIntyre and co-authored by Automatiste historian Ray Ellenwood along with Nasgaard, should become a mainstay in related study—study not only of the movement, but also of mid-20th-century painting. (216 Main St, Unionville ON)