These days, it is hard to imagine hard-edge paintings causing much controversy in the contemporary art world. But from Daniel Buren’s striped banner intervention at New York’s Guggenheim in 1971 to the public outcry that accompanied the National Gallery’s purchase of Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire two decades later, minimalist abstraction has been a surprisingly contentious mode of representation.
Now, Montreal’s Galerie Simon Blais puts a Canadian twist on the legacy of abstract minimalism with a landmark retrospective of the late Guido Molinari. Featuring 20 works on canvas and paper—many of which have rarely been publicly exhibited—“Guido Molinari and Colour: Paintings 1954–1999” launches the gallery’s 20th anniversary season.
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Organized with the assistance of the artist’s son Guy Molinari, this show combines the artist’s early gestural works, like Abstraction no.1, which he often painted while blindfolded, with more well-known, pared-down, geometric abstractions that put Molinari at the forefront of Quebec’s Plasticiens. While these later images clearly demonstrate Molinari’s rigorous aesthetic control, they also hint at the artist’s lifelong exploration of the emotional potential of colours. In paintings like Sérielle bi-bleu, for instance, a series of carefully executed bands of colour produce a subtle optical illusion, causing the flat canvas to appear to move in accordion-like folds across one’s field of vision.
An accomplished writer and theorist, these later works exemplify Molinari’s dictum that every painting, no matter how abstract, should tell a story. “And the story is this,” he once told Canadian Art, “that what might at first appear as one thing is, in fact, a very complicated experience.” (5420 boul St-Laurent, Montreal QC)
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