Edmund Alleyn at the MAC
An independent artist and the mark he left on the history of art
Montréal, May 18, 2016 — From May 19 to September 25, 2016, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is very proud to present the work of Edmund Alleyn, a major Québec artist who influenced many in the next generation of artists and whose place in the history of Québec art deserves to be illuminated. The first retrospective devoted to the artist since his death in 2004, showcasing some sixty works, Edmund Alleyn. In my studio, I am many presents a “brilliant and thoughtful art that is now recognized as one of the most important passages in Québec’s aesthetic history,” says John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator of the MAC.
A Protean Practice
Born in Québec City in 1931, Edmund Alleyn studied with Jean Paul Lemieux in the early 1950s before moving to Paris in 1955. When he returned home for good, settling in Montréal in 1971, he was able to observe the significant changes Québec society had undergone. Fiercely independent and keenly interested in the events shaking up the world, he would be just as independent in his artistic practice, never hesitating to change styles and refusing to join any movement whatsoever. “I’ve had many lives,” he would say. The exhibition devoted to him is designed to reflect this protean career, punctuated with shifts and experiments, as illustrated by some sixty works–paintings, drawings, films and technology-based pieces–produced from the late 1950s to the early 2000s. He would clarify that: “It’s not novelty that interests me, it’s intensity.”
The Contemporary Aspect of a Work
“In addition to reconnecting with historically based, monographic exhibitions, In my studio, I am many reveals how the contemporary or current aspect of an artistic practice such as Alleyn’s is not confined to its being situated in the present moment,” notes Mark Lanctôt, curator at the MAC and of the exhibition. Beyond his ability to capture the spirit of his time, he actually exemplified several different times. “I am Mr. Always,” he said. In Paris in the 1950s, he took up abstract painting and questioned the relationship between the individual and the collectivity. In 1963, he entered a period in which the motifs and symbols that populated his canvases were related to those of First Nations cultures. In the late 1960s, he would focus on the growing control exerted by technology and the media; this interest would culminate with the creation of a multisensory sculpture, Introscaphe, which would be installed for a month at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris. One of the first multimedia works ever made (it dates back to 1970), this piece consists of an egg-shaped sculpture which spectators were invited to enter and there undergo a multisensory, truly immersive experience. After his return to Québec in 1971, Alleyn produced his Suite québécoise: installations depicting realistic figures painted on Plexiglas, which he made from photographs he had taken of individuals standing in crowds and which he installed in front of kitsch representations of sunsets. About his Indigo series, created during the 1980s, he would say: “[Before,] my painting was based on a questioning of society and the way it operates. Today, it involves a return to the individual, the private individual, an iconography with no precise temporal signposts, favouring interiorization.” His quest for interiorization would continue in the Éphémérides series produced between 1998 and 2004.
“In my studio, I am many is an exhibition that must be viewed through 2016 eyes. I think that the work of Edmund Alleyn, even though some of it is fifty years old, speaks to a very current time. As an artist, he was already engaged in a dialogue with the future. The technological pieces, for instance, are fully in tune with the world around us today,” says Jennifer Alleyn, filmmaker, author, photographer, and daughter of Edmund Alleyn.
Surrounding Edmund Alleyn: A series of public conversations
In addition to the exhibition devoted to the artist, the MAC will underscore the importance of Edmund Alleyn with a series of public conversations about the artist and his work. The discussions will cover various topics, including the impact Alleyn had on the people around him and his influence on contemporary Québec art. Among the participants are filmmaker, author and photographer Jennifer Alleyn, artists Geneviève Cadieux, Pierre Dorion, Michel Goulet, Suzanne Pasquin, Leslie Reid and Denis Rousseau, independent curator Vincent Bonin and other guests to be confirmed.
Born in Québec City in 1931 to a family of English and Irish heritage, Edmund Alleyn studied at the École des beaux-arts there with Jean Paul Lemieux and Jean Dallaire. In 1955, he won the Grand Prize in the Concours artistique de la Province de Québec and a grant from the Royal Society of Canada. He was part of the Canadian delegation that garnered a Guggenheim International Award in 1958. In 1959, he was awarded the bronze medal at the Bienal de São Paulo. He was chosen to represent Canada in 1960 at the Venice Biennale. From 1955 to 1970, Alleyn lived in France, where he proceeded from abstraction to figuration, then to drawing upon First Nations symbolism, and finally turning toward an imagery inspired by the world of technology. On his return to Québec, the artist was struck by the changes that had occurred during his absence, as became evident in his work. In 1990, he exhibited the Indigo series at the Galerie d’art Lavalin and in New York at the 49th Parallel. At the Musée des beaux-arts de Sherbrooke in 2004, he presented his last series, Les Éphémérides, comprising twelve large canvases as well as wash drawings. He died on December 24, 2004, at the age of 73.
The exhibition was organized by Mark Lanctôt, curator at the MAC.
The exhibition is accompanied by a substantial, extensively illustrated, 216-page publication. It contains essays by the show’s curator Mark Lanctôt, and by Gilles Lapointe, Olivier Asselin and Aude Weber-Houde, and Vincent Bonin. It also includes a chronology and a bibliography drawn up by Gilles Lapointe. The catalogue may be purchased at the Musée Boutique for $39.95.
Jean-Pierre Gauthier and Ryoji ikeda: Orchestrated
From May 19 to October 30, 2016, visitors will also have a chance to admire two recent acquisitions that offer two different perspectives on music and other kinds of visual orchestration, in the exhibition Jean-Pierre Gauthier and Ryoji Ikeda: Orchestrated. These installations are the work of Montréal-based artist Jean-Pierre Gauthier and Ryoji Ikeda, a Japanese composer and visual artist based in Paris. While their working protocols and materials differ, both artists share a common interest in matters related to distribution, composition and arrangement.
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is a provincially owned corporation funded by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec. It receives additional funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts. The museum gratefully acknowledges their support. Finally, the MAC thanks its partners Loto-Québec and Ubisoft Montréal, and its media partner La Presse.
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