|Grenier, Take Care Pt. 2|
The landscaping of implosion
For the past few years, Nicolas Grenier has been painting the landscapes of planned communities in a sickly infrared glow. "Proximités," his latest show at Art Mur, caustically displays the compartmentalized lives of the increasingly fragmentary classes and the murky ideological divide between them. He manages to render the social implosion currently taking place with an aesthetic depersonalization and clarity which is rare.
|Grenier, We Enjoy The Proximity Of Others|
His lushly hued paintings point to the run-in between abstraction and corporate art, something which haunted the work of so many designers in the 80s and early 90s with their reliance on the period's rapidly dating graphics software. He presents real estate development plans and flow charts with the deftness and delicacy of a good colour field painter. In this, he effects a kind of switch. Abstraction, the generically insipid background decoration of upwardly mobile homes, soap operas and porn sets across America, comes to dominate the surface with the kind of inversion that was common to baroque interior design and the gardens which surrounded it.
|Grenier, Public Private Pt. 2|
This kind of implosion is mirrored in Patrick Bérubé's show "Irruption/Breaking" at Galerie SAS. Rather than taking on the dubiousness of urban planning, he takes on the objects that fill up such spaces. Bérubé's work often feels like a trip through the utopianism of the 1950s, only re-imagined with a certain sardonic guile. A back humour courses through the work. There's a hint of Roald Dahl in his sensibility which deftly mixes a childish glee at the failures of adult reality and an underlying sense of fascinated disgust.
In a sense, Bérubé presents gag objects. Gag in multiple senses of the words. They are jokes, but they are something you gag on; they can't be digested, the body can't really assimilate them. They are nauseating as much as humorous. The sense of disequilibrium which they create is laced with a recognition of the intrinsic violence which holds together objects of consumption. These 'objects of desire' (not coincidentally, "Objets de tous les désirs" was the name of a group exhibit featuring his work in the same gallery a few months previous) points to the relation between the joke and desire. As Bergson observed, the humorous comes through the breakdown of the mechanical (whether emotional or otherwise) and as his scions Deleuze and Guattari were always insisting, that is the spot of desire and what makes it endlessly reiterate itself – the crackup which is essential to capital commodity and to comedy. Desire is a joke.
In spite of being symbolically defused and somewhat deadened thanks to their gag quality, Bérubé's objects are still sometimes dangerous in a literal way. "Genèse," took up the back room and was effectively fenced off, a sign warning that getting close could cause electrocution. It was a figure in some sand dunes and what appeared to be giant fossilized excrement. A kind of in pulverem reverteris image where the human figurine uncomfortably mirrors the viewer and their ambiguous position as the dandruff shedding drifter in their ambiance. A few feet away, a sink repetitively belched black water, the splashback farcically creating a version of automatiste painting on the porcelain. Birds fly into the panes of glass that resemble mirrors/windows above this space and dotting the wall. The distinction between the two things is eliminated because the inside and outside is in a constant state of erosion in his work. Even nature (in this apparent allusion to "The Birds") seems to find the distinction impossible to make. Likewise, a rocking chair – whose movement would impale it on a nail – sits before a video screen of the stormy 'nature' to be found 'outside'. Like Grenier, his work reveals that the public world is only a void. And what is there for a remainder? The artificial world which seals itself off from it, but which is no less dangerous and which, in fact, internalizes this danger through a very strange form of contamination.
On the outs
In stark contrast to the previous two artists, Jean-Robert Drouillard's work has an explicit folk quality. His show "Nous étions humains" at Galerie Lacerte continues his semi-autobiographical approach, presenting a set of mythologized figures bearing animal heads upon their human heads. One can almost imagine Drouillard's vaguely totemic creatures living in the alleys, fields and sewers outside the confines of Bérubé's world. Mundane characters are transformed into archetypes. There is an explicit orientation to clans or gangs in his work. Drouillard claims an overriding filiation with the traditional work of artisans, particularly those working in his region of Quebec. His figures are set in triangulation which flirt with seduction and violence.