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Marcel Barbeau – Vertiginous Limits

Elliott Louis Gallery, Vancouver BC – Apr 6-23

Marcel Barbeau - La brise de mes cheveux
Marcel Barbeau, La brise de mes cheveux (2002), acrylic on canvas [Elliott Louis Gallery, Vancouver BC, Apr 6-23]

Marcel Barbeau is recognized as one of Canada’s most important abstract painters. He studied drawing at the École du Meuble, Montreal, and later worked with Paul-Émile Borduas, architect Marcel Parizeau and art historian Maurice Gagnon. He was known during the 1940s and 50s as a prominent member of the Quebec group “les Automatistes,” so named for their use of spontaneous painting techniques. Like Borduas, who founded the group in the 1940s, Barbeau was inspired by the fashion for “stream of consciousness” in painting, literature and jazz.

Between 1962-1974, while living and exhibiting in Paris, New York and California, Barbeau’s style began to change from the lyrical Automatiste approach to the geometric style represented in this exhibition. The Elliott Louis Gallery is showing 30 works, about 20 of them produced between 1995 and 2006 in France and Canada.

Called the “Anaconstructions” series by Barbeau, the hard-edge paintings are crisp and clean with playful shapes in bright colours arranged on solid backgrounds. The careful alignment of the shapes creates three-dimensional effects and a precarious sense of balance. With their slightly off-key hues and the precision of Japanese origami, his lightweight structures appear to float and cluster like kites or collapsing decks of cards.

The exhibition offers viewers a rare opportunity to see the work of this exciting painter. Marcel Barbeau’s last one-man show in the west was in 2000. A public lecture by noted Quebec art historian Ninon Gauthier will be held at the Elliott Louis Gallery on Apr 6 from 5:15-6:15. Call 604.736.3282 to reserve a seat. Dancer Jocelyn Montpetitt will perform an interpretive dance at the exhibition opening, also on Apr 6 between 6:30-8:30 pm.


Mia Johnson

Marcel Barbeau - Boucliers sourire
Marcel Barbeau, Boucliers sourire (2002), acrylic on canvas [Elliott Louis Gallery, Vancouver BC, Apr 6-23]

Marcel Barbeau - Espace clos
Marcel Barbeau, Espace clos, acrylic on canvas [Elliott Louis Gallery, Vancouver BC, Apr 6-23]

 Tue, Apr 4, 2006