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        In the early 1980s, Peter Krausz replaced Georges Dyens as gallery director. Krausz’s choice of curators reflected the contemporary art trends marked by the return of traditional mediums (painting and sculpture). The gallery distanced itself from the experimental practices being shown by other Montreal institutions (artist-run centres and the Musée d’art contemporain), and video and performance art were thus relegated to a marginal role.


            Installation photographs taken during the 1980s show a gap between the architectural design of the gallery and the spatial layout of the works displayed. The hanging devices designed in the 1960s were ill-fitted to some of the new hybrid works that were part installation and part New Painting. The wooden rails were abandoned for custom-made partitions that reflected the layout of each exhibition. An exception to this occurred in 1982, when a presentation of pictorial works by Agnes Martin[1] displayed a subtle play of resonance between the modernist architecture of the gallery and the almost imperceptible horizontal lines of Martin’s monochrome paintings.


            Using Redécouverte du dessin (1974) as a precedent, Krausz launched a decade-long cycle of exhibitions on the medium of drawing.[2] Many of these exhibitions also underscored the predominance of photography in the practices of many artists known to use other means of expression.[3]


            In the cycle dedicated to drawing, the exhibition Drawing=installation=dessin (1984), organized by Diana Nemiroff, distinguished itself, exploring the coupling of the medium with the already hybrid idiom of the installation. Nemiroff dispersed the works as small clusters throughout the space to encourage visitors to stroll through the exhibition in a non-linear fashion. In doing so, the curator had found middle ground between the modernist paradigmatic layout that had been part of the centre’s original design and the variable rectangle that predominated near the end of the decade. The artists selected thus created allegorical “sets” that transformed the gallery’s architectural parameters. Jocelyne Alloucherie and Sylvie Bouchard fashioned “rail-paintings,” playing with theatrical trompe-l’oeil effects. Elizabeth Mackenzie and Robert McNealy created works directly on the walls, sometimes adjoining configurations of objects to their two-dimensional offerings.


            Other ways of presenting pictorial works were also developed during the 1980s. In 1985, curator Katya Arnold organized East Village at the Centre, based on the work of artists represented by the galleries in this New York district. Like the Nemiroff project, the gallery space was filled with hybrid pictorial works that often spilled over into the three-dimensional space. However, this time the venue took on the look of a trade fair, with cubicles set up to host each of the galleries. The same year, the artist Zilon presented a live painting event, likely programmed to be held in the free time slot between two other exhibitions. Made popular by the Montreal bar Les Foufounes Électriques, the live painting activity was transposed to the gallery as a framework to foster an encounter between representatives of various communities who frequented the centre and members of the underground art milieu.


            During this decade, few exhibitions prompted a reflective discourse on how they were received by spectators. Komar and Melamid: Stalin and the Muses (1984) was the exception. It presented works by the post avant-garde Russian duo that parodied Soviet realism and the official style of portraits of Lenin in order to deconstruct the codes of representation. The museological display of the works reflected the constructed narratives and statements issued by the Communist party while indirectly denouncing the return of expressionist painting.  But the gallery’s programming could segue easily from the stance taken by the Russian duo and their ironic tone to the exhibition Man at Rest (1985), where the modernist Kunsthalle was temporarily transformed into an ethnographic museum.


            In 1987, the gallery organized an exhibition of recent works by Bill Vazan entitled Landschemes and Waterscapes. Unlike his floor intervention in 45’30’North-73’36’West (1971), these monumental land art-inspired drawings and sculptures marked a relationship with the site that was more poetic than pragmatic. This visible shift in Vazan’s production represented a diametrically opposed use of space. It nevertheless occurred in the same location and after a relatively short space of time.






[1] Organized by the Glenbow Art Institute, Calgary.


[2] Contemporary Flemish Drawings (1982), Eric Fischl (1983), Canadian Contemporary Drawing (1983), Installation=Drawing (1984), Montréal sur papier : premier volet (1988).


[3] Québec Photography Invitational (1982) and Pinhole camera  (1989).


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