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Monday, June 19, 2006

Art on the front page of Le Devoir today

Howdy!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I always like it when art is front page news. But sometimes I just wish it would be better written. In today's Le Devoir there's an article written by Frederique Doyon, that, in my opinion would have been better served if it had been published in yesterday's paper (for the anglos, and out of towners, Le Devoir does not publish on Sunday). It is unfortunately moneywalled, but I will translate and comment so that y'all can read it. Italics - the original French, duh!, Bold - My bad translation into English, Regular - my commentary.

First off, this is the picture that accompanied the article.



Wouldn't it have been a better choice to have taken pictures of the skateboards, and then listed the names of the pieces, and the artists, instead of this 'cheesecake' photograph of some woman and a security guard?

Les graffitis épatent la galerie
Une centaine de skateboards tatoués par des graffeurs réputés sont exposés à L'autre Galerie

Frédérique Doyon
Édition du lundi 19 juin 2006


La sous-culture urbaine ne fait généralement pas bon ménage avec les murs aseptisés des galeries d'art. Mais Yves Laroche travaille à renverser cette mentalité et à apprivoiser ces artistes anonymes dont on reconnaît souvent la griffe. Sa galerie du Vieux-Montréal, autrefois consacrée exclusivement à l'art commercial, accueille maintenant des oeuvres d'artistes qui ont la rue pour seul canevas. Pour son premier anniversaire, L'autre Galerie lançait mercredi Street Camp, une exposition de skateboards métamorphosés sous le pinceau ou la bonbonne de ces créateurs hors normes.

The urban subculture generally doesn't make a good mix with the antiseptic walls of art galleries. But, Yves Laroche is working to reverse this mentality and tame the anonymous artists of whom we often only recognize their tag. His Old Montreal gallery, otherwise devoted exclusively to commercial art, currently welcomes the work of artists for whom the street is their only canvas. For his first anniversary, The Other Gallery launched on Wednesday camp de rue, an exhibit of skateboards transformed by brush or can by these creators outside the norm.

Graffiti and skateboarding are as much underground culture as comic books and the X-Games. Unless someone tells me otherwise, I imagine that the skateboards are for sale, and that Yves Laroche is taking a 50% cut, which sounds pretty commercial to me.

Ils s'appellent Turf One, R. Suicide, Zïlon, WK Interact, Kodak, mais aussi Julian Garner, Josh Bertrand, Francis Kosh. Méconnus du commun des mortels, ils incarnent pourtant le nec plus ultra de l'art urbain, dixit le magazine de référence en la matière, Juxtapoz, qui les a plus d'une fois mis en vitrine. C'est d'ailleurs à travers celle-ci que le galeriste et la conservatrice Ximena Becerra ont lancé le projet d'immortaliser cet art par essence éphémère dans une exposition inédite qui se déroule jusqu'au 25 juin.

Their names are Le gazon un, suicide de R., Zïlon, sem. agissent l'un sur l'autre, Kodak, and also grenier de Julian, Josh Bertrand, Francis Kosh. Ignored by most people, they represent the latest word in urban art, so says the magazine of record, Juxtapoz, which has on more than one occasion published their work. It is from there to here (I think I got that, but I'm not sure) that the gallery owner and curator Ximena Becerra launched this project designed to immortalize this art that is essentially ephemeral in a new exhibit which runs until June 25.

Ms. Doyon, how many contemporary artists who exhibit in Montreal are not 'ignored by most people?' And how does having an exhibition immortalize anything? Is there a catalogue? Some academic review? Heck this article didn't even get flagged as culture by Le Devoir.

«Ce ne sont pas des artistes qui fréquentent les galeries, dit Yves Laroche. Certains sont même très réfractaires à y exposer.»

'These are not the artists you would see in a gallery,' said Yves Laroche. 'Some of them are not inclined to exhibit their work.'

Contradicted at the bottom.

Pourtant, ils ont été nombreux à répondre aux annonces passées dans Juxtapoz depuis un an, les invitant à déverser leur génie créateur sur la petite surface d'une ou deux planches à roulettes.

However, a bunch of them responded to advertisements that ran in Juxtapoz for a year, asking them to create something on a small surface of one, or two skateboards.

«Je n'ai pas imposé de règles, ni de thème, affirme Ximena Becerra, ex-étudiante en art de l'université Concordia et assistante d'Yves Rocher. Je demandais juste qu'ils peignent sur leur skate.»

I didn't make any rules or a them, said Ximena Becerra, former art student at Concordia University and assistant to Yves Rocher. I just asked that they paint on their board.

OK, so then what did Ms. Becerra do, in order to get the title curator? She didn't make any rules, impose anything, she didn't write a catalogue, it doesn't sound like she excluded anyone, maybe that's her mug in the picture and I really screwed up in my translation and ' commissaire' means someone who can be photographed? And what do cosmetics have to do with anything?

La jeune femme et le galeriste, qui se passionnent pour cette culture marginale depuis plusieurs années, ont ainsi réuni deux symboles propres à la culture underground, le graffiti et le skateboard. «On revient à la base parce que, souvent, la première chose que [ces artistes] ont faite, c'est de peindre sur un skate -- sur leur skate», explique Mme Becerra.

The young woman and the owner of the gallery, who has been passionate about this fringe culture for a bunch of years, united two significant symbols of underground culture, graffiti and skateboarding. 'We always return to the beginning because often the first thing [these artists] did was to paint on a board - their board,' explained Mrs. Becerra.

No comment.

Le coup d'oeil déroute. La centaine de planches à roulettes bigarrées qui s'alignent sagement sur les murs blancs de la galerie semble incongrue.

A quick glance around reveals something weird, about a hundred skateboards with multi-colored wheels all aligned properly on the white walls of the gallery.

Mais simuler un lieu désaffecté, improviser un chaos n'aurait pas mieux servi le cadre. La disposition met plutôt en évidence l'écart qui sépare encore cette forme d'art indomptée et le milieu sophistiqué de l'art contemporain.

But to make the place look like a dump, to make it chaotic would not serve the purpose. The way that they are set up highlights the differences between this wild art and the sophisticated and refined sensibilities of contemporary art.

Yeah, right. I bet dollars to doughnuts that they just didn't have any imagination.

Le style bédéiste côtoie l'iconographie diabolique, d'outre-tombe ou fantastique, mais on y trouve aussi des oeuvres plus abstraites. La texture et la lumière qui nimbent les personnages un peu glauques de David Choquette, Montréalais issu du milieu du tatouage, subjuguent -- c'est un des coups de coeur de la commissaire. On y reconnaît les animaux naïfs et inquiétants de Katie Olivas. Les pionniers new-yorkais du «graff» Shepard Faireh et WK Interact y figurent également.

The comic book style side by side with devil symbols, other styles or the fantastic, but we also find some more abstract works. The texture and the light feathers the slightly fuzzy people by David Choquette, a Montrealer involved in tattooing, underground - is one of the curator's favorites. You can also see the simple and worried animals by Katie Olivas. The New York pioneers of 'graff' Shepard Faireh and sem. agissent l'un sur l'autre also are shown.

Mistake, the name is Shepard Fairey, he was born in Charleston, South Carolina and is 36 years old. He can't be a pioneer because he wasn't even born when graffiti started. By the way this puts the lie to 'underground culture' he also designed the poster for the Johnny Cash biopic 'Walk the Line' that got nominated for a bunch of awards - underground my eye! WK Interact has been featured in Time magazine.

Le Canadien Francis Kosh pousse l'ironie jusqu'à insérer un fragment de planche tagué et «graffé» dans un cadre à dorures ornementées. Objet hybride, son Ode au vagabondage ressemble à un curieux artefact, issu d'un croisement entre Renaissance et modernité.

The Canadian Francis Kosh pushes the irony envelope by placing a tagged and graffitied piece of a board into a gilt frame. A crossbreed object, his Ode to Vandalism resembles a curious artifact, something between the renaissance and modernity.

Gilt frames did not start being used until the 17th century, last I heard the renaissance was about two hundred years earlier. Next time send someone who knows a little about art history, or a better news reporter, please.

Quelques graffeurs montréalais réputés s'y sont aussi donné rendez-vous : Other, qu'on a pu voir dans le récent documentaire Next, A Primer on Urban Painting, a finalement accepté de se prêter au jeu de l'exposition parce que son ami Turf One -- autre artiste en vue -- y participait. «Il ne veut pas trop être associé aux galeries commerciales», dit la conservatrice. Il préfère faire voyager ses graffs sur les wagons de trains. Les deux comparses ont d'ailleurs réalisé un dessin en direct le soir du lancement. A suivi un encan silencieux dont les profits seront versés au Café Grafitti.

Some well know Montreal graffiti artsists are also included: L'Autre, who was featured in the documentary Après, une amorce sur la peinture urbaine, finally accepted and participated in the call because his friend Le gazon un - another artist showing - participated. 'He didn't want to be associated too closely with commercial galleries' said the curator. He prefers to let his graffiti travel on the side of trains. The two (friends?) also drew live during the launch. Their drawing was auctioned silently, with the profits going to Café Grafitti.

Café Grafitti?

Yves Laroche renoue ainsi avec les formes d'art qui l'ont d'abord incité à ouvrir une galerie. «En 1991, on a essayé l'art contemporain, mais on était en pleine récession, raconte celui qui, depuis de nombreuses années, traque les graffs au gré de ses voyages dans les grandes villes du monde. Il n'y avait que trois galeries à l'époque dans le Vieux-Montréal. Maintenant, on est une trentaine.»

Yves Laroche was also reunited with the art forms that initially incited him to open a gallery. 'In 1991, we tried contemporary art, but there was the big recession, he said, for a number of years, but he kept an eye on graffiti while he traveled to the large cities around the world. At the time there were only three galleries in Old Montreal, now there are thirty.'

I seriously doubt that there were only three galleries in Old Montréal in 1991, I can't fact check it easily, but I'll get back to you.

Si ce genre d'oeuvres est plus «passionnant» que «payant», note le galeriste, il faut croire que son travail, aidé par l'air du temps, commence à porter ses fruits. Lors de notre visite, des gens des boutiques Aldo, dont le siège social compte déjà un mur consacré aux graffeurs, se montraient désireux d'acheter une série de skateboards. L'artiste Zïlon, qui participe à Street Camp et qu'Yves Laroche exposait avant, a déjà un mécène : le groupe Les Trois Accords lui a acheté une pièce et envisage de lui faire graffer sa caisse claire.

If this type of work is more 'passionate' than 'profitable' says the owner of the gallery, you need to think about the work, helped by things happening here and now, it is starting to make money. During our visit, some businessmen from the Aldo shoe stores' head office which already has a wall dedicated to graffiti, showed a desire to purchase a bunch of skateboards. The artist Zilon, who participated in camp de rue, and whom Yves Laroche has exhibited previously, already has a collector: the group The Three Agreements bought a piece and would like him to graffiti the jewel box (I think).

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