The two new exhibits at the DHC/ART promise to blow minds, and burn retinas. So vivid and dazzling and thought-provoking are the works on the walls, you won’t know where to look first (or for how long – for the sake of your ocular health, and all).
Conceptual photographer Richard Mosse’s brilliant installation The Enclave gives us a pinkeyed view into a globally overlooked mass tragedy. Since 1998, 5.4 million people in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have died due to war-related causes. Mosse and his crew (cinematographer Trevor Tweeten and composer Ben Frost) dove deep into the heart of the disaster and, over the course of three years and a lot of hard road, gained the uneasy trust of militant and victim alike. Using Kodak Aerochrome, a discontinued reconnaissance infrared film first developed to identify camouflaged targets (the film morphs anything green and verdant into bright shades of fuchsia and bubblegum), Mosse manages to skew the lens of traditional photojournalism, decimating the dividing line between art and reportage.
Richard Mosse, Love Is The Drug, 2012. Image courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Richard Mosse, Madonna and Child, 2012. Image courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, Burning in Water / Free Arts NYC collection.
From mannequins to musclemen to motors to mangos, artist Valérie Belin’s monumental meditations on portrait, sculpture and still life have kept the art world rapt since the mid 90’s. Belin’s captivating exhibit Surface Tension at the DHC features images created throughout the 2000s, with an emphasis on her most recent works – works which give a loud shout out to Photoshop, and all other tools of its digitally manipulative ilk. Though her artistry with colour is outstanding, be sure to linger longer round her monochromatic pieces. I personally couldn’t get enough of Chips (2004) and Masks (2004).
Curious about the procurement, process and presentation of these exhibits, Nightlife.ca got to chatting with the DHC/ART’s in-house curator, Cheryl Sim.
Nightlife.ca: Why were Mosse and Belin chosen to be shown together?
Cheryl Sim: Valérie had agreed to do a show back in 2012 that would be at 451 and the space at Phi. The task then became to find an exhibition for the 465 space that would work together, even if they are billed as solo shows. I went through many exercises until I was made aware of Richard's Irish Pavilion exhibition at the Venice Biennale. After I experienced it for myself, it became clear that the two could create a rich dialogue together. There are many themes and questions that align their two proposals. For me, those are subjectivity, representation, a shared interest in portraiture and perhaps an overarching thematic of 'the surface' -- Valérie Belin's surfaces that confront and confound as well as Richard Mosse's attempt to scratch beneath the surface of a tragic and complex situation in the Congo.
Valérie Belin, Untitled, 2007. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
Valérie Belin, Still life with mirror, 2014. Courtesy Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
Speaking of themes, why mount these particular shows after the Chapman Brothers' exhibit? Is there a continuation here of theme or direction for the DHC/ART?
There was no strategic plan to speak of. Sometimes it is just a question of timing and schedules working out. But if there is any theme or direction for DHC/ART, it may lie in the desire to think through a diverse array of proposals to offer the Montreal public.
But still, I wonder - why bring both of these artists to Montreal now? Is it a matter of what's hot in contemporary art, or is there something else at play?
Excellent question. This is one that I ask myself all the time when thinking about DHC/ART's programming. Why here? Why now? Most definitely, it is not about who is making a buzz. I think we want to make sure that what we bring can resonate with Montrealers. For sure these artists are dealing with serious art questions, but their questions are also fully engaged with the condition of contemporary culture and our links with the world as well as with our own existence. They speak to and about us through the range of subject matter they grapple with, as artists.
The Enclave by Richard Mosse + Surface Tension by Valérie Belin
October 16 to February 8, 2015
DHC/ART | 451 Saint-Jean and 407 Saint-Pierre | dhc-art.org
Valérie Belin, Untitled, 2004. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels
Richard Mosse, Tutsi Town, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2010. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.