ANGELL GALLERY’s summer exhibition, MINIMAL(ist) EFFORTS, features recent paintings and sculpture by Neil Harrison (Toronto), Jean-Francois Lauda and Simon Belleau (Montreal), and Robert Taite (Winnipeg), and highlights current minimalist approaches to art-making in Canada.
Arising in New York in the 1960s, Minimalism was a reaction against the perceived excesses of Abstract Expressionism that had dominated mid-20th Century visual art. Minimalism sought to remove the personal, gestural elements of Abstract Expressionism and reveal art’s objective, purely visual elements through repetition, neutral surfaces, spare and reductive shapes, and a withdrawal of the artist from the work.
Jean-Francois Lauda’s paintings are a bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism. Using mops and brooms among his painting tools, Lauda distances his hand from the painting and relinquishes control. His paintings often feature planes of monochrome colour and recurring shapes. But, despite drawing from the past, Lauda’s work feels contemporary thanks to “a radiant ‘grunge’ factor distinctly his own.” (James D. Campbell in Border Crossings, March 2014)
Robert Taite’s hybrid works remind us that paintings are objects that occupy space. Taite employs shaped canvases and panels, referencing the history of 1960s painting, but grounds the forms in the recognizable designs of cabinets, fences, shelving or architectural details. Taite also works contrary to historical characteristics of minimalist hard edge painting by adopting a muted palette, imbuing his pieces with an inspired sense of the everyday.
Similarly, Neil Harrison’s latest paintings push his concerns with form, space and precision to a new limit. Monochromic fields of white are punctuated with multi-coloured darts that delineate subtly rhythmic forms hidden within the painted surface. The darts feel familiar, like indicators on a map or elements of a corporate logo, but any concrete meaning or logic remains elusive. Harrison employs an economy of means, but gives viewers much to puzzle over.
Simon Belleau’s sculpture mimics the gallery’s floor, referencing the minimalist impulse to use artworks to define the space in which they’re shown. However, Belleau shatters the grid format favoured historically by minimalist artists, allowing shards of the sculpture to stray outside its rectangular form and relocate elsewhere in the gallery. The resulting work feels both decidedly present and intangible.
Viewers may be reminded of Carl Andre, Agnes Martin, Yves Gaucher and Frank Stella. But, these artists aren’t merely paying homage to their predecessors. Their considered and occasionally irreverent practices suggest there is more to contemporary minimalism than meets the eye.
– Bill Clarke
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
This exhibition marks Simon Belleau’s Toronto gallery debut. Belleau completed his MFA (2015) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago after receiving his BFA (2011) from Concordia University (Montreal). His work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in Montreal, including at Optica Centre d’Art Contemporain and Centre Dazibao, as well as venues in Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa. Internationally, his work has been shown in group shows in public and commercial galleries in London, Milan, Philadelphia and Chicago. In 2016, Belleau received the Prix Jeune Tête d’Affiche from Centre Dazibao and, this fall, he is scheduled to show at Montreal’s Raising Cattle gallery.
Toronto-based Neil Harrison is currently pursing a PhD in Visual Art at York University. His work can be found in the collections of Nordstrom, the Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank, Torys LLP and York University, as well as many private collections in Canada and abroad. He received a Honourable Mention at the 2015 RBC Painting Competition. His work has been shown in exhibitions across Canada, most recently in the survey exhibition Two Views on Contemporary Painting at the Vancouver Art Gallery. His work has received coverage in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and the Montreal Gazette.
In 2018, Montreal-based Jean-François Lauda will have a solo exhibition at the Darling Foundry and a two-person show (with Serge Murphy) at the Guido Molinari Foundation. He participated to the 30th Symposium d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul in 2012 and was also part of the Painting Project at Galerie de l’UQAM in 2013. His work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions in commercial and public venues throughout Montreal, as well as Toronto, San Francisco and New York. His work can be found in the collections of Hydro-Québec, the National Bank of Canada and TD Bank.
Winnipeg-based Robert Taite is a two-time finalist for the RBC Painting Competition (2014 and 2015) who holds a BFA from the University of Manitoba. He has had solo exhibitions at a.k.a. artist-run centre (Saskatoon), ACTUAL Gallery, aceartinc., and Negative Space (Winnipeg) and l'Œil de poisson (Québec City). This exhibition is Taite’s first gallery show in Toronto. Presented in collaboration with Lisa Kehler Art Projects, Winnipeg.