Never Look Back is a group painting show by three young artists based in Quebec City. Jean-Philippe Harvey, who has exhibited with Galerie Laroche/Joncas before, is here in the company of friends and studio mates Adam Bergeron and Olivier Hébert.
Jean-Philippe Harvey’s paintings demonstrate the influence of hip hop and youth culture, as he works their imagery and iterations into his loose and expressive washes and brushwork. If traces of Cy Twombly seem to drift across Harvey’s large canvas on the gallery’s office wall, the scrawled words, tags and signs that are common currency in hip-hop and skater culture are unquestionably of our time. His more recent works, such as “Super Rich,” involve clippings of imagery culled from pop culture remediated with graffiti-like paint application, as well as “labelled” with obscenities and ghetto slang.
Olivier Hébert has produced a series of dark paintings overlaid with layers of canvas roadkill. A large monochrome on the wall opposite the gallery entrance anchors his smaller pieces and the surrounding works of his colleagues; I found myself looking at it for some time. The insistence on the material surface seems to make reference, without the usual reverence, to the formalist tradition.
The works of Adam Bergeron, whose practice extends also to music and performance, bear resemblance to the legacy of Abstract Expressionism, but with floating lattice-like grids of spray-acrylic colour, a popular medium of graffiti artists, his paintings have newness. The lightness of his paintings offer a counterbalance to those of Hébert, and their quietness is a nice contrast to the cacophony of Harvey’s.
In a sense, the exhortation of the title “Never Look Back” suggests a state of impossibility. The cultural force of art history inevitably manifests itself, in both formal tendencies and in explicit cases, such as a newspaper image of Jackson Pollock’s dark silhouette, collaged on canvas. But these references are ephemeral rather than central.
If we are refused the comforts of the past, we can’t really look forward either. Deploying a post-punk no-future ethos, the clichéd and obscene text and images amid a riot of colour and wash (Harvey), the flat, matte, defiled surfaces (Hébert), and unpainterly paintings (Bergeron) do not suggest a way out. But it is an energetic kind of nihilism that speaks to youthful creativity, hammering away at the present and making for its own sake.
A collective exhibition that was produced in the same studio is compelling because there is a sense that we are a step closer to the creative process. These paintings are automatically connected, but still distinct. It is the wondering about how this occurs that makes this rowdy show a worthwhile expedition.
Galerie Laroche/Joncas, space
Adam Bergeron, Jean-Philippe Harvey, Olivier Hébert
Never Look Back
July 25 – September 1, 2012