Headliners: En tête at Espace Robert Poulin

Espace Robert Poulin - EnTete

Robert Poulin‘s latest show En tête features a wildly eclectic mix of artists. Established luminaries such as Alexandre Castonguay and Balint Zsako hang tête à tête next to undiscovered talents like BoBo Boutin and Claude Perreault.

Photography, drawing, painting, assemblage, collage – En tête is a riot of media and artistic styles. And yet, this exhibition has a surprisingly coherent feel to it. This is partly due to the strong central theme, as well as to Robert Poulin’s careful clustering of the artworks. The wide spectrum of aesthetic approaches in this collection of 60 portraits by 35 artists is this exhibition’s strength. It is an illustration of the ingenuity and inventiveness of artists. “Drawing a head” is one of the most elementary subjects in picture-making, and yet the outcomes are as unique as the person creating the portraits. Effectively, regardless of the person being portrayed, each artwork becomes a self-portrait of the artist.

Among my personal favorites in this offbeat portrait gallery is the work of Claude Perreault. His collage work perfectly mimics the quality of a 17th century portrait, the kind you would find in a stately home. The piece on display at Espace Robert Poulin depicts Dame Judy Dench in her role as Queen Elisabeth I. However, if you look closely you’ll notice that this is a meticulously constructed collage using images from gay porn magazines. The double-meaning of the term “queen” did not escape me. At once hilarious and borderline treasonous, Perreault’s work is wonderfully irreverent.

Equally painterly but more disturbing is the series of three small portraits by James Juron. His distorted portraits are reminiscent of Francis Bacon’s work, but softer and more demonic.
The brute force of Daniel Erban’s paintings are a resonant counterpoint to the delicate tension of Caroline Boileau’s mixed media pieces. And the cool, ethereal aura of Alexandre Castonguay’s C-print acts as a dominating focal point to Juron’s tortured souls.

This is one of my favoutire shows at Espace Robert Poulin, and to finish I’ll repeat Robert Poulin’s poetic text accompanying his show:

Histoire de têtes
J’avais cette idée qui me passait par la tête, sans me la casser,
ni souhaiter me la faire grosse ou forte.
J’ai souhaité un tête à tête, pas de nœud, ni d’enterrement, ni même de turc.
Trente-cinq artistes avaient la tête de l’emploi,
je la leur ai mise d’affiche et à prix, sans qu’ils ne la perdent.
Maintenant j’en ai par-dessus la tête, sur laquelle je suis tombé.
Où l’avais-je donc.

Espace Robert Poulin, space 411
Caroline Boileau, Alexandre Castonguay, Daniel Erban, Louis Fortier, Marc Garneau, Patrick Lundeen, Sean Montgomery, Balint Zsako, BoBo Boutin, Harry Corrigan, Luc Giard, Adeline Lamarre, Annick Langelier, Shawn Makniak, Nancy Ogilvie, Claude Perreault, and others
En tête
March 15 – April 5, 2014

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