Deconstructed and suspended: Pierre Ayot at Galerie Joyce Yahouda

Pierre Ayot, Paterson Ewen, Denis Juneau, Stéphane La Rue, Guido Molinari, Alana Riley, Andrea Szilasi, Claude Tousignant, Julie Tremble
Push and Pull
Galerie Joyce Yahouda
October 15 – November 19, 2016

Pierre Ayot’s work requires suspension. The tilted frame of “Fil à plomb” (1978) is as unsettling as a tilted frame on a white gallery wall. But the tilted frame of “Fil à plomb” makes sense – it is simply obeying the laws of gravitational pull – as a fil à plomb that has been swung to the right. Ayot’s work requires a suspension of our rote reality in order to enter a new one. 

A retrospective of the late, multidisciplinary Montreal artist is sweeping the city this autumn. A recreation of Ayot’s controversial tipped-over replica of La Croix du Mont Royal was erected at the edge of Jeanne-Mance Park, 40 years after the original was demolished and rendered a work everyone talked about but had never seen. The project was realized by Martha Carrier, director of Galerie B-312, and curator Nicolas Mavrikakis with financial support from the City of Montreal. The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec is highlighting the cultural history of the province from the 1960s to the 1990s, using over one hundred works and archival documents. Graff Gallery, co-founded by Ayot in 1980 and also located in the Belgo Building, has combined and displayed four decades’ worth of the artist’s portraiture. Nicolas Mavrikakis has had a hand in all of this.

In curating the Ayot-centric exhibition at Galerie Joyce Yahouda, Mavrikakis did something unconventional. His approach tapped into the combination of an out-of-the-box interpretation and simplicity that Ayot strove toward. I may lack the Montrealaise heritage to personally feel all that Ayot did for the world of visual arts in Montreal, but Push and Pull makes clear his acute significance to Pop Art as it operates in the contemporary world, decades after the original Pop Art movement.

This clarity is presented in the most touching way. As Mavrikakis writes, Ayot is remembered as “a maker of playful artworks and of intricate trompe-l’oeil”. Mavrikakis’ curation focuses on creation’s antithesis: Ayot’s deconstruction of representation. With this emphasis, Mavrikakis draws out the unique surrealism of the prints that allow them to become more than their medium. Our world has permeated the reality of the artworks, and they have edged into ours, thus muddling our understanding of real and representative.The show features Ayot’s prints from seminal ‘deconstruction’ works to screenprints of enlarged and pixelated film slides, as well as the work of artists influenced and inspired to respond to Ayot. The pieces coexist suitably, making the gallery into a coherent space where normalcy has been subtly tweaked. Ayot’s “Attention! Haute tension” (1978) is a frame stretched by a wire which is tied around its centre. The frame is slightly hourglass-shaped. But the wire is not actually pulling anything at all; Ayot has rendered the pulling, responding to the would-be pull and thus responding to the power of an artwork. It is early conceptual art without pretension and conceding simplicity. The gallery is dotted with these direct yet contemplative works, including those artists other than the eponymous. Andrea Szilasi’s “Stripes” (2005) is a deconstructed photo that is different enough to wonder, and not so destroyed to leave us wondering. 

Inside Push and Pull, maybe we are suspended in time, where Ayot could ask us what we think and challenge our answers. Or maybe our conception of ‘real’ and ‘art’ and ‘inanimate’ are suspended, in the gallery and forevermore when we leave it. I would like to think that together, Mavrikakis and Ayot carry viewers up to an Archimedean point. While suspended there, we can view art from a removed and total vantage point. We can see every little taken-apart piece.

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