Dr. Roald Nasgaard has curated Les Plasticiens et les années 1950-1960 with Michael Martin, now on display at the Musée national des beaux-arts in Quebec City.
The exhibition consists of 70 geometric abstract paintings and sculptures by 11 artists who reacted against the spontaneity and expressiveness of the Automatistes, who were led by Paul-Émile Borduas. The Plasticiens got their name from their interest in the materiality of painting and its plastic qualities — tone, texture, form and line.
In the catalogue, Nasgaard explains how the Plasticiens differed from their counterparts in the U.S. and other parts of Canada, where geometric abstraction became known as post-painterly abstraction. The U.S. artists blurred colours and allowed them to bleed in their geometric paintings, creating an optical experience that is fully contained within the painting.
These Montreal based artists were interested in the existential experience, not an optical one. Lines in the paintings of Molinari and Tousignant for example are razor sharp, causing the colors to bounce off each other and create an experience between the painting and the viewer over a period of time.
Nasgaard emphasizes that the Plasticiens worked in parallel with New York’s artists,“they weren’t followers.”
The exhibition will continue until May 12 at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Parc des Champs-de-Bataille, Quebec City. For more information, visit www.mnbaq.org.