Guido Molinari, Simon Cerigo, Nancy Smith, Marshal Hopkins, Barbara Reid, Anna-Marie Cobbold

Curated by: Anna-Marie Cobbold

23 October 1984 - 17 November 1984
Opening Reception 23 October 1984 8pm

East & West Galleries:

54/84 – Hommage à Guido Molinari

Early works on paper by the Canadian Formalist, Guido Molinari, will be on exhibit together with recent work by five of his former students. The visual discourse between these five artists, who share both a common formative background and the concerns of the new movement in painting, reflects Molinari’s influence, an assimilation of Formalist tenets, and each artist’s independent development.

Guido Molinari, born in Montreal in 1933, has been widely represented both nationally and internationally, with exhibitions in Canada, the United States, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Currently a professor of Fine Art at Concordia University in Montreal, his works on exhibit here include Surrealist drawings from 1954, and a 1969 monotype.

Simon Cerigo was born in Paris, France in 1952, and attended Concordia University from 1973-1981. Most recently, he participated in the exhibition, “Canada/New York” at The 49th Parallel Centre in New York. His works employ the formal aesthetic concerns of abstract painting, sculpture, and found objects to create visual statements on the nature of modern man.

Anna-Marie Cobbold was born in 1951 in Belize, Central America. In 1980, she received an M.F.A. at Concordia University and has participated in solo and group shows in Victoria, Montreal, Hamilton and Toronto. Her forceful images of the everyday world are conveyed with a simplicity of form and line, and elaborate overlays of colour.

Marshal Hopkins, born in 1947 in Edmonton, Alberta, completed a Masters degree at Concordia University in 1979. He has participated in group exhibitions in Toronto and Montreal, and is currently having a one man show at Articule in Montreal. Marshal Hopkins drawings and small scale paintings are both imaginative and disarmingly self-analytical.

Barbara Reid, born in Vancouver, BC in 1951, completed a M.F.A. at Concordia in 1979. Her work has been included in group shows in Montreal, and touring exhibitions in the U.S. She uses positive and negative space in her large scale watercolours and oil pastels to convey the relationship of “inner” and “outer” life.

Nancy Smith was born in Montreal in 1951, and completed a Masters degree at Concordia in 1979. Since 1975, she has exhibited in major centres in Montreal, and is currently working out of a New York studio. Her large scale works on paper combine contour drawing, stringent minimalist grid patterning and a repetition of forms from a personal visual vocabulary.

Hommage a Guido Molinari
Mercer Union

Jerry McGrath
Vanguard, February 1985

The resurgence of figuration and the overall license renewed by young artists would appear to make Molinari’s early surrealist productions negotiable once more. Viewers and reviewers freed from the modernist canon can return to the troubling atavism of the interior life, unembarrassed by its revelations. The works of Molinari included here are little more than the automatic writing of the presumably unfettered subconscious, a hairy, nervous fracture vibrating between the poles of head and groin. Anna-Marie Cobbold, the curator and one of five of his students making an appearance, omits the high minded confections that distinguish the later part of his career. For her present purposes she allows that the real Molinari is the prior version. That assumption qualifies the hommage, suggesting that Early Guido is the aesthetic parent of all of this post-modernist bustle. What happened, we may ask, to all that sustained, purist good example? The hommage would seem to be a rather desperate bow, a means to keep the gaze turned to the floor in order to avoid the evidence in front of her eyes.

Cobbold herself is represented with three paintings. The animating spirit of one is a leaping, airborne poodle in differently restrained by a seated figure. What is the import of the unidentified provocation? Another shows a headless ‘nike’ holding aloft a flame. The words “you are” and “my sun shine” painted across the sky allude to a popular song. Perhaps the three utility wires sagging across this sky have been strung from Puvis de Chavannes’ modern allegory called Physics. In Puvis’s case the wires carry good and bad news, symbolized by two flying females. Good news carries a golden bough. In Cobbold’s case the torch may be that of romantic love burdened with irony. The wires may be the stringed instrument accompanying that scrap of song. Her third painting pictures two figures posed with croquet mallets against a background of elevated highway. The game is their medium of exchange. Like the other two, this work is stagey and frigid, as if the artist is under the spell of that ever present encroachment of elevated highway, the sign of blighted urbanity.

Simon Cerigo wishes to be up to the task of saying something about that condition. Nine newspaper rectangles play a syntactical tic-tac-toe, the middle row is made up of fashion ads featuring a leaping model, perhaps an example for the artist’s own hand as it darts from one province to another. In a very general way photos and headlines lend context to that energy. Portrait heads from the history of art acquit Cerigo of the charge of idle play. Literary humorists find themselves invited in. Only in the larger works do we see this kinship.

One item, in which Jesus is given an Eraserhead T-shirt for a torso and a cartoonish afterthought for a face, is plainly juvenile. Cerigo does better, however, with a contemporary divinity. By including in one of his works a card announcing that Julian Schnabel is represented exclusively by Pace he connects himself meaningfully to a commercial calendar. The inference is that art has become just that, with significant dates having little to do with ideological/perceptual shifts or technical innovation and more to do with the banks, tax shelters and tans that by the square inch cost more than Persian rugs In the same work the image of a soldier using heel and fire power to crash through a door matches any hyperbole yet advanced to give dimension to that aggressiveness needed when going places in the art world.

Some of which Marshal Hopkins could use. His little works, while pretending to be fragile, are cloying and often obscure. Line renderings of sad, cute faces get through to that part of us which strokes kittens and secretes tears. Hints of Bacon and Cubism rise from shallow depths to surface here and there. The approach is mainly decorative, with regal and not-so-regal persons – monarchs and horsemen and boatmen — remaining unexplained in terms of any narrative usefulness.

Nancy Smith’s work, of which there is plenty, also flirts harmlessly with figures of a regal aspect. Her slender women either write or bow or pluck or gaze at themselves. Though the sentiments are precious, the rendering is unremarkable. Hung salon-style, this congress of remarkable types tries to persuade us in whispers that creativity is a place of varnished wood, vanities, birdsong and the occasional cultivated plant.

The press release tells us that Barbara Reid uses “positive and negative space . . . to convey the relationships of ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ life”. In plain talk, that psycho/social dialectic is not there, despite the sound of its rusty hinge in the claim quoted above. Her still-life work is skilfully painted showing considerable feeling for design, composition and colour. Why make more of the matter? Her collages, which appear to have been put together from the pages of National Geographic, have an illustrative surreality that is more evident of the play of fancy than imagination. For instance, a face has been put together from an underwater scene punctured by fluorescent features. The hair is a shredded map.

What is puzzling is that this show should be brought forth at the height of the gallery season. Overall it has the stamp of student work and would be better off making an off-season appearance. Instead, I can’t help thinking that it rides the coattail of Molinari’s reputation to the front of the queue. We would do well to remember that kind of capitalizing that goes on in the world of stars and starlets. In that world, the corner butcher, judging him self to be privy enough to ‘significant’ exchanges, brings out yet another biography and sees no need to ask forgiveness for talking so much about the weather or the price of meat.