Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain is proud to present a solo exhibition of new work by Jérôme Fortin from February 13 - April 3, 2010. Coming off recent shows at the Pretoria Art Museum (South Africa) and Galeria Toni Tàpies (Barcelona), Fortin will unveil new engravings created during a recent residency with master printer Joan Roma (Antoni Tàpies).
Continuum, by Jérôme Fortin
by Denis Longchamps, PhD, Art History
The current exhibition presents us with works that Jérôme Fortin has produced in the past year. I had the privilege of speaking with the artist in his studio recently, and to have an exclusive look at Continuum – as well as the other two bodies of work also on display in this exhibition.
The first production, Série noire, was part of Fortin’s solo exhibition ‟Discarded Beauty” presented at the Pretoria Art Museum, in South Africa. The second body of work presents a series of four prints produced during his residency at Antoni Tàpies’ workshop in Barcelona, Spain. Fortin explains from the start that Continuum pays homage to Morton Feldman (1926-1987), an experimental composer and musician influenced by John Cage (1912-1992) – whose music has been, at times, characterized as minimalist. Fortin began the production of this considerable body of work on his return from South Africa.
Série noire breaks down into twelve works; black and white collages made from strips of folded paper, including blank staff paper, Japanese comic strips, and blackened photocopies. The regularly spaced and harmonious rhythm of triangles in Fortin’s compositions is punctuated by irregular lines of printed paper and colourless patches of black photocopies. The latter create nuances of grey that suggest chalk-marked blackboards, but this series has more in common with a bygone cinematic world than with a classroom. His long strips are produced by folding the paper onto adhesive tape, thereby creating an endlessly repeated triangular motif – which the artist keeps rolled up like film stock. Individually selected for their formal qualities, they are cut, assembled, and pasted into a tableau composition. Série noire is intended to be the last in the artist’s Écran series, which was initially presented as large-scale, ephemeral pieces at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 2007.
Art historian Rose Marie Arbour has linked Fortin’s work—especially his Solitudes series, presented in 2002, to the optical and kinetic art of the 1960s.[i] It seems to me though, that another parallel could be made with Écrans, and especially with Série noire, to the minimalist art of the same period - whether with Frank Stella’s colour and monochromatic black stripe paintings, or with the repetition of motifs (including the triangle) in the sculptures of Carl André.
Série noire was first presented in Pretoria in the fall of 2009; and upon his return, Fortin embarked on the creation of a new and major work. Without going into too much detail at this point, Fortin arranged a series of opened archival boxes on the floor of his studio into two well-ordered rows. The placement of the boxes, which recalls the minimalist work of Carl André, for example Equivalent VIII (1966), shares the same organizational sensibility that one finds in many of Fortin’s earlier pieces. The contents of the boxes are, however, surprising: one finds a jumbled assortment of small and identical sculptures.
Created from tin cans and a hand-held can opener, Fortin’s triangular forms are repeated evenly around each lid. Individually and as whole, the sculptures testify to a labour-intensive, repetitive, and even obsessive process. Their arrangement in the archival boxes accentuates a sense of organizational excess, like some of Morton Feldman’s compositions – works that can last several hours— such as For Phillip Guston (1984) which has a duration of 4 hours, and String Quartet II (1983) which lasts 5 hours. Fortin’s floor installation allows visitors to walk around Continuum. Though the work is contained, it has neither a beginning nor an end. It evokes the idea of infinity – a concept familiar to both modernists and the artists of today – from Brancusi’s Endless Column (1937-1938), later reprised by (amongst others) Pravdoliub Ivanov, in his Monument to the Unknown Washerwoman (Luxemburg, 2005), and Kristof Kintera, with Do it Yourself (After Brancusi) (Prague, 2007). Brancusi is not, of course, the only modernist to have been cited by contemporary artists who use everyday objects and other materials. In the same vein, Mexican artist José Davila employs cardboard boxes and bottle caps in his Untitled (2007) to quote Donald Judd’s famous "Stack" series.
The use of everyday materials does not necessarily imply either an ecological approach or the idea of recycling (especially if these materials are new). Rather, Fortin uses them as mediums to explore their formal and aesthetic qualities. In this sense, his work is akin to that of American artist Tara Donovan, who exploits the formal aspects of Styrofoam coffee cups and plastic straws to produce large-scale works, or rubber bands to create prints.
The disorderly contents of Continuum suggest a new and liberating mode of production for Fortin. This approach resonates in two of the four engravings produced at the Tàpies workshop. While two of them take up the triangle motif harking back to those of Série noire, the remaining pieces seem to announce a new direction. Indeed, these represent a break from previous series – one might recall Fortin’s earlier Tondos (2003) that suggest a labour-intensive process of collage – with two finely worked prints created through an economy of means not previously seen in the artist’s production. Here, a few intertwined threads of colour and one (or two) pieces of Japanese paper were enough. In the artist’s overall production, these two recent works initiate a dialogue between minimalism and contemporary art, both in their interpretation and their process.
Looking at the containers that make up Continuum, I wonder if the artist has not attempted to ‟archive” this mode of production that we have come to expect, in order to take us in a new direction, to seek a new visual language where formal aesthetics still prevail – one that is sustained by themes of elegant beauty. More surprises are surely forthcoming. . .
[i] Rose Marie Arbour, ‟Jérôme Fortin, éloge de la fragilité et des croisements,” Espace, No. 62 (Winter 2002-2003), 45-46.
Jérôme Fortin was born in Joliette in 1971, he lives and works in Montreal. Since 1996 he has had more than a dozen solo exhibitions including shows in Prague, Pretoria, Tokyo, Paris, Toronto and Montreal. His work has been presented in group exhibitions in Istanbul, Berlin, Bologna, Brussels, Paris, Cuba, Barcelona, Beijing and New York. Fortin has also actively participated in international artists' residencies, notably at the World Financial Center Arts and Events (New York), la Fondation Christoph-Merian (Basel), Fonca (Mexico D.F.), la Cité internationale des arts (Paris), the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba (Havana) and Tokyo Wonder Site (Tokyo).
In 2007 Fortin had a major solo exhibition at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (MACM) and in 2004 he was a laureate of the City of Montreal's Prix Pierre Ayot. His works can be found in several public collections including those of the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Quebec, the Musée de Joliette, the Pretoria Art Museum, the National Museum of China, the Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Québec, the Canada Council Art Bank, the City of Montreal, and in several major corporate and private collections worldwide.
For more information on Jérôme Fortin please consult his website: www.jeromefortin.com
Jérôme Fortin would like to thank Natasha Hébert, Toni Tàpies, Caroline Pierret, Stéphanie Templier, Carlos Calado, Hannelie DuPlessis,Valery Hiptong, Berco Wilsenach, Pierre-François Ouellette, the Pretoria art Museum, Galeria Toni Tàpies, Joan Roma, Takeshi Motomiya, the Canada Council for the Arts, le Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) and the High Commission of Canada to South Africa in Pretoria.
click icon below to download a recent C.V. of the artist (adobe PDF)