Aislin (alias Terry Mosher), Parizeau as Jack the Ripper, 1994, ink and felt pen on paper
Quebec isn't known as a province that pulls its punches where opining is concerned, whether it's in protests in the streets or contentious cartoons in our dailies. Tastefulness isn't always our strong suit – which is why a show on the McCord Museum's collection of Quebec cartoons was such a good idea. The exhibition is a great spotlight on an art form that's rarely shown by institutions before it's been historicized, i.e. once the artists have been dead a while. The museum's collection is particularly impressive considering so many of the artists behind them – Aislin, Chapleau, Garnotte, Beaudet, Pascal and Godin – are still alive and working. Some of the works exhibited are beautiful pieces of draughtsmanship (Aislin's is my favourite line), regardless of their subject matter. The latter matter is where the curating gets a little lax.
The exhibition is categorized under "calamities" – the idea being that political cartoons are intertwined with societal upheavals. One category is "New York, 2001," for example, while another is "Israel, 1995–." The simplistically short wall panels describing each situation notwithstanding, it's a curatorial system that works okay where the big themes are concerned, but when the collection only has a couple of pieces on a certain issue – Darfour, for example – it rather unjustly trivializes its importance. There is also absolutely no contextualization; to see some art produced by other countries, or even provinces, would have enriched the experience and better exhibited how unique Quebec cartoons are. As is, it's a worthwhile show, but a missed opportunity for the McCord to delve deeper.
McCord Museum: http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/en/
Cartooning Calamities! continues until January 26.
Isa Tousignant is a contributing editor for Canadian Art magazine and a freelance art, design, and lifestyle writer. She cut her teeth as the arts editor for Montreal weekly Hour magazine, where she worked for eight years. She helped curate a bunch of exhibitions and happenings over the years including, in no particular order, a band bonanza, a petting zoo (llama included), and a debate about graffiti art. Her favourite pastime these days involves the happy marriage of contemporary art and plushophilia. She is Akimblog's Montreal correspondent.
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