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Isa Tousignant
Frederique Ulman-Gagne & Stephanie Gervais at Les Territoires
August 14, 2012

Stephanie Gervais, O Líder Invisível, C-print, 2011

There's an interesting dialogue going on between the two exhibitions at Les Territoires these days. As you walk into the gallery on the fifth floor of the Belgo, you've got a collection of abstract paintings and drawings by local artist Frédérique Ulman-Gagné in the large room. For years, the artist incorporated her life as a mother into her work by collaborating with her young son. This series is the aftermath – her own exploration of the effect that collaboration had on her solo practice and the impact of her son's presence in her studio. It displays a woman testing the limits of her own gestural innocence. The works feature elemental geometric themes – the triangle features centrally – and repetitive gestures, like the creation of chain after chain of sequential semi-circles.

The pleasure of Ulman-Gagné's show remains mainly visceral until it's contrasted with the accompanying exhibition by American artist Stephanie Gervais in the small room. Her collection of photographs, textual banners, and video depict a performance (the artist conceives of it as more of a live-sculpture) set in the recently police-busted Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro. Sporting grandiose decorative objects and costumes recalling the Carnaval, models speak and wear signs featuring quotes about life in the favela. In many ways the work denounces the police intrusion into this subculture, but it also paints a harsh picture of Rocinha pre-bust: the quotes refer to unconscionable violence, mostly directed toward children, perpetrated against residents unwilling to bend to the resident gangsters' ways. Two images of childhood: one in the street, one in the studio. I know which one I'd choose.

Les Territoires:
Frédérique Ulman-Gagné & Stephanie Gervais continue until September 1.

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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