236 Pender St East,
13 Oct 2023–10 Feb 2024
12 October, 2023
T. +1 604.683.7395
Julie Duschenes, Mark Grady
04 January–30 January 1988
Curated by: Todd Davis
Does the true artist in fact reveal mystic truths and thereby undertake the difficult in his or her attempt to help illuminate the world? Is the problem not made more arduous when realization and reconstruction are in dialogue with questions of source, originality and singularity as they exist in the two artworks that comprise this exhibition?
It is this dialogue, containing theories on originality and reproduction, which allow these two paintings by Mark Grady and Julie Duschenes to speak and reverberate. Illumination of the process of analysis via recognizable imagery also appears dialogistic-ally and results in more strata of involvement for viewers. Faced by the task of rethinking representation, these two individuals are obliged by the needs of history and enabled by their capabilities to organize and conceptualize. To understand and act on this symbiotic relationship of historical conventions and production they, as visual artists, must have an effective representation or concept and they must give it form.
This form is at once mental, visual and social. As this representation is developed reproducibility enters cognition undermining the heroic attempt to be original; enters the visual to question singularity; enters the social to create dialogue. This is the act of construction in the context of reproduction. An illustration of reproduction in its extreme form can be found in the writing of Jorge Luis Borges on the now deceased enigmatic novelist Pierre Menard. As Borges notes regarding Menard’s chef d’oeuvre, “He did not want to compose another Quixote-which is easy-but the Quixote itself”,1 And as it is with all art forms, it is the willful form of composition that Menard envisions reconstructing literally Miguel de Cervantes’ original uncontrived work, Borges delineates this for us: “It is a revelation to compare Menard’s Don Quixote with Cervantes’. The latter, for example, wrote: “Truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and advisor to the present, and the future’s counselor.”2
Written in the seventeenth century, written by the ‘lay genius’ Cervantes, this enumeration is a mere rhetorical praise of history. Menard, on the other hand, writes: ” “Truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and advisor to the present, and the future’s counselor.”2 This embodiment, by Menard, of reconstruction and creation is not sublimation as Cervantes but the experimental author writing the Quixote, thereby challenging the underlying conditions of the notion of originality.
As it was, two chapters and part of another were m0re than sufficient for Menard’s discourse on anachronisms inherent in production and reproduction. It is his very choice of Cevante’s fiction that reveals the direct analogy of those anachronisms readily apparent in the viewer’s reading of the work. Don Quixote, a man of letters cum knighthood after the age of chivalry, chose a previous form of identity to challenge his creativity and empower his life. The resultant disruption of the zeitgeist reveals the active role of all participants, including in this case writers, characters, readers and explicators, in the creation or interpretation of realities past and present: processes normally subsumed by tradition and data overload. Given these processes of construction, idea, event and object the quality of uniqueness necessary to originality is dispersed and the original becomes a diffused concept.
Pertinent to this, Rosalind Krauss states, “…modernism and the avant-garde are functions of what we could call the discourse of originality, and that that discourse serves much wider interests-and is thus fuelled by more diverse institutions-than the restricted circle of professional art-making. The theme of originality, encompassing as it does notions of authenticity, originals, and origins, is the shared discursive practice of the museum, the historian, and the maker of art.”3
The institutions of the nineteenth century which popularized the theme of originality gave rise to parallel principles of landscape as haven for the original through picturesque(ness) and singularity. Essentially, art-making of the landscape genre becomes original as a format through championing the singular and thus authenticates its claim to represent nature.
This exhibit’s internal and external dialogue created by Julie Duschenes’ White Pile, Stripe Tarp and Tires and Mark Grady’s Museum Work overcomes these themes of originality, singularity and picturesque by reproducing landscape in opposition to its context as representative of nature. Absence of this context and subjugation of its interrelated themes in the two paintings, engenders the following: the use of text in an iconic and centralist manner, the concept of multiplicity through reproduction and stratigraphical construction of meaning.
These strategies of production are intrinsic to the work of both these artists over the past several years. As a starting point for Museum Work, Grady utilizes a catalogue reproduction to introduce the experience of landscape as a formulaic construct. The theme of reproducibility, within this painting, is then presented as an important element of landscape definition. A German government sanctioned exposition of ‘contemporary’ art sent to the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence during 1943 was accompanied by the catalogue from which Grady borrowed his seminal image. The image, E Kohler’s Quarry, was a landscape solidly entrenched in the theme of picturesque. This theme “inherent in the development of originality which was crucial to the rise of a new class of audience for art focused on the practice of taste as an exercise in the recognition of singularity”.4 With stratigraphical additions to the image and Grady’s employment of ‘original’ reproduction, the picturesque is exposed. The additional elements which combine to form layers of significant dialogue in this work were discovered in another literary source. Upon reading historical documents describing the battle at Cherkassy between the Russian army and a retreating German force, and instructed by the history of the picturesque, Grady ‘recognized’ in Kohler’s landscape similar visual elements as were prompted by that writing.
In the dialogue between artist and viewer this act of ‘recognition’ has been metamorphosed from battle ground description to text. Executed in Time Roman typeface and centered prominently within the image, Cherkassy illustrates and exists as another level of landscape-reproduced addressing originality once again. The very idea of seeing Grady’s piece with its layered landscapes avers that reality is agreed upon description, continuously reinforced conventions, maintaining the importance of reproducibility as an embodiment of construction.
Other issues delineated by the two side panels of Museum Work containing documentation of the artist’s concepts and sources, illuminates inherent paradox in our cultural and social institution’s daily handling of the two polarities: original and reproduction. As in past works Grady leaves positive or negative opinions on the validity of the subject (as opposed to content) to viewer’s discretion reserving for himself, as artist, subjective neutrality; but as viewer, the right to interpret the entire work. While Grady’s Museum Work illuminates denotative aspects of landscape. Originality and reproduction, Duschenes’ White Pile, Stripe Tarp and Tires address the connotative. If the connotative is the sum of all attributes essential to meaning then it is logical to describe the attributes of this painting White Pile, Stripe Tarp and Tires also employs the representational format inducing the viewer to dialogue through conventions associated with landscape and assess other’, implications of reproduction. Scaled accordingly to subject matter, but not to conventions of landscape history, the painting distances itself further from the genre through size, while distinguishing itself as landscape through reproduction. Duschenes’ development of figure/ground confrontations heighten themselves through a bizarre sense of brashness, sheer size (as aforementioned) and overbearing hues combined with text relevant to the dialogue. This contributes towards a relationship between viewer and painting that exists in the artist’s reality unimpeded by civility. Her use of ambivalent perspective; insistent line work and repetitive gesture within this identifiable genre (landscape) confounds the assumed or expected aesthetic. Duschenes’ denial of this convention brings us to the following recognition of painting en plein air, Rosalind Krauss writes: “For it is perfectly obvious that through the action of the picturesque the very notion of landscape is constructed as a second term of which the first is a representation. Landscape becomes a reduplication of a picture which proceeded it.”5
Included with these effects but(more prominent is Duschenes’ use of text in her work, Becoming iconographic, the text in White Pile, Stripe Tarp and Tires consists of one word only: realistic. The word realistic in relation to this landscape painting questions possibilities of reproduction and attaches value judgments to the theme of ‘likeness’. Any repetition of or within an identifiable genre, in this case landscape, delineates the habits of seeing within conventions.
For this exhibition, both artists have utilized the landscape genre for analysis of interpolated information and for instigating dialogue. These are two individuals interested in extrapolating the conventions of landscape reproduction without a dependence on the singularity or, within the language of romanticism, its originality, Grady reproduces landscape, as does Duschenes, for specific purposes and although the tools and conceptual foundations are similar their methods or directions and results differ, Museum Work exists to reproduce a landscape for revealing history through structure; White Pile, Stripe Tarp and Tires manifests a landscape for disclosing the constraints and effects of repetitiveness on the historical genre. Here are two paintings, produced by artists with specific intents, that dispel the notions of ‘the heroic’ and invite the viewer to analyse the conventions of the past in dialogue with the works,
Todd A Davis 1987
1.Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings, trans, Donald A. Yates and James E, lrby (New York,: New Directions Publishing Corp” 1964), pp, 36,44 I
3. Rosalind Krauss, October, no, 18 (Fall 1981), pp, 47,66 ‘
Acknowledgements and Credits
The following individuals and organizations provided support, financial and other, wise, materials and information, We thank them for their generosity, The Canada Council (Exhibition Assistance), Philip McCrum, Ellen Ramsay, Or Gallery, Donna Hagerman, Cole’s Lithoprep, Hemlock Printers, Petra Robinson.