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Major Art History Event in Buffalo, NY—Landmark Exhibition of Works by Canada’s Avant-Garde Opens in Buffalo March 19

February 10, 2010

Buffalo, NY —On March 19, The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941–1960, a landmark exhibition of works by Canada’s first avant-garde art movement, will open at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. It is one of the most extensive exhibitions to date of the Automatiste Group, whose work created what is recognized today as the most interdisciplinary and possibly the most important art movement in Canada. The Automatistes were the first artists to bring modernist painting to Canada and the first Canadian artists to embrace avant-garde gestural abstraction.

The opening at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery will represent the first time this important work will be seen in a broad international context, with complementary works from the Albright- Knox’s Permanent Collection of the contemporaneous United States avant-garde, the Abstract Expressionists, also on view. Major works by Jean-Paul Riopelle and Paul-Émile Borduas will be complemented in context with work by Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko from the internationally known collection of the Albright-Knox.

Guest curated by Roald Nasgaard, Professor of Art History at Florida State University, the exhibition includes sixty works of art, as well as photographs, books, and other ephemera documenting the history of the Automatiste movement. The United States exhibition will also include a gallery of related works from the Gallery’s Permanent Collection designed to illuminate the connections and relationships between these Canadian artists and their American counterparts.

“The Gallery is looking forward to presenting the work of these remarkable artists, whose breakthroughs were parallel to, but entirely independent of, the simultaneous Abstract Expressionism movement in New York,” said Louis Grachos, Director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. “It’s exciting to see these little-known artists in the U.S. for the first time,” added Associate Curator Holly E. Hughes. Although a few of the Automatistes exhibited in New York and Paris during the 1940s and 1950s, they remain largely unknown outside Quebec.

The Automatistes gathered under the leadership of Paul-Émile Borduas in the early 1940s. They were inspired by stream-of-consciousness writings of the time and approached their works through an exploration of the subconscious.

The group of sixteen artists published Le Refus global (Total Refusal) in 1948. It became one of the pillars of the Quiet Revolution, a period of intense change in Quebec. Le Refus global was an anti-religious and anti-establishment manifesto—one of the most controversial artistic and social documents in modern Quebec. The Automatistes were notsolely painters, but also included dancers, playwrights, poets, critics, and choreographers. After twenty years of challenging the politically and religiously repressive Quebec society, the Automatistes as a group disbanded in 1960 with the death of Borduas.

The exhibition was organized, and recently on view at the Varley Art Gallery of Markham, Ontario. An accompanying publication, The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941–1960 (Douglas & McIntyre) has been co-authored by Roald Nasgaard and Automatiste historian Ray Ellenwood and includes sixty color reproductions of works in the exhibition. The exhibition and publication are supported by the Varley-McKay Art Foundation and private donors.

The exhibition will open at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery on March 19, 2010, and remain on view through May 30, 2010.