Jasmin Bilodeau, Sébastien Giguère, and Nicolas Laverdière – these are the three Quebec artists who,together, make up BGL. Their latest exhibition, at the Parisian Laundry, displays the usual humor with which they address their concerns, in this case the issues of wasteful consumerism and its effect on the environment. In fact, the theme of consumerism tied in with environmentalism seems to be a current theme in Montreal exhibits these days – I’m thinking of the Tricia Middleton exhibit at the MAC which I highly recommend.
Most of BGL’s art isn’t for the home – if only because the installations are too large and sculptural and need to be experienced from all sides. And yet, I have chosen to talk about them in the “art at home” section for two reasons. 1] There are smaller, more affordable pieces offered which I will speak about later; 2] Artists such as BGL help the beginner collector understand that art is not simply a framed picture you hang on your wall. Take the piece L’intimidante for example. I loved this piece. Inspired by the existing Mies van der Rohe styled chairs that belonged to the gallery, BGL created their own version of the chair by adding a witty twist – a large Excalibur-like sword leans against the tattered back of the chair suggesting that even pieces that have achieved iconic status are little more than wasteful commodities. I also enjoyed a piece entitled Born Again, 2007 – a melting storm trooper’s [those thoughtless killer clones] helmet and its suggestion that a commodity like Star Wars can never be over-marketed. Quite honestly, if budget and taste allowed, why not this art for your home? You would be welcoming serious artists concerned with issues that are both current and relevant.
BUT has BGL outdone themselves? Artists critically examining the notion of consumerism is especially tricky when these artists exhibit their work in an art gallery. After all, the basic raison d’etre of an art gallery is to sell art to its clients, otherwise known as consumers, and Parisian Laundry is no exception. So imagine this potential scenario: You walk into the gallery, you look at art which questions the consumer-based culture we inhabit, and then you buy the art. If you accept this interpretation, then it could be argued that BGL takes the whole humor/interaction component to the extreme: I, the buyer, have bought a non-essential commodity [if we consider essentials to be food, clothing, and shelter]; Moreover, I, the buyer, have participated in the very action that the art I have bought is ridiculing. In effect, the physical act of my purchase completes the irony of the work. The only thing missing is idiotic me standing next to the art with the VISA receipt in my hand – something that probably isn’t necessary once my purchase enters my home since my participation as greedy consumer will be completed.
I don’t know, call me cynical, but there is something about this that bugs me. I don’t mind art that pushes me and I certainly don’t mind art that makes me question and/or re-visit the things I thought I knew – in fact, I embrace this. And for the most part, BGL is such art but installations such as Les puces [remember I said I would return to the smaller, more affordable pieces] – where every single item is for sale at a somewhat affordable price – borders on absurdity. After all, if you were to buy one of these useless items, say one of the little men inside the glass cases, will you have bought art or just some item that, on its own, doesn’t mean very much? Hmmm, while I get the ideology, I’m not quite sure I agree with how it’s expressed in a piece like Les Puces. Art is about respect. Respect for the artist, respect for the work, respect for the collector and I can’t help but feel that pieces like Les Puces are more about ridicule than they are about respect. It is as if BGL is saying, [and so what if they do it with a wink and a smile] – Hey! For those of you who can’t afford our bigger pieces, here are the smaller ones which, on their own, are about as useless as the trinkets you buy in a flea market. Well guess what? Buying useless trinkets is not what buying art [be it for the home or office] should ever be about.