Collecting our thoughts: Kika by Jacques Hurtubise

Beaverbrook Art GallerySeptember 21, 20160 Comments

Collecting our thoughts: Kika by Jacques Hurtubise

Collecting our thoughts is a new, occasional series of short reflections on works in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s permanent collection. We want to share some of the treasures we have in the building (and on display) with our guests and members of our community, and tell you a little about why we think they’re special – and hopefully you’ll agree! Our first pick is Kika, by Jacques Hurtubise, on display through October 16 as part of the exhibition Modernism at Mid Century.

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Kika, 1967 is a work by Jacques Hurtubise (Canadian, 1939-2014) recently added to the permanent collection of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.  Jacques Hurtubise was born in Montreal in 1939.  At the age of 17 he began studying at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal.  Hurtubise received a grant to study in New York for much of 1960s.  In New York, he became acquainted with the abstract expressionists, particularly Franz Kline.  Hurtubise was central in the post-automatiste developments in Quebec, along with his contemporaries Yves Gaucher, Guido Molinari, Claude Tousignant, Fernand Leduc and others. The artist burst onto the scene at the age of 21 with a solo exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, followed by inclusions in the National Gallery of Canada biennials of Canadian Painting and representing Canada astonishingly back to back at both the 8th and 9th Biennial of São Paulo, Brazil in 1965 and 1967, the date of this work.

Kika is an example of a work that won the artist such renown.  His work unites spontaneous expressive painterly flair with strategies of “hard edge” abstraction, pattern and serial geometry,” notes Senior Curator Jeffrey Spalding.  “In this case, Hurtubise has adopted his signature square format subdivided into repeated units. Rather than classic geometric motifs he evolved a personal squiggle mark that is simultaneously comic and charged with energy,” adds Spalding.  This painting was also exhibited in the important international travelling exhibition Canada, art d'aujourd'hui at the Musée national d'art moderne in Paris in 1968 and organized by the National Gallery of Canada, (which was then exhibited at Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy later that same year).

“I like Jacques Hurtubise because he is one of the most interesting Quebec artists from the 1960s,” says Mr. René Després, who donated Kika to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in 2015.  “I knew it would be a great addition to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s collection because this is an important contemporary Canadian painting from the 1960s,” says Mr. Després, and adds that Hurtubise’s work “Kika reflects his influence of op art, which was already present in Europe and in the Eastern part of the United States.  He made the style even more personal through the influence of pop art and comics from his own childhood.”  Mr. Després says he is very happy to see Jacques Hurtubise represented in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s collection because the work is a “wonderful illustration of this important part in the artist’s career.”

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