Léopold L. Foulem: SingularitiesMay 16, 2013 – January 5, 2014
"I believe that authentic art is a matter of concepts,
certainly not of the means
of expression or of style,
or even of execution. My work in ceramics expresses ideas.
My artistic production has nothing to do with individual
expression or a quest
for beauty. I see myself
as a composer and a theorist, not as a virtuoso."
– Léopold L. Foulem
Léopold L. Foulem has exhibited his work in more than 40 solo shows, and his career is now in its fifth decade. He is undoubtedly the best-known Canadian ceramist on the international scene. His rigorous and uncompromising artistic project, whose arsenal includes humour, irony and provocation, is a constant claim for recognition of ceramics as a sovereign
The exhibition Léopold L. Foulem: Singularities will be accompanied by a publication containing essays by Paul Bourassa, collections and research director of the MNBAQ, and by Jorunn Veiteberg, professor at the Academy of Art and Design in Bergen, Norway, preceded by an introduction by Garth Clark (Santa Fe, New Mexico), author of more than 60 volumes on modern and contemporary ceramics.
With Léopold L. Foulem: Singularities, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec presents the first true retrospective devoted to this artist who places ceramics – as a discipline and not as a material – at the centre of his concerns. The positions he has staked out on the hierarchy of genres have also led him to a few successful forays into sculpture, in which the bronze becomes a distorting mirror of the quality of the materials.
Ceramic work is handicapped by several preconceived ideas which make of it an art associated with the sphere of manual labour, hobbies and, in the end, with the feminine. This is the lot of the fine crafts in general, which have been stigmatised by the champions of modernism, stamped with the anathema of the “decorative” and described as figures of otherness. Foulem’s work, playing on these stereotypes and on those around homosexuality, creates a two-fold ambiguity.
The object, and especially the art object, is under the sway of the hegemony of precious and so-called lofty matter. Foulem, in one of his key solo exhibitions, addressed this question, stating that “matter doesn’t matter”. The bronze is the rhetorical figure of this discourse on matter. Similarly, within the discipline, some techniques are viewed as superior to others. Finally, his use of found objects (from the dollar store, refuse bin or antique store) is a way of thumbing his nose at this supposed superiority of one material over another.
Since the 1980s in particular, Léopold L. Foulem has explored the transformation of objects into images, the movement from use to intellect. To do so, he has worked with negative forms, containers with no inside surface, solidified voids and surfaces on which images and words call into question our manner of perceiving the object and our propensity to always privilege what it says rather than the history of the object itself.
Foulem’s base material is not so much clay as it is this history of ceramics. By revisiting and parodying several genres and forms he puts ceramics on the pedestal of tradition, but with this highly contemporary touch, which constantly destabilises its basis.
BIOGRAPHY OF LÉOPOLD L. FOULEM
Born in 1945 in Caraquet, New Brunswick, Léopold L. Foulem holds a master’s degree in visual arts from the University of Indiana. As a public speaker and author, he is known for his views on the importance of a discourse unique to the discipline. An acknowledged expert on Pablo Picasso’s ceramics, in 2004 he co-curated the exhibition Picasso et la céramique, co-organised by the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. He received the Jean A. Chalmers National Crafts Award in 1999 and, in 2001, the Saidye Bronfman Award in recognition of excellence in the fine crafts (today one of the Governor General’s awards in visual and media arts). In 2003, he received the Éloizes Award for artist of the year in the visual arts in Acadia. He divided his time between his studios in Montréal and Caraquet. His work can be found in several prestigious collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Los Angeles County Museum, and is included in major international exhibitions.