Recap: Phantasmagoria Yves Laroche Montreal 10/27

Last Wednesday (Oct. 27th) I had the pleasure of hopping a train to Montreal and attending Yves Laroche’s ‘Phantasmagoria’ — a group exhibition showcasing new works from Kathie Olivas, Brandt Peters, Travis Louie and Chet Zar.

I doubt this needs mention, but there are currently more freaks haunting that gallery’s walls than any travelling circus could boast. Gun-toting aliens, costumed ghosts, suit-sporting amphibians, inexpressive kids clad in party hats and bunny suits … it’s all there, awaiting your interest, your attention.

The show marks a Canadian debut for Travis and Chet and a second helping for KO + BP, who first appeared in 2007 at Yves Laroche with their ‘Second-Hand Smoke and Mirrors‘ exhibition. Since then, the gallery has moved to a new location. It’s beautiful … though sterile. Sealed cement flooring, white drywall and florescent lighting have replaced Yves’ old-studio-loft appeal of yore. I liked the creaky floors and old brick walls; the bay windows and cobblestone street. It smelled of history — you felt it as soon as you walked in. And I think that place would have played better host to the ghosts and ghouls this show. But things need to change eventually, I suppose.

The show itself was great: there were plenty of pieces from each artist, all evenly distributed throughout the gallery’s walls and arranged by size. It was visually stunning, especially with the frames on Travis’ and Chet’s pieces. Each painting or drawing seemingly complemented and played off the former, creating a flow through arrangement and piece similarities.

The artists’ conscious effort to capture the spirit of Halloween was another highlight. Kathie’s ‘Black Cat‘ and ‘Evil Eye‘ and Brandt’s ‘Hex,’ and ‘Trick,’ ‘Treat‘ and ‘Stingy Jack‘ series are all notable departures from KO + BP’s regularly scheduled program. They could have easily conjured the usual characters and labelled it a Halloween show, but instead they dove in head first, dressing their parade with pumpkin heads and witch hats. It’s pure devilish pleasure and most importantly, it’s fresh.

But there were some drawbacks. I’m a size-does-matter kind of a gal and the fact that most of the pieces were fairly small (around 9″ x 12″ or 14″ x 11″) was kind of deflating given that viewers are greeted by a huge Olivas painting when they first walk in (‘Unspoken‘ is still on display from their last exhibition … it’s 36″ x 18″).

Now this isn’t me accusing the artists of slacking, but rather me expressing my high expectations. Perhaps I should put this into perspective:

First off, it isn’t often that A-List artists make the trip up north. This was Travis’ and Chet’s Canadian debut, as mentioned, and Brandt and Kathie haven’t been here in three years. Not to mention that this is a one-stop tour which has been in the works for the past 12 months. So it’s kind of a big deal. This country doesn’t see even half the amount of art shows and nerd conventions as the U.S. and god knows when these artists will return. So if you’re coming up here, make some waves. Stir up something that will have everyone talking, north and south of the border.

During the opening I had a great conversation with Chet and when I told him I was from Toronto, the man was visibly taken aback.

“You drove six hours? For THIS?!”

Well, yeah. And given how packed the gallery was by 7:30pm, I don’t think I’m the only one who made the trip. The fans are hungry up here, guys. …Knock our socks off.