Lot #49

Guido Molinari
Quantificateur, 1981

acrylic on canvas
signed and dated “6/81” on the reverse; unframed
78 x 60 ins ( 198.1 x 152.4 cms )

Yajima Galerie, Montreal
Acquired by the Art Gallery of Ontario, 1982
Guido Molinari, ‘Quantificateur Chromatique’, in “Ten Canadian Artists of the 1970s”, 1980, page 72
Guido Molinari was a leader in art theory, education, artists’ organizations and galleries, and of course abstract painting in Montréal from the 1950s to the 2000s. Much of his national and international acclaim attaches to his monochromatic series. The monochrome is the heart of 20th–century abstract expression – itself central to Modernism globally – its essence and perhaps the greatest challenge for an artist. Not only must a painter recall the legacy of masters of the genre such as Malevich, Klein, Newman, and Rothko, they must also present work of such apparent simplicity to an often–uncomprehending public. Yet a sonorous painting such as “Quantificateur” can be readily understood and appreciated, especially if one focuses less on cerebral understanding and more on the affective qualities of the surface, atmosphere, chromatics, scale, and as we might hope for from an artist so interested in classical music, the painting’s quietude.

Molinari focused on the Quantifiers from the 1970s to the 1990s, working in many colours, compositions, and at different scales. One of his ways of understanding these works was to insist on what he called their “energy balance.” If we give the painting the attention it requires of us, “Quantificateur” emits a powerful, balanced force and creates a mysterious deep space that we can sense or even feel part of. While this example may at first appear to be black – Molinari created several near–black canvases in the series c. 1980 – under this hue he has laid down a layer of purple, which then tints the uniquely ‘black’ surface. Rigorous in every way, Molinari has evenly divided his space into three vertical bars, registered subtly by the minimal edges left by the tape he used to create perfect edges in the composition. With an exquisitely refined touch on a dark but by no means heavy surface, Molinari evokes measurement and rhythm.

“Quantificateur” is a large painting: its scale invites us to engage with it corporeally, almost as a human interlocutor. If we remain still in front of it, the painting too is motionless. If we move, so do its increasingly visible elements. We perceive, for example, that it is not literally a monochrome but plays with almost imperceptibly different hues. We register its discreet textures, a suggestion that we are looking at a material object as well as delving into a deep, metaphysical space.

Mark A. Cheetham is a freelance writer and curator and a professor of art history at the University of Toronto. He is author of two books on modern and contemporary abstract art, “The Rhetoric of Purity” and “Abstract Art Against Autonomy”.

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Guido Molinari
(1933 - 2004) Les Plasticiens

Guido Molinari was born in Montreal in 1933. He studied briefly at the School of Design at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1950-51), and began making drawings and paintings combining automatic methods with a disciplined approach. He was a leader in the development of a rigorous colour abstraction movement in Montreal. Characteristic of his paintings in the 1960s were vertical, hard-edged bands of colour. Pictorial space in these paintings was created by the spectator’s perception of the shifting and mixing of colours.

In 1956 Molinari was a founding member of the Association des Artistes Non-Figuratifs de Montreal. He exhibited at the Biennale in Venice in 1968, where he was awarded the David E. Bright Foundation prize. In 1977 he participated in the Paris Biennale, and in 1980 he was awarded the Paul-Emile Borduas Prize by the Quebec government. Molinari, who taught at Concordia University until 1997, exerted a powerful influence on younger artists, through his teaching, his theoretical writing and his opinions, firmly held and strongly stated.