Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art | The colorful vocabulary of Nelson Henricks

The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) presents two unique installations by visual artist Nelson Henricks in its temporary premises at Place Ville Marie. Two works in which we find the unique touch of this arranger of visual and sound frames which offers us, as a bonus, 15 of the portraits Screen Tests by Andy Warhol. The total !

This is Nelson Henricks’ first solo at the MAC. An invitation from curator Mark Lanctot that allowed the Montreal artist to develop two new projects. Nelson Henricks worked five years to define his work Don’t You Like the Green of A? (Don’t you like the green of the A?).

The title of his installation is a quote from the American painter Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) who evokes synesthesia, this neurological reflex that this former companion of Riopelle had. The phenomenon is reflected in the association, for example, of a letter with a color. Thus, a person can perceive the letter B as being systematically blue. A poetic and metaphorical language with which artists are often endowed, but also children.

The Montreal artist is interested in this particularity because he, too, has been a synesthete since his youth. He has already worked on the subject in the past, notably through his doctoral thesis. “I wanted to approach this problem from the point of view of another artist,” he says. Having read the biography of Joan Mitchell by Patricia Albers and then contacted the Joan Mitchell Foundation in New York, Nelson Henricks knew which colors corresponded to which letters in the American Expressionist.

This recreation of Mitchell’s visual vocabulary translates into a tapestry that covers half of the showroom and two Harlequin-style garments that Nelson Henricks displays and wears in a 10-minute video. A typical video of the 59-year-old artist, with polished aesthetics, but also tinged with humor and reflections on the artist’s work in general. A filmed performance in which the game is between an artist and an interpreter of his work, such as a curator, an art historian, a collector, an art critic or a gallery owner.

As the letters-colors correspondence is sometimes accompanied, in certain synesthetes, by a music-color link – that is to say that they perceive a given color by hearing a specific sound – Nelson Henricks did business with two composers for the sound of the video, Nick Forrest and Avery Mikolič-O’Rourke. As well as with Jackie Gallant for the music. To literally dive into the “music” of Joan Mitchell’s multicolored abstraction. A cheerful and pleasant music to listen to.

In the video, a microphone approaches colors, a contact that translates into sounds…

This installation on synesthesia fits perfectly into the smaller of the two temporary MAC rooms. Plunged into semi-darkness, the second room, larger, welcomes Heads Will Roll (heads will roll), an installation made up of four large screens that project actions carried out for 19 minutes by artists in music, dance, singing, fashion and acting, including Charles Brecard, Justin Gionet, Stuart Jackson, Odile Myrtil and Alex Bergeron. Actions that have a musical component – ​​interacting with a drum, playing the guitar or the accordion – or are a simple gestural performance.

Heads Will Roll experimented very well by sitting on the carpet of the room. The work is immersive, effective, with beautiful images, but also very sonorous, even noisy. Its intensity stems from Nelson Henricks’ desire to lead us to consider this sometimes aggressive music as a means of expression and affirmation rather than a distraction.

Moreover, the use of flags in the video evokes the charge of contestation or revolt that music can embody in life and in history. In fact, as with the synesthetic installation, the sound is not only visible, but also coloured, literally and figuratively. “Like the construction of a language”, says Nelson Henricks.

The MAC also took advantage of Nelson Henricks’ curatorial expert by giving him carte blanche for a new presentation in the video room. He chose to project 15 of the Screen Tests by Andy Warhol, these little bits of black and white film – a kind of portrait – that the king of pop art created between 1964 and 1966. A one-hour program, in silence, very relaxing to end this visit to the MAC. With in particular Lou Reed, his blinking eye and his off-camera gaze, Mario Montez as a luscious blonde or even Philip Fagan, close friend of Warhol, peeling a banana in a suggestive way…

Note that a percussion concert by Stuart Jackson will be presented near the work Heads Will Roll, November 30, at 6 p.m. And that Nelson Henricks, thanks to an agreement with Underground Art, will have an artistic residency at Ubisoft, in Montreal, next year, he told us: “I’m very curious to see what I can do there, because this video game box has almost infinite creative capabilities, its aspect in research and education is interesting and they are also artists. »

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