Gazes in Dialogue: Hébert, Laliberté, Suzor-Coté, and Fleming. The A.K. Prakash Collection of Historical Sculptures, A Gift to the Musée d’art de Joliette

Curators : Anne-Élisabeth Vallée et Émilie Grandmont Bérubé

From October 3 2020 to May 23 2021

About —

This ambitious exhibition brings to light a collection of bronzes by Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté, Alfred Laliberté, and Louis-Philippe Hébert that were generously offered to the Musée d’art de Joliette by Mr. A.K. Prakash. Under the joint curatorship of Émilie Grandmont Bérubé and Anne-Élisabeth Vallée, the exhibition proposes a fresh look at these sculptures from the turn of the 20th century. The exhibition will be presented in the midst of an extensive installation by artist Nicolas Fleming.

Renowned for immersive works that play with raw construction materials, Fleming creates an experiential space in which visitors can literally enter while being fully conscious of their participation.

Within our gallery walls, Fleming is recreating Maison Antoine-Lacombe, a historic, late-19th-century residence and jewel of the Joliette region. Here we become privileged witnesses to a trans-historic dialogue between artists that addresses, among other things, questions of identity and colonialism.


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This exhibition was produced thanks to the financial support of the A.K. Prakash Foundation.


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View of the exhibition Gazes in Dialogue: Hébert, Laliberté, Suzor-Coté, and Fleming. The A.K. Prakash Collection of Historical Sculptures, A Gift to the Musée d’art de Joliette, Musée d’art de Joliette, 2020. Photo : Paul Litherland.


Biography —

Alfred Laliberté (1876-1953)

Born in Saint-Élisabeth-de-Warwick in 1976, Alfred Laliberté studied at the École du Conseil des arts et manufactures from 1887 to 1900 and at the École nationale des beaux-arts in Paris, with Thomas and Injalber, from 1902 to 1907. He taught at the ECAM, situated in the Monument-National, from 1907 to 1910 and from 1912 to 1923. He became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1919. Between 1928 and 1932, he produced 214 bronzes depicting legends, traditions, and crafts of years gone by. He died in Montreal in 1953.


Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté (1869-1937)

Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté first studied at his village school, and then in Montreal with the abbot Chabert and the muralist Maxime Rousseau. He made his way to Paris in 1891 and studied at the Académie supérieur des Beaux-Arts, and then at the Julian and Colarossi academies. He met Rodin who greatly influenced his approach to sculpture. As early as 1894, the works of Suzor-Coté are presented in numerous group shows, notably in the salons of Montreal, Paris, and Toronto and at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Among his many distinctions, we mention first prize in painting from Académie Julian in 1897, a Bronze medal at the Paris world fair in 1900, two Jessie Dow Prizes from the Spring Exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1912 and 1925, and a prize at the Quebec competition in 1920. He was elected member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1912 and of the Canadian Art Club in 1913. Suzor-Coté produced still-lifes, landscapes, portraits, and sculptures of remarkable technical audacity, liveliness, and purity.


Louis-Philippe Hébert (1850-1917)

Sculptor and medallic artist Louis-Philippe Hébert was born in Sainte-Sophie-de-Mégantic in 1850. At 19 years old, he joined the Company of Papal Zouaves and went to Europe where he discovered the masterpieces of Italian sculpture. On his return in 1873, he became an apprentice in the workshop of Napoléon Bourassa. This is where, over a seven-year period, he acquired the training by which he would become Canada’s foremost sculptor of commemorative monuments. In 1988, he was commissioned by the provincial government to produce historical characters to adorn the facade of the Quebec parliament building. In 1894, he received the Confederation Medal and, in 1901, the government of France made him Chevalier of Legion of Honour. He left a considerable body of work upon his death in 1917.


Nicolas Fleming

Nicolas Fleming holds a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Arts from Concordia University (Montreal, 2001) and a Master’s Degree from Université du Québec à Montréal (Montreal, 2007). Since 2006, he has presented numerous solo exhibitions across Canada, namely at Galerie de l’UQAM (Montreal), McClure Gallery (Montreal), AXENÉO7 (Gatineau), Galerie Trois Points (Montreal), Maison des Arts de Laval (Laval), TYPOLOGY Projects (Toronto), Bunker 2 (Toronto), Evans Contemporary (Peterborough), Harcourt House (Edmonton), Centre CLARK (Montreal) and Centre Plein sud (Longueuil). His first large-scale architectural installation was exhibited in 2014 at ISE Cultural Foundation (New York, NY). Recently, the artist attended Rupert Residency (Vilnius, Lithuania, 2017) and Sculpture Space Residency (Utica, New York, 2018). In 2019, under the title of both artist and artistic director, Fleming contributed to the group exhibition Undomesticated at Koffler Centre for the Arts (Toronto). In 2020, he built A House For Suzanne, part of the group exhibition Division of Labour at Art Gallery of Burlington and presented Fair Adaptations, Gallery Pivots at Patel Brown Gallery (Toronto).

Curatorial Text —

The exhibition Gazes in Dialogue offers a new, transhistorical, transcultural look at an extraordinary collection of historical bronzes donated to the Musée d’art de Joliette by Mr. Ash K. Prakash. In an astonishing exchange, works by Louis-Philippe Hébert, Alfred Laliberté, and Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté, three great artists of the early 20th century, meet those of Nicolas Fleming, a Canadian sculptor unreservedly committed to 21st-century modernity.

Magnificent bronzes, of noble and timeless material, rub shoulders with contemporary sculptures created from ordinary building materials of gypsum and wood. Visitors, surprised by such irreverence for elitist codes, can only ponder this relationship to materials.

All four artists share a deep attachment to the past. While the three former masters celebrate “heroes” who had forged French-Canadian identity, such as Adam Dollard des Ormeaux and Madeleine de Verchères, Fleming demonstrates this attachment by creating an immersive installation. Employing his characteristic building aesthetic, Fleming has reproduced the architecture of the Maison Antoine-Lacombe, a jewel of Joliette’s heritage, in the space of the museum. This total work of art embraces both his own works and those of his colleagues of the past, while enveloping the visitor, who has no choice but to enter.

Everyday life is also at the heart of this exhibition. Several of the bronzes feature ordinary subjects drawn from everyday reality. By idealizing the figure of the French-Canadian pioneer and his traditional activities, these sculptors were rendering their nostalgia for an era that was dying out. Fleming’s works ignore any political dimension, but share in the desire to reflect daily life and to kindle a fresh look at it. He chooses to represent only the most familiar man-made objects. Chairs, tables, bookshelves, and other common objects then lose their utilitarian status to become works of art. The immersive installation leaves visible the raw surfaces and traces of the making—the traces of human action.

Many of the bronzes highlight the importance the three French-Canadian artists give to Indigenous subjects. Though respectful of the “Indian,” these works represent him as the Other, the Stranger, reflecting America’s colonial vision of First Nations at the time. Inspired by a European taste for exoticism, these works translate a stereotypical perception of an otherness that these artists, in fact, had no knowledge of.

Considering these observations, we have chosen to let Indigenous voices speak for themselves. The object of observation becomes in turn the observing subject. Thus, in three short videos accompanying the exhibition, Atikamekw shaman and storyteller Roger Echaquan, W8banaki anthropologist and museologist Nicole O’Bomsawin, and the young Atikamekw Eruoma Ottawa-Chilton tell their version of the history.

The exhibition Gazes in Dialogue very humbly wishes to help build bridges between different cultures, generations, and values.