- The Washington Times - Friday, August 19, 2005

Canadian art — especially landscapes interpreting the vast territorial expanses of our neighbor to the north — has been shown too little in the United States. This long history of neglect is partly redressed by the Embassy of Canada’s “A Group of Seven: A Contemporary Look at the Canadian Landscape.”

The seven contemporary Canadian artists featured in this exhibit pay knowing homage to their precursors in the original Group of Seven — Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, F.H. Varley, Franz Johnston, Franklin Carmichael and A.Y. Jackson — artistic realists who first forged the Canadian landscape aesthetic in the 1920s.

However, there are differences between old and new.

The older artists romanticized the country’s northern wilderness by painting national landmarks such as Lake Louise and Mount Robson on-site. The current artists — who work conceptually and as individuals rather than together — retain the earlier romanticism while opting for more detailed, usually smaller, views and more contemporary mediums.

The first gallery, showing abstract-expressionist Katharine Harvey and conceptualist Lucie Duval, suggests the exhibit’s breadth. Miss Harvey invites you to jump into rippling, light-filled water painted as if seen from beneath. Her acrylic “Below I” pulls visitors into shadowy blue depths, while “Under Water Galaxy” keeps them closer to the surface with its light-streaked oranges. She achieves these luminous, otherwordly effects by applying thick layers of acrylic on wood panels, a technique that evokes the slippery feel of water.

Miss Duval does her own interpretations of water with two imaginatively constructed light boxes of clear bell jars. In the larger, “Serie mettre en pot (barrage),” she depicts water falling over a dam. The smaller, more precious-looking “Serie mettre en pot (erabliere)” features images — of varying degrees of resolution — of Canada’s emblematic maple trees.

She transforms the jars, filled with framed and lighted color photographic negatives, into a pano-ramic landscape in the larger work and a jewellike, golden cluster of stylized trees in the smaller.

Nearby, Lois Andison pictures time passing — here, a year — in an unidentified Canadian city in her two-hour loop video “Time Lapse.” In her light box “7 Hues,” by contrast, she presents a timeless expanse of Canada’s growing wheat, azure lakes, windblown cornfields and cloud-filled skies.

The third gallery displays works in a variety of mediums, including the surrealist “bush” sculptures of Sylvie Fraser (“Serie Les protecteurs: icones du Commun”), the silhouetted tree of Renee Duval (“Torque”) showing the seasons’ passings, and the hilarious “Onion Skins” video installation by Francis LeBouthillier in which men pictured with Niagara Falls peel onions as they cry.

Even more intriguing, and quite beautiful, are “The View From Here (Field),” another work by Renee Duval, and “Serie l’Herbier” by Monique Mongeau. Miss Duval’s “View,” a meditative, glistening vista into a forest, fascinates through its snow-flecked birch trees. Miss Mongeau uses gleaming oil and wax on six wood panels to illustrate plants.

One complaint: The connections — both written and visual — between the two groups of seven are often confusing. Photographs of paintings by the original group and longer descriptions of their philosophy and members would have been useful.

Despite this flaw, this enlightening, enjoyable show, organized by Montreal’s Art Mur, is a welcome addition to the District’s summer art offerings.

WHAT: “A Group of Seven: A Contemporary Look at the Canadian Landscape”

WHERE: Art Gallery, Canadian Embassy, 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through Sept. 16

TICKETS: Free

PHONE: 202/448-6255

WEB: www.Canadianembassy.org

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