Joe Fafard

27 September 2007 – 6 January 2008

Joe Fafard, Géricault, 1990

Joe Fafard, Géricault, 1990

Organized by the MacKenzie Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada. This project has been made possible in part through a contribution from the Museums Assistance Program, Department of Canadian Heritage.

Over the past four decades, Joe Fafard has created a body of work that has found a permanent place in people’s hearts and minds. His work crosses the lines that typically divide our society: urban and rural, French and English, east and west, elite and popular. Regionally rooted yet universal, Fafard’s art has always advanced hand in hand with a serious engagement in the concerns of our community life. This exhibition and its accompanying publication are a celebration of the art, life and critical contribution of this influential artist.

A retrospective exhibition is an invitation to join with the ArtGallery, curators, collectors, viewers and especially the artist in celebrating a lifetime of creative work. It purports to give a perspective on significant works but it is only a small selection from hundreds, even thousands of pieces that the artist has produced over decades in the studio. It is a peephole into a vast room. Choosing significant pieces to represent a lifetime of work is always a highly subjective process, and each visitor will bring to it their own experiences, memories and reactions.

This exhibition of the works of Joe Fafard was based on two key guidelines: to show the development of the work and to marvel at its variety. These words, however, hide many unexpected complexities. There is, for example, the development of materials used—plaster, clay, bronze, steel. There is the development of scale, from less-than-life-size to over-life-size, (but never exactly life-size). There is the development of themes from the immediate to the universal, from the perceived to the imagined, from the statement to the revelation. The variety in the exhibition ranges from student work to large public commissions, from caricatures to portraits, from traditional to experimental, from functional to monumental. As curator, I could have multiplied every work in this exhibition by ten and the viewer would continue to find further subtleties of development and variety.

On another level, however, there is only one theme to this retrospective and that is Joe’s commitment to his vision of what life is and what it could be. This commitment was there at the beginning and it remains the touchstone of each piece he makes. Into this commitment he has poured his experiences, skills, and imagination and the work asks no less of the viewer.

Written by Terrence Heath, Curator of Joe Fafard

Image Credit: 
, 1990 
bronze, patina, 1/1 
50 x 50 x 20 cm 
Private collection