Monday, June 01, 2009

Early June in Montreal

Spending the beginning of the east coast summer in chillier but springy Montreal on a 3 generation trip to visit my brother at McGill, I can't resist commenting on 2 exhibits at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and another fabulous institution, the Redpath Museum on McGill campus.

At the MMFA, we waited in a remarkably fast-moving line for our free admission to "Imagine: the Peace Ballad of John & Yoko." This was after stopping to sing "She's Got a Ticket to Ride" with some buskers on the museum's front steps. I was a little bit apprehensive at first, having read that the exhibit was basically curated by Yoko Ono. Like many people almost 2 generations behind, my only real associations with Yoko Ono centered on the break-up of the Beatles. But this exhibition completely changed my perceptions. It envelopes the visitor in the playful, iconoclastic and deeply loving world of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the 1960s. The exhibition does an excellent job both of providing context for the artistic and social politics embraced by John and Yoko and of providing a space for a genuine encounter with the works of art produced by the couple during their lives together. The exhibit culminates with two beautiful, non-digital interactive installations that get at the heart of John and Yoko's particular peace philosophy. The exhibit's only detriment was its extreme popularity, a mixed blessing to say the least. True to form, this exhibit brought a unique and today still cutting-edge artistic style to a truly popular audience.

And since that review was rather long, I'll only say that after seeing this exhibit, it is well-worth cooling the brain with the simple whimsy of the design and "Body in Glass" exhibitions on the other side of the street.

Finally, the Redpath museum is not to be missed on any trip to Montreal. A teaching and research museum in the best tradition of the natural history "cabinet of curiosities," the Redpath is not afraid to showcase it collection in old-fashioned wood and glass exhibit cases. Combining the best of this object-centered approach with updated text panels and a layout that takes full advantage of the 19th century building's light-soaked galleries, the Redpath is sure to delight every visitor from the nostalgic museum-lover to the child with attention-deficit-disorder.

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