John Massey
Black on White, 2014
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
22.10.14 - 05.02.15

John Massey’s suite of six prints of digitally scanned collages, titled Black on White, presents an explosion of words: letters, numbers, punctuation marks bursting forward from a blank background. They fairly scream out an attempt to evoke the “now” of utter contemporaneity.

The works begin with individual words and photographs found in books, magazines and period films. Massey then identifies fragments, which act as foci for his tense energy, taking the work from meticulously hand-cut black paper on a white surface to its final containment in blunt black frames. Their painstaking arrangement in eddies and lines recalls the Italian Futurists’ “words in liberty” (parole in libertà) of the early twentieth century. The titles offer clues to meaning: Auto indicates auto-didacticism, discovery through personal action. Similarly, One insists on subjectivity, the necessity of constantly becoming. Flame-like images suggest lust and frenetic, insistent movement.

This new suite of prints moves radically forward from Massey’s recent photo works such as After le Mépris (2010), replicating interiors from Godard’s classic film with surprising pools of water or striking coloured objects inserted by Photoshop, or the earlier installations and films. With Black on White, a submerged narrative remains as a palimpsest of discordant impulses, a mirror of our world at large. Leaving behind elegant metaphor and subtle insinuation, Massey’s dynamic new prints engage a brash and noisy outside world with new energy and a revised personal model for living.

credit: vue de l’installation photo: Guy L’Heureux/La Biennale de Montréal
credit: vue de l’installation photo: Guy L’Heureux/La Biennale de Montréal

Born in Toronto in 1950, John Massey lives and works in Toronto. He has exhibited nationally and internationally since the early 1980s. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at P.S.1 (now MoMA PS1), New York; Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; as well as the survey show The House That Jack Built organized by the National Gallery of Canada/Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, 2004. In 2001, he was awarded the Gershon Iskowitz Prize.

Massey’s work has been shown in group exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery; Wexner Art Center, Columbus, OH; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, Stüttgart, Germany; The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and MAK–Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, Vienna. His works are to be found in the collections of major museums such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. He is represented by Georgia Scherman Projects, Toronto.