Thursday, April 13, 2006

Andrea E. Lefebvre -- "April 7"

If you haven’t been prepped by the explicitness of the exhibition’s full title, it takes a split-second after walking into the room where Andrea Lefebvre’s April 7 hangs before your mind clicks to what it’s seeing. These vivid panels of swirling dayglo color and line, cribbed and coded dense with wordlike forms, kaleidoscoping into a postmodern infinity beyond time and space, artbabbling some artbabble… they can’t be daytimer pages, can they? Like, real ones? From a real person?

Some are, some aren’t. A series of mounted blowups from Lefebvre’s own planner hang alongside painted canvases which echo and amplify their forms and conventions. It’s the kind of thing you can look at for hours, with the hours spent admiring the energy and quality of Lefebvre’s marks in both pen and paint coming right after the hours (disclosure: I didn’t actually spend hours looking at these pictures) spent in pure voyeuristic bliss, spinning a narrative out of a burning chaos barely constrained by the feeble rules laid down by the manufactured pages themselves.

Disorder-taming at its best, the fundamental act of taking the swirling requirements of the titular “very busy” life and making it a machine for living… and a cheeky bit of killing two birds with one stone. “I realized I was getting married and everything had to click,” says Lefebvre, “so I had to give ‘er.” The project that became April 7 was thus both process and product, art imitating life… and life becoming art. With every date, errand, highlight, arrow, doodle (there aren’t many), address and exclamation point destined to become a meaningful mark, getting her day-to-day shit together became not just a hassling necessity but an extended act of artmaking, the heart of which is now and always will be simple discipline.

“It’s me teaching myself to be productive,” Lefebvre says. “I worked really hard to comb some chaos out. I’ve learned to freak out in two weeks [before a deadline] the way I used to freak out the day before.”

And that’s just the daytimer stuff. The canvasses -- “I started doing the big calendars just to get my ass into the studio and painting” – involve a whole other level of commentary, the first statement of which is a reclaiming of the right to use words and other explicitly coded marks (eg. quadruple underlines, savage circles, girly bubble letters) within serious pieces without shame.

“I learned early not to do that,” the artist recalls, “because it looks…” Precious? “No…” Over-earnest? “No…” Lazy? “No…” Eventually it’s decided that, most of the time, wordy paintings are just plain lame, a lameness Lefebvre sidesteps by approaching the creation of her calendar pieces with a full painterly arsenal. Far from a deadline-beating undergrad dodge, Lefebvre’s calendars evolved through layer after layer in session after session; while the lexical content carries weight and enables the viewer to create a narrative, the real fascination of these pieces lies in their depth of color and tone, the surprising twists of composition that lurk around and within every name and date. Gold glitterpen in the service of High Art.

The next step, Lefebvre says, is taking the show on the road, where she’ll be able to get reactions without the voyeuristic/narcissistic noise created by roomsful of friends, family, and acquaintances seeking familiar names, refracting their own lives through the artist’s schedule. In the coming year, she’s only planning on doing four more works – one for each season -- in this style before moving on.

Looking down at her power-sized black book, covered with the treble-meaning scrawl and swirl of an ongoing art endeavor, an ongoing life, she sighs: “These things have to get functional again…”

April 7: A collection of paintings made from the daytimer of a very busy lady
Andrea E. Lefebvre
until May 13
Latitude 53, Edmonton

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