L’œil attentif

September 14 to December 17, 2023

Curator : Marie Fraser

L’œil attentif [2023] Guido Molinari Foundation
L’œil attentif reconstructs a fragment of the The Responsive Eye exhibition presented in 1965 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It brings together works by Johanna Barron, Tammi Campbell, Ellsworth Kelly, Guido Molinari, Barnett Newman and Claude Tousignant, exhibition views by photographer George Cersna and some sixty documents that offer a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes of The Responsive Eye and the unparalleled circulation of artworks during one of the most critical periods of the Cold War.

The Responsive Eye [1965] MoMA
Regarded as the seminal exhibition of “Op art” or optical art, The Responsive Eye featured 99 artists and 123 works from 15 countries in Europe, South America, Asia, Israel, Canada and the USA. To announce the exhibition, the museum exceptionally issued a series of press releases in several of the artists’ home countries. The one sent out to the Canadian media presented the three Canadian-born artists, who have since become historical figures: Agnes Martin (born in Macklin, Saskatchewan), Guido Molinari and Claude Tousignant (both born in Montreal). Could bringing the three artists’ works together again, this time in Montreal, recreate the special atmosphere the 1965 exhibition must have generated? By experimenting with visual processes—the grid, vertical stripes and the target—their paintings give one an idea of the “responsive eye” that describe Op art: an art in which colour, rhythm, the impression of movement and vibration generate optical sensations.

Investigative Museology
The Responsive Eye caught our attention because of its international scope, which was quite rare at the time. L’œil attentif explores this new mobility of art and compares it with the circulation of exhibitions at the height of the Cold War, and the role that MoMA sought to play on the international scene, both artistically and geopolitically. While our investigation provides a glimpse of the artistic atmosphere of the 1950s and 1960s, marked by numerous exchanges between Montreal and New York, it has most of all led us down unsuspected paths to the offices of the CIA—the Central Intelligence Agency—in Langley, Virginia.

– Marie Fraser

The research project Investigative Museology is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). L’œil attentif also receives support from the Chaire de recherche en études et pratiques curatoriales de l’UQAM and the Art et Musée team, which is funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec (FRQSC) and associated with the CIÉCO research and reflection group.

Read the exhibition flyer below:

Exhibition views: