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Gérald Zahnd

Gérard Zahnd, a versatile artist who worked as a poster designer, a ceramist, a designer, a drawer, a muralist and a painter, was born in Vevey (Switzerland). He studied at the École des beaux-arts de Lausanne and at the École suisse de céramique in Chavanne-près-Renens. His professional career was launched in Europe where he created his first posters and participated in many exhibits, notably the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne in 1962.
Zahnd moved to Montreal in the early 60s. He worked closely with architects in order to create art and integrate to the architecture of public buildings in the metropolis and the suburbs. The integration program instated by the Quebec government was at in its embryonic stage. The architects chose with whom they collaborate. The artist worked on public buildings, churches and metro stations. His pieces are abstract and mainly feature geometrical shapes and colors.
The 70s were a fertile decade. His posters often stand out because of their minimalism, their great visual efficiency and often their humor. From 1968 to 1970, the artist worked for the Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui, for the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde from 1973 to 1980 and for the Théâtre populaire du Québec from 1975 to 1978. He worked for the Théâtre du Rideau Vert from 1967 to 1980. His work notably includes the poster for the Belles-Sœurs in 1971 and La Sagouine in 1973.
In 1987 and 1988, the artist dedicated his life to painting. He regularly participated in group exhibitions. He likes to surprise, experiment in order to not repeat himself. He doesn’t limit himself to one medium in particular. His paintings feature collages which notably question the feminine image in mass culture. He sometimes uses geometrical shapes, placing his work near the Plasticien mouvement, and sometimes near the Lyrical abstraction.
His colors are often developed, sometimes sober, sometimes bright.

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Acquisition mode
Source mention
Purchase in 1980
metal, paint, paint
Overall size
129 x 410 cm
assembled, painted
Louis-Collin Garage (neighboring the Lionel-Groulx pavilion)
Corridor between the garage to the Lionel-Groulx pavilion, 4th floor
5255, av. Louis-Colin, Montréal, QC H3T 1N8

Artwork description

In the corridor connecting the garage to the neighboring pavilions, this work of art surprises visitors and illuminates the space. It is considered to be a part of the geometrical abstraction movement with its solid colors, where the black is vivified by the blue, the red, the white and the yellow. One can also place this piece in the De Stijl (Dutch for ”the style”) artistic movement.
The geometrical shapes made of arced metal, sometimes juxtaposed to one another, sometimes separated slightly, give volume to the sculpture. The piece is well distanced from the concrete wall’s striations and the ceiling’s wood laths. Its neutral title can only lead to make a formalist interpretation of the piece. The use of resistant materials shows the artist’s concern into adapting his work to the constraint of durability which is that of the works of art integrated to architecture.
When he first moved to Quebec, Gérald Zahnd worked in the Claude Théberge studios. The studios unite artists from several countries so they may share a same place. It is a Bauhaus-like collaborative environment. It’s very certainly due to Zahnd’s work in these studios that this mural has for a time been considered a Claude Théberge piece.
Nobody seems to know when the piece was moved to the Louis-Colin garage. Considering its date of creation, is it possible that the piece could have been created when the Claire-McNicoll pavilion was built? Was it moved when the building was renovated? Hard to figure it out, because the artist himself forgot the context in which he created this piece.