The Montreal Hunt Ball: Hunting party

by Isa Tousignant – June 22, 2006


Leisure Projects uncover an unknown part of history

Hidden in a nook behind St-Denis near Ontario is a little street named Joly where a gallery lives. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 1 to 5 p.m., Galerie Yergeau is a diamond in the rough among the back-lane garbage piles and clinking cacophonies seeping out from St-Denis’s busy restaurant kitchens. It’s a homey kind of place: When I opened the door to the loft gallery/living space to see The Montreal Hunt Ball, a show curated by local artists Meredith Caruthers and Susannah Wesley as Leisure Projects, I was greeted by Charlie, a smiling dalmatian. It was very thematic.

The Montreal Hunt Ball is an extrapolation on the yearly hunt balls that were held at the Ritz-Carlton throughout the 1950s, where violence and beauty mingled under the pretext of leisure. These events were lavish happenings, combining elaborate festive décor like polka-dotted papier-mâché horses (ergo Charlie’s relevance) and animal ice sculptures with hunting paraphernalia like gun collections and taxidermic animal trophies. Part of The Montreal Hunt Ball shares this history via photocopied photographs and prints from the Ritz-Carlton Collection and the McCord Museum’s Notman Archives depicting such events. The rest of the exhibition presents art by Erica Eyres, Jake Moore and The Discriminating Gentlemen’s Club that puts a twist on the tradition.

Most aesthetically powerful are Eyres’ dog portraits, which line the walls compellingly. Her colours are subtle and surprisingly iridescent, successful in conveying the canine characters. The series hints at the affective power of champion hunting dogs – the love of a British aristocrat for his prized beagle, who’s particularly good at sniffing out foxes. Jake Moore’s automated installation works are delicate and subtle in a way that suffers from the overpowering presence of the video work from The Discriminating Gentleman’s Club, The Memorial Fox Hunt, whose soundtrack overwhelms all else present. That work elicits a chuckle, though, so it’s worth it: A bunch of fools on pink polystyrene horses prance around uncertain terrain, mock-shooting at things. When you boil it down, how else would you describe hunting? The collective’s other works exhibited, including a diorama of the "hunting ground" seen in the video set up on a pool table and a headless taxidermic fox, spread a nice note of humour throughout the show. Discover the foxhole of Yergeau for yourself.

The Montreal Hunt Ball
At Galerie Yergeau (2060 Joly), to Sept. 2