This new exhibition at the Phi Centre pays homage to American artist, designer and illustrator Barbara Nessim, featuring more than fifty of her collages, drawings, watercolours, sketchbooks and computer art works. While not a retrospective per se, Conditions de fluidité presents a selection of works that will shine the spotlight on the prolific output of an artist who has embodied the spirit of the times since the 1960s.
Inspired and fuelled by the fever and energy of her native New York City, Barbara Nessim studied art at the Pratt Institute School of Art at a time when women were struggling to carve out a place in the industry and make their mark through advertising. A far cry from abstract expressionism, the flagship movement in the United States at the time, Barbara Nessim’s work favoured a narrative, symbolic approach dominated by female figures—somewhat unsurprisngly, considering the artist shared an apartment with the feminist journalist Gloria Steinem. Over time, she tapped into her own audacious vision to become an influential illustrator, straddling the boundary of fine and commercial art.
The bold lines, striking colours and powerful sensuality of Barbara Nessim’s work soon caught the eye of some impressive American publications. Flagship magazines like Time, Rolling Stone, Vogue, Redbook and Harper’s Bazaar came knocking at her door for illustrations and portraits of such prominent icons as Joni Mitchell, David Bowie et John Lennon, which often graced the cover. At the same time, she created a number of iconic album covers and nurtured a passion for fashion through shoe and textile design. In 1980, she embraced the potential of computers for art making, which were considered by many to be a fleeting fad. As a result, she became one of the pioneers of this new form of artistic expression.
Barbara Nessim’s works have found homes all around the world, from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington to the Louvre in Paris and private collections. Her ultimate accolade came in 2013 with the opening of a major retrospective, Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life, at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Conditions de fluidité is an exhibition presented by the Phi Centre that will give Montrealers the opportunity to feast their eyes on original works that have left their mark on our collective imagination.
The artist will also offer a conference on Sunday October 22, hosted by curated Cheryl Sim. Free admission!
Photo credit: Barbara Nessim, Wedding Band Finger.