General Idea



General Idea was founded in 1967 in Toronto by AA Bronson (b. 1946), Felix Partz (1945-1994), and Jorge Zontal (1944-1994). Over the course of 25 years, they made a significant contribution to postmodern and conceptual art in Canada and beyond.

The trio was both prolific and multi-disciplinary long before it became de rigueur. They worked across a wide range of media including photography, sculpture, painting, mail art, video, installations, multiples, and performance.   

 With their subversive approach and interest in parody and appropriation, General Idea addressed a broad range of social (and art-world) issues such as the cult of the artist, mass media, queer identity, and consumerism.

 Thematic continuity was a key element for General Idea, who utilized longevity as an avenue to delve deeper into, build upon, and evolve with the complex and nuanced subject matter they took on.

Monet Cane” is an extraordinary example of General Idea’s use of iconography, appropriation, (and mischief) from this era. Beginning in the early 1980s, General Idea began using the poodle as an emblem for the trio, quickly elevating it to one of the most dominant motifs in their practice. Both single poodles, and trios (which would be a sort of group self-portrait) appeared frequently in a variety of artwork during their last decade of production. 

The 80's was a decade that saw appropriation flourish in the visual arts. General Idea made a significant contribution to this trend. While many of their contemporaries used mass-market images or objects (think Barbara Kruger, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince) General Idea did not restrict themselves to accessible imagery but also claimed canonical images and blue-chip references. 

General Idea created two major series of paintings featuring the trio of poodles; in pastels (which were often bleached in a commercial washing machine) and in neon colors. 

This painting is exceptionally rare as it is one of four paintings made with this distinct flecked surface. This unique texture is a significant (and beautiful) anomaly at odds with their predominantly flat and graphic aesthetic.

The surface of the canvas is enveloped in tiny, weighted flecks of paint that have been layered to create an incredible texture. This application of paint, which appears to be chenille-like, recalls both the atmospheric pastel palette and impressionistic effects made famous by Claude Monet.

"Monet Cane" can not only be contextualized with other poodle paintings, but also with the number of works that parody or hijack masterpieces by other artists such as Mondrian, Lucio Fontana, Andy Warhol, and Tom Thomson.

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“Monet Cane” 

Signed, titled, and dated by the artist verso

Canada, 1989

Mixed media, oil stick on canvas

51"H 47"W (work) 

S.L. Simpson Gallery label verso

Exhibition History: "Zeigt - General Idea 1968-1988", Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne, 1989

Literature: Riemschneider, Burkhard and Uta Grosenick, eds. "Art at the Turn of the Millennium / Art au tournant de l’an 2000" (Cologne: Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH, 1999), p. 166 (ill.).

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