Michel de Broin Tames Canada’s Wild Side

THE DAILY PIC: Mass MoCA's "Oh, Canada", now on tour to its home and native land.


This is “Tortoise,” by Montealer Michel de Broin, from the huge survey of Canadian art called “Oh, Canada.” I shamefully missed the show when it launched at MassMoCA in North Adams, Mass., so was very pleased to chance across it in Canada’s Maritime provinces, where it was spread across three museums. (Which didn’t really work.) De Broin’s piece was outside the Owens Art Gallery of Mount Alison University, in charming Sackville, New Brunswick. I’m particularly fond of the way the work’s picnic tables play with the cliche of Canada as an outdoorsman’s paradise, but via the tamest symbol of life beyond built walls. It also puts our presence in nature into a defensive crouch, which rings true even among Canadians, who have always pretended to be at one with the wild. De Broin’s title comes from the term the Romans used for their most paranoid military formation.

An artist friend pointed out how well the sculpture rhymes with Tony Smith’s great “Die,” a six-foot cube of rusted steel he conceived in 1962. That brings out the way Canadian art has long been in tension between the American-built rigors of industrial abstraction and the softer, Greener ideals of our national identity. (Photo by Lucy Hogg)

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