Fernand Leger at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West), to March 12. $8, stu/srs $5, Wed 6-9 pm free. 416-979-6648. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Fernand Leger is having the tiniest of retrospectives (five works and a film) in a corner of the renovating AGO . It's worth checking out if you're interested in the legacy of one the reigning French modernists of the second half of the 20th century.
Léger's geometric synthesis of Braque's and Picasso's work was a cross between cubism and constructivism.
These are modest works by an artist best known for monumental canvases packed with cheerful proletarian figures built out of spheres and cylinders. With their weighty construction and happy demeanour, they're idealized, perhaps slightly flat, depictions of French socialist bonhomie.
Léger abandoned Communism toward the end of his life. His later work has a playful sense of form and Mediterranean colour that in retrospect seem timelessly French and deeply bourgeois.
Each piece here shows how conversant he was with the different avant-garde vernaculars of the time. His 1922 study, Two Figures, has a weight that echoes Picasso's classical figure drawings, while 1948's Landscape 48 breaks the scene into constructivist segments that echo Kazimir Malevich.
Though Léger was fascinated by the machine age, his 1941 study for The Divers pursues an older French preoccupation with the voluptuous female form in a sensual cascade of entangled limbs.
His film Ballet Mécanique, made in 1924, demonstrates how deeply rooted our current visual grammar is in early experimental movies.
Starting out with a woman lounging idyllically on a garden swing, Léger adds rhythmic splices of dancing bottles, hats, geometric shapes and machines.
It's an attempt to make a kind of narrative cubist painting that expresses a joyous communion between industry and nature.