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Mimi Parent: The Artist of Absolute Surrealism


Displaying mythological tableaux by creating exquisite black wooden sculptural boxes in which a scene, composed of different elements, can be seen behind a glass and each box presents itself as an unusual “theatre of the unconscious”, the Canadian artist, Mini Parent, is acclaimed as one of the most vibrant and provocative force of Surrealism in the decades after the second world war.

Born Marie Parent on September 8, 1924, in Montreal, the artist studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts de Montréal from 1942 to 1947, and was greatly influenced by her teacher and mentor, Alfred Pellan. While studying there she met the artist Jean Benoît, her future husband, and together with Pellan and Benoît, she formed the short-lived Prisme d'Yeux, an organization of Quebec artists whose common concern was freedom of expression.

In 1947, Parent was expelled from Ecole for “insubordination” related to the staging of an exhibition at the school. The same year, she had her first one-woman exhibition at the Dominion Gallery in Montreal which received praise from Time Magazine.

In 1948, Parent won the Cézanne medal, including a stipend which allowed her to travel. Frustrated with modern art in Canada, She decided to move to Paris with her husband Jean Benoît, made Paris their home for the rest of her life. In Paris, the couple studied ethnography and primitive art at the Musée de I'Homme.

In 1959, Parent met the critic André Breton and became one of the key members of the Surrealist movement with her three-dimensional tableaux boxes. Hybrids between painting and sculpture, these picture boxes showcased her fascination with Gothic novels. Parent also assisted with the organization of the “Exposition inteRnatiOnale du Surréalisme” (EROS), and conceived the poster and the catalogue layout for exhibition, which ran from December 15, 1959 to February 15, 1960.

Although Parent participated in the collective surrealist enterprises (Milano, 1960; L'Ecart absolu, Paris, 1965; Sâo Paulo, 1967; Le Principe de plaisir, Prague, 1968), she also held solo exhibitions (Galerie André-François Petit, Paris, 1984; Museum Bochum, 1984; Noyers-sur-Serein, 1992). Valerie 1900-2000 in Paris organized a retrospective of her work in the fall of 1998.

Active into her later years, Parent's work was included in several major exhibitions, including in “Fémininmasculin”, at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris, 1995, “La Femme Et Le Surréalisme”, in Lausanne, 1987, “Surrealism: Desire Unbound”, at the Tate Modern in London, 2001, and “Paris and the Surrealists”, in Barcelona, 2005. She and Jean Benoît were the subject of a joint retrospective at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec in 2004.

At 80, Mimi Parent died on June 14, 2005, in Switzerland. Her ashes were scattered by her husband Jean Benoît at Château de Lacoste the estate of the Marquis de Sade in Haute-Provence.



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