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image:Tour the Collection With guest curator Scott McKowen

Tour the Collection
With guest curator Scott McKowen

Vittorio Fiorucci

Among the treasures of the NAC Poster Collection are a series of posters by Vittorio Fiorucci. Having mentioned his Tartuffe, this makes for a good place to look at more of his work. Fiorucci grew up in Venice, and moved to Montréal in 1951. His brilliant use of humour and satire make his illustrations unmistakable, and always unforgettable.
image:Don Juan In Hell image:Don Juan image:One Way Pendulum image:Sainte Marie Among The Hurons image:The Killdeer image:Floralie, Where Are You?

Don Juan In Hell, a play on the surreal “dream sequence” in Act III of Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, was performed at the NAC in 1977. Don Juan is the alter ego of Shaw’s revolutionist hero Jack Tanner; he carries on a philosophical discussion with The Devil and Doña Ana and the Staute of the Commendatore (characters from Mozart’s Don Giovanni who both have Shavian counterparts in Man and Superman). Fiorucci’s caricature of The Devil as a heart with horns is hilarious, and perfectly captures Shaw’s famous philosophy of the “Life Force.”

Fiorucci tackled Don Juan again in 1980 with his poster for the play by Molière (translated by Christopher Hampton and directed by Jean Gascon). Molière’s play is a more broadly comic treatment than Shaw’s or Mozart’s, and for this poster Fiorucci turns The Don into a cat.

The 1959 play, One Way Pendulum, by N.F. Simpson was staged by Marigold Charlesworth at the NAC in 1976. Fiorucci’s giant cartoon face with an outrageous pendulous nose perfectly captures the tone of this absurdist classic.

Fiorucci created great posters for more serious subjects as well. James W. Nichol’s Sainte Marie Among the Hurons (1977) concerns a disastrous Jesuit mission to the Huron Indians in the 17th century. Fiorucci jolts us with an abstracted image of a White Man and an Indian Man being devoured by bright orange flames also abstracted into a nightmarish Tangram puzzle.

James Reaney’s The Killdeer (1975), set in the author’s hometown of Stratford, Ontario, is part murder mystery and part macabre comedy. Fiorucci takes his metaphor from the title of the play: killdeer are known to feign injury to lead a predator away from their nest.

Fiorucci’s poster for Floralie, Where Are You? (1977) is another of my favourites in the collection. Roch Carrier’s play is set in rural Quebec in 1910. Floralie is a young village girl who has just married Anthyme, a lumberjack. The couple leaves the wedding celebrations to set out through the forest for Anthyme’s village. When Anthyme discovers that his new wife is not a virgin the play moves into a surreal dream world. The separated newlyweds roam the forest searching for each other and encounter a series of nightmarish apparitions: figments of their religious and social upbringing. Fiorucci gives us a glimpse this dream world (a wood sprite peeks through a printed sheet of paper into our real world) through which Floralie will be purged of her fear and guilt, and awaken to the reality of the life she will share with Anthyme.

Costumes designed by François Barbeau for the dream sequence are represented in ArtsAlive.ca’s The Secret Life of Costumes. Non-dream sequence costumes for the show were designed by Solange Legendre.