Last Wednesday, the Canadian art community suffered the sudden loss of 30-year-old artist Mathieu Lefevre. He was hit and killed in a collision between his bicycle and a flatbed truck at the intersection of Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. An Edmonton native educated in Montreal, Mathieu had been living in New York since 2010, focusing on his art career and studio practice.
I wrote about Mat’s work, and I was also his friend. Three weeks ago, Mat and I huddled under an umbrella to escape the rain falling over the courtyard of MoMA PS1. How that is the last time I will ever see him is something I still don’t quite understand. Mat might have been the most effortlessly funny person I’ve ever met: charismatic, ambitious and bright, his indomitable presence has been eradicated in the space of a single graceless act. How it is that the Montreal community has lost one of its most promising sons in a tragedy so arbitrary is a question that will invariably linger long after the shock of this event has receded.
Mat’s wit was as integral to his life as it was to his art. An expert in puns, one-liners and gag humour, Mat made paintings and paint-based sculptural objects that communicate the absurdity of making and viewing contemporary art. Among my favourites of his pieces: Hilarious Rake, a three-dimensional life-sized garden rake awkwardly sculpted from oil paint, intended to be displayed on the floor; Hilarious Banana, which had a similar concept; and pieces like Painting in a Trash Bag Painting, where thick layers of black oil paint are sculpted around a canvas to trick you into thinking that you might be able to open it and see a painting inside.
Over the phone, Hugues Charbonneau, a director of Galerie Division, which represents Mat’s work, tells me that “things were going fantastic for Mathieu.” Charbonneau says that, following an exhibition in this past year’s Prague Biennale, Mat was working on pieces for an upcoming group show at the Hole in New York, while a Chelsea dealer had also expressed interest in showing his work in 2012.
“He was very hard-working,” says Charbonneau. “You might think that because his work has a lot of humour in it, that might not be the case. But he was extremely hard-working. We believed in his potential. His future was very bright.”
For the moment, I’m remembering Mat’s handsome and mischievous smile, sending my deepest condolences to others who remember it as well, and growing my conviction that art that’s not funny might not be worth looking at.
A memorial is currently being planned in Montreal for Saturday, October 29. Donations for the event are currently being accepted at tracysooming.com/mathieu, with details to follow.