Jacques Hurtubise painted Pepsicala in 1973, following on from the paintings of the Blackouts series, of which Nana (1971) and Olizarine (1972) are the most iconic. Pepsicala is part of a series of large-scale polyptychs comprising numerous square canvases that Hurtubise assembled to achieve an optimal sense of balance. Splashes, dripping, and hard edges collide, creating highly expressive positive and negative spaces, the embodiment of a measured and rigorous gesture. The palette, both austere (black-white) and vibrant (yellow-pink), constitutes a pairing typical of this high-contrast era. A long black meandering form—at times sharp, at others flowing—adds a seismic dimension to the composition, whose multiple layers reveal the reversibility of foreground and background. This pictorial effect is also present in Praline, painted the same year and reminiscent of the Brushstrokes series (1965–66) by American artist Roy Lichtenstein, underlining the distinct Pop Art influence observed in this period. Pepsicala combines all the savoir-faire and aesthetic concerns of Hurtubise at the height of his powers.
Hurtubise was born in Montreal in 1939. He studied drawing, sculpture, and etching at École des beauxarts de Montréal between 1956 and 1960, with Albert Dumouchel and Alfred Pellan, whose teachings are palpable in his work. After receiving the Max Beckmann scholarship in 1960, Hurtubise left for New York, where he discovered new sources of inspiration, notably in the works of Malevitch, Pollock, and de Kooning, whose mix of formalism and gestuality would become ubiquitous in his paintings and engravings. In addition to American abstract expressionism, Hurtubise was interested in the aesthetics of Montreal’s Plasticiens in the mid-1960s. In 1967, he represented Canada alongside Jack Bush at the 9th São Paulo Biennial in Brazil. And in the early 1970s, he had his first touring exhibition with catalogue, shown at the Musée du Québec (1972) and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (1973). He was the recipient of the Victor-Martyn-Lynch-Staunton Award in 1992 and the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas in 2000. (A. L.)