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1 9 3 1 - 1 9 4 6 A GENERATION Baxter Bolduc Carr-Harris Curnoe Favro

General Idea Martin Rabinowitch Wieland Zelenak


1931-1946 A Generation Iain Baxter, David Bolduc, Ian Carr-Harris, Greg Curnoe, Murray Favro, General Idea, Ron Martin, Royden Rabinowitch, Joyce Wieland, Ed Zelenak

Michael Gibson Gallery January 12 - February 23, 2019


Left to Right: Ron Martin; Greg Curnoe; Royden Rabinowitch; Murray Favro; Ed Zelenak; Ron Martin


Introduction

Our winter exhibition celebrates the work of 10 Canadian artists who were born between 1931-1946. Through the artworks of these diverse artists, we explore the relationships, regionalism and artistic influences of Iain Baxter, David Bolduc, Ian Carr-Harris, Greg Curnoe, Murray Favro, General Idea, Ron Martin, Royden Rabinowitch, Joyce Wieland and Ed Zelenak. This generation of artists grew up during the outbreak and end of the Second World War, the creation of the United Nations, William Lyon Mackenzie King as Prime Minister, Gandhi’s release from prison, and Lou Gehrig’s retirement from baseball. They would have read the first Superman and Captain America comics, watched Gone with the Wind, Bambi & The Wizard of Oz at the movies, saw the first Tupperware for sale in department stores, wanted TV’s for their living rooms, and heard Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and Perry Como on the radio. This was a significant period in the world’s history, and a changing time in the artistic life of Canada. We have chosen artists for this exhibition who we feel have made a significant contribution to Canada’s cultural art history. Whether they lived in Vancouver, London or Toronto, each of the 10 artists pursued serious careers as visual artists from a young age. The majority of the paintings and sculptures included were created between 1961-1975, or more specifically, when the artists were 24-35 years of age. Many of the works are some of the first paintings or sculptures they made, were included in their first solo exhibitions or recognized as seminal works within their long careers.


Left to Right: Royden Rabinowitch; General Idea & Ian Carr-Harris (in distance); Murray Favro


During the 1960s and 1970s the art scene in Canada was much smaller than it is now. However, these artists were not unknown to each other. Of similar age, the 10 artists were represented by either Carmen Lamanna Gallery or Isaacs Gallery in Toronto or even shared studios. Many exhibited together in international and national exhibitions such as: “The Heart of London” NGC (Curnoe, Favro, Martin, Rabinowitch, Zelenak in 1967-68) “Canada: Art d’Aujourd’hui” NGC (Baxter, Bolduc, Curnoe, Wieland in 1968) “Canada 101” Edinburgh (Baxter, Curnoe, Wieland in 1968) “X Bienial, Sao Paulo” (Baxter & Curnoe in 1969) “Changing Visions: The Canadian Landscape” AGO (Baxter, Curnoe, Favro, Wieland in 1976) “Kanadische Kunstler” Basel (Baxter, Curnoe, General Idea, Carr Harris in 1978) “10 Canadian Artists in the 1970s” AGO (Baxter, Favro, Martin, Rabinowitch in 1980) They would have been aware of each other’s work through the extensive reviews in Canadian Art magazine or as Canada’s representative at the Venice Biennale: Greg Curnoe (1976), General Idea (1980), Ian Carr Harris (1984) and Ron Martin (1978). This generation of artists grew up under the authority of the Group of Seven, the emergence of the New York School of abstract art and the influence of changing technologies, Marshall McLuhan and Pop Art. We are honoured, now, decades later, to explore how each artist reflected on their own environment and to discover their rich artistic legacies through the work included in our exhibition.


Left to Right: Ian Carr-Harris; Iain Baxter; General Idea


The “1931-1946: A Generation� exhibition is curated into two rooms. The front gallery represents London and highlights the early paintings of Greg Curnoe, Murray Favro and Ron Martin and the sculpture of Royden Rabinowitch and Ed Zelenak. The middle gallery acts as an intentional contrast with the Toronto artists David Bolduc, Ian Carr Harris, General Idea, Joyce Wieland and (at that time) Vancouver artist Iain Baxter.


LONDON

During the 1960s exciting events occurred in London: there was Canada’s first “happening” with Joyce Wieland and Michael Snow, the Nihilist Spasm Band was formed and Region Gallery, 20/20 Gallery and 20 cents magazine were created. London, through the help of curator Pierre Theberge, became an important artistic centre culminating with the cross-Canada touring 19681969 “Heart of London” exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada.


Ron Martin - Nude Oil & Enamel on Plywood, 1966 48 x 48 in.


Ron Martin’s Pop Art inspired painting “Nude” introduces the exhibition. Directly after graduating from H. B. Beal Technical School, Murray Favro and Ron Martin shared a studio in London from 1964-1966. We have included an early “Conclusion and Transfer” painting by Ron Martin that is dedicated to Favro. Ron Martin, then in his mid-twenties, was inspired by Greg Curnoe’s attraction to Dada, Pop Art and obsession with pop culture. Both the “Conclusion and Transfer” painting and the lively 1966 “Nude” are colourful, bold, stencilled, geometric paintings influenced by these international and local trends.


Ron Martin - Conclusion & Transfer #11: Dedicated to Favro Oil & Enamel on Plywood, 1967 48 x 48 in.


Ron Martin - World #28 Acrylic on Canvas, 1970 84 x 60 in.

Exhibited in “Ron Martin: World Paintings”, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1976 (Cat #2)


We have also included the rare 1970 “World #28” painting by Ron Martin. The world paintings were highly disciplined exercises, where each 1 inch square of colour was assigned a number within a specific numerical system. The number controlled the colour choice and the position on each canvas. “World #28” was included in the 1976 AGO exhibition “Ron Martin: World Paintings” and is unique as each 1 inch square is composed of 2 different colours: 2 strokes of one colour and 1 stroke of a new colour. This variation on Martin’s system adds complexity and a great sense of distance and depth to the painting.

Left to Right: Ron Martin “World #28”; Murray Favro “Study for Guitar #4 (#1)” & “Guitar #4”; Ron Martin “Conclusion & Transfer #11: Dedicated to Favro”


Ron Martin - A1 May 1, 1970 Watercolour on Paper, 1970 30 x 22 in.


Ron Martin - C39 #59 Watercolour on Paper, 1970 30 x 22 in.


Greg Curnoe was the eldest of the “London Regionalists”. Having studied art in Toronto at OCA, Curnoe, when he returned to London in 1961, helped to awaken a new artistic energy that fostered many artists. His weekly Saturday night studio parties were legendary as were his diverse tastes in music and literature. In February 1964 Greg Curnoe met his future wife, Sheila Thompson, in his studio. The 4-part shaped “Sheila’s Legs I-IV” painting is Curnoe’s first portrait of Sheila. The crossed legs gradually become more complex in each panel, where not only do the colours become more vibrant, but also to each shape a new angled surface is added. As Sheila Curnoe has stated: “Greg liked curvy legs. He had to draw curves. He didn’t like skinny, stick-like legs – that didn’t interest him – he had to have something to draw”.

Left to Right: Ron Martin “Nude”; Greg Curnoe “Sheila’s Legs I-IV”; Royden Rabinowitch “Untitled #2”


Greg Curnoe - Sheila’s Leg’s I-IV Oil & Enamel on Masonite, February 1964 overall 24 x 96 in. Exhibited at David Mirvish Gallery 1964 & toured Northern Ontario on a 3000-mile tour in the back of a Volkswagen Van


Murray Favro - Clunk Oil & Enamel on Masonite, 1966 53 x 59 x 2 in.

Exhibited in “Heart of London”, 1968 (Cat #14) “Murray Favro: The Guitars 1966-1989”, Mackenzie Art Gallery, 1991 (Cat #1) “Murray: Favro: A Retrospective”, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1983 (Cat #5)


Murray Favro’s first paintings were on shaped wooden panels. “Clunk”, painted in 1966, is composed of three stacked, painted wooden shapes “falling” to the floor. The bottom shape rests firmly on the ground, flattened by the fall. With the painting and the printed word ‘clunk’, Favro makes visual the intangible idea of sound. Music and sound was of interest to Favro as he was (and still is) the guitarist in the Nihilist Spasm Band. At that time, band members used homemade instruments and the top shape of “Clunk” inspired the shape of his first wooden guitar.


Murray Favro - Guitar #4 Cherry Wood, Strings, Guitar Hardware, Steel, 1984 9 x 32 x 2 3/4 in. Exhibited in “Murray Favro: The Guitars 1966-1989”, Mackenzie Art Gallery, 1991 (Cat #22) “Murray: Favro: A Retrospective”, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1983 “Murray Favro”, LRAHM & McIntosh Gallery, 1998


Murray Favro - Study for Pencil on Paper, 14 x 7 in.

Exhibited in “Murray Favro: The Guitars 1966-1989” “Murray Favro”, LRAHM & McI


Murray Favro’s “Guitar #4” from 1984 was also used in the Nihlist Spasm band, though now in the 1980s, Favro incorporated wood and steel. Favro is well known for making guitars that are both functional as well as aesthetic, acting as a perfect synthesis of Favro the artist and inventor.

r Guitar #4 (#1) 1983

”, Mackenzie Art Gallery, 1991 (Cat #18) Intosh Gallery, 1998


The “Heart of London” exhibition also included the two sculptors Royden Rabinowitch and Ed Zelenak. Royden Rabinowitch was born in Toronto but moved to London to study at the University of Western Ontario and had his first exhibition in London at the 20/20 Gallery in 1966. The welded hot rolled steel wall sculptures included in our exhibition are minimal in nature. When you stand in front of each work, they have a real physical presence with a worn, battleship-grey appearance that reflects the light and shadow. Existing somewhere between a painting, relief and sculpture, the “Untitled” sculptures reveal the emotion and physical act inherent in Rabinowitch’s work. Similar “Untitled” sculptures are in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada.

Left to Right: Royden Rabinowitch “Untitled #2”; General Idea “Showcards” (in distance); Murray Favro “Clunk”; Ed Zelenak “Diagram Bloc #5” & “Diagram Bloc #9”


Royden Rabinowitch - Untitled #2 Welded Hot Rolled Steel, 1972 17 x 16 x 1/2 in.


Royden Rabinowitch - Untitled #10 Welded Hot Rolled Steel, 1972 12 x 13 x 1/2 in.


Ed Zelenak, who began his career working with fibreglass, transitioned in the mid 1970s to working with steel, lead and tin materials. Our two “Diagram Block” wall sculptures were the first made after Zelenak’s time with fibreglass. Here, he draws into the hard surface by excising, imbedding, heating or welding. Familiar shapes reminiscent of houses, doorways, arrows or vessels appear and all working marks are left for the viewer. Hung on the wall, Zelenak explores the possibilities between painting and sculpture, emphasizing the dense, weighty material and highlighting the alluring marks.

Left to Right: Ed Zelenak “Diagram Bloc #5” & “Diagram Bloc #9”; Ron Martin “World #28”; Murray Favro “Study for Guitar #4 (#1)”


Ed Zelenak - Diagram Bloc #5 Alloyed Tin on Lead, 1975-1976 20 x 20 x 1/2 in.


Ed Zelenak - Diagram Bloc #9 Alloyed Tin on Lead, 1975-1976 20 x 20 x 1/2 in.


TORONTO / VANCOUVER In a 1965 Canadian Art issue entirely dedicated to Toronto’s art scene, Hugo McPherson writes that Toronto has, for the first time, emerged as a strong centre of Canadian consciousness. He places a lot of emphasis on the new commercial galleries opening in Toronto that gave Canadian artists an “unprecedented opportunity to communicate with their fellowcitizens”. He believed that no other Canadian city had access to such a “wide range of national and international art” and gives credit to the “modern revolution in communication and travel”, which Marshall McLuhan described as a “global village”. In particular, because of these outside influences, he stated that Toronto’s new scene has “no orthodoxy, no official idiom…; artists are exuberantly embracing a wide variety of attitudes and techniques”.


Emerging from Toronto’s experimental sensibility was Joyce Wieland, born in 1931 in Toronto. Her painted collage “Summer Blues – Walking” is an early work made directly before she and Michael Snow moved to New York City. Between 1960 and 1961, Wieland produced a series of these collages using ready-made materials and painted in soft pastel tones. “Summer Blues – Walking” is a plein-air scene with a wispy sky and carefully composed figures and lines. Other “Summer Blues” collages are in the collections of the Art Gallery of Windsor and Concordia University Art Gallery.

Joyce Wieland - Summer Blues Walking Collage & Watercolour on Paper, 1961 21 3/4 x 28 in. Exhibited in “Joyce Wieland: A Decade of Painting”, Concordia Art Gallery, 1985 “Joyce Wieland”, Art Gallery of Onatrio, 1987


David Bolduc’s two watercolours exhibit a similar playfulness as Joyce Wieland’s collage. Bolduc came to attention in the early 1970s through his exhibitions at the Carmen Lamanna Gallery. Known for his paintings of layered expanses of colour with a centralized image, our 1974 watercolours show the modernist influence of Jack Bush and Gershon Iskowitz. The two geometric watercolours are lyrical, poetic and full of light– abstract reflections of colour, pattern and the suggestion of collage.

Left to Right: David Bolduc “Untitled December #4” & “Untitled November #1”; General Idea “Showcards”; Ian Carr-Harris “I Thought I’d Better Not...” (in foreground)


David Bolduc - Untitled December #4 Watercolour on Paper, 1974 19 3/4 x 24 3/4 in.


David Bolduc - Untitled November #1 Watercolour on Paper, 1974 19 x 23 3/4 in.


Ian Carr-Harris also came of age with the Carmen Lamanna Gallery stable of artists. In 1973 at his first solo, Carr-Harris exhibited 6 sculptural tables, including “I Thought I’d Better Not”. Carr-Harris’s tables were first used in the early 1970s and functioned as the traditional base of a sculpture. For the “sculpture”, he chose common objects, which gives the viewer a feeling of familiarity and engages our participation. The framed sculpture placed on the table, is both image and text, and is meant to compare, demonstrate and describe. Carr-Harris would capture commonplace realities or everyday events in order to examine human behaviour. The conceptual sculptures are meant to be experienced, and offer a visual and verbal proposition for contemplation. Other tables from the same series are in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario and McIntosh Gallery.


Ian Carr Harris - I Thought I’d Better Not... Letraset & Photo with Table, 1973 48 1/4 x 22 3/4 x 22 3/4 in.


The artist collective General Idea were pioneers of early conceptual art in Canada and engaged with their audience through performance, beauty pageants, mail art, magazines and video. The group – AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal – met in Toronto in the late 1960s and became quickly known for their projects addressing social issues, celebrity, mass media as well as the AIDS crisis. The group, according to Bronson, was born out of the “late Sixties psychedelia of student revolution, fluorescent posters, underground newspapers and Marshall McLuhan.” Not dissimilar to what was happening in London, General Idea was a group of artists who experimented with different media and were heavily influenced by contemporary pop culture.

General Idea - Showcards Photo on Silkscreen with Text, 1975-1979, Edition 2/2 each 18 x 14 in. Exhibited in “In Search of Spirit”, Art Gallery of Onatrio, 1997-1998


General Idea’s “Showcard Series” 1975-79 were first created to define visually the conceptual identity of General Idea. Each card follows the same format: a light blue grid that resembles a magazine layout acts as the background with specific areas blocked out for text and photos. The photographs were taken either by the artists, from popular magazines, or


from reviews of their work. The text offers further information about the group or includes text from their previous projects and performances. Edition 1/2 of the “Showcards� are in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Other editions are in the National Gallery of Canada.


The two “Borderline Case” silkscreens by General Idea are laid out as a twopage spread of text and illustration with a large found image, itself amplified, mirrored or contradicted by several smaller, flanking found images. Most of the found imagery was sourced from 1940s and 1950s magazines. Ten prints from the series were planned, but only two were produced - “FiveThe Great Divide” and “Nine Consummation” - and were reproduced first in their self-published FILE magazine before being made into silkscreens. Each “Borderline Case” represents a neutral space between nature and culture. Other “Borderline Case” editions are in the collections of the Canada Council Art Bank, Oakville Galleries, MacKenzie Art Gallery, National Gallery of Canada and Vancouver Art Gallery.

Left to Right: Iain Baxter “Landscape”, General Idea “Borderline Case - Nine Consummation” & “Five - The Great Divide”; Greg Curnoe “Sheila’s Legs I-IV” (in distance)


General Idea - Borderline Case - Nine Consummation Silkscreen, 1975, Edition 17/50 22 1/2 x 28 1/2 in.


General Idea - Borderline Case - Five - The Great Divide Silkscreen, 1974, Edition 77/80 22 1/2 x 28 1/2 in.


In a similar way that General Idea used mass media as source material for their artwork, Iain Baxter (also known as N.E. Thing Co.) explored how media was changing our way of thinking. Baxter moved to Vancouver in 1966 to teach at Simon Fraser University. Always taking descriptive photographs that captured the essence of each moment, Baxter in 1968, made his first light boxes, which were inspired by his time spent in a slide library. Selected photographs were enlarged and placed in a back-lit metal box which transformed the flat image into a glowing three-dimensional object. In 1969 Baxter had a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada where he transformed the entire gallery space into an office environment. On the “office� walls he hung his artworks including the light boxes. They served as the ideal of office art but also reminded visitors of advertisements or signs. Colour photography was not yet codified within art museum collections and Baxter was a pioneer of the medium in Canada.


This Iain Baxter “Landscape� lighbox is from the same series exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada. In the photograph, he shows how nature is at odds with the burgeoning commercial reality of North America. The painted landscape on the outside of the restaurant is starkly contrasted with the blossoming summer garden in the foreground and the harsh restaurant menu above. Lightboxes created in 1968 are also in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Morris & Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Windsor Art Gallery and Vancouver Art Gallery.

Iain Baxter - Landscape Transparency, Lightbox, 1968 16 x 20 x 5 in.


1931-1946 A Generation Iain Baxter, David Bolduc, Ian Carr-Harris, Greg Curnoe, Murray Favro, General Idea, Ron Martin, Royden Rabinowitch, Joyce Wieland, Ed Zelenak

Online catalogue of an exhibition held at Michael Gibson Gallery January 12 - February 23, 2019


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