Back to first 70s Show page
29 November 2002 to 24 January 2003
The following texts are distillations of the students research on individual works of art on display in the exhibition. They are based on the students research essays on those works, prepared for the course "Canadian Art Since World War Two", during the fall term, 2002.
They have been edited by Oliver A. I. Botar
Esther Warkov is a Winnipeg artist who has exhibited work both nationally and internationally since the 1960s. She uses imagery based both in popular culture and in the unconscious. The untitled piece here exhibited gives us layers of meaning to wander through: Warkov's work is not easily categorized or dismissed. An interesting juxtaposition of images leads to questions regarding our own associations with the body and the senses. We are invited to investigate the small canvases and their relevance to our personal experience of sensuality.
Le Printemps, from The Four Seasons series, is a strong example of Jean McEwens innovative and highly personal style of art making. Born in Montreal in 1923, McEwen was a poet before taking up painting at a mature age. As a result, his art is imbued with lyricism. McEwens early influences included Paul-Emile Borduas and Les Automatistes. From them he acquired an understanding of Automatism, to which his later looseness and spontaneity might be attributed. While in Paris during the early nineteen-fifties, McEwen encountered Abstract Expressionism, which introduced him to tachisme and colour-field painting. From this point onward, he used his encounters with Sam Francis and Mark Rothko to help define his personal style. McEwen experimented in a variety of media throughout his career, and came to be fascinated with the effects of colour and luminosity. Le Printemps demonstrates the artists layering method of colour application, which brings a sense of depth to his abstract works. The free, organic forms and vivid, overlapping colours of the serigraph convey a sense of spring, without actually depicting it. Le Printemps embodies an evocative and deeply sensual experience through its manipulation of colour and luminosity.
Tom Dean's 1974 Performance stands as a significant link between the early-twentieth-century concept of the absurd, and 1970s video technology. As even this technology was rudimentary by today's standards, performance artists felt bound to focus more on ideas than on their implementation. These circumstances are major factors in explaining the extreme simplicity and even harsh bleakness that characterised many of the pieces. Born in 1947, Dean graduated in 1970 with a BFA from Sir George Williams University in Montréal. His works are characteristically underground and avant-garde. Throughout his career, he has produced works in several media, including text, video, sculpture, print, and multi-disciplinary performances. This 1974 Performance features Dean in concert with fellow Quebec artist Marshalore. One of her notable contributions to the genre was her self-described concept of "schizophrenia"-i.e., a duality, a splitting, and ultimately some aspects of mental illness -- as a quality of performance. This influence of Marshalore's is strongly manifested in Dean's Performance, by its frenetic and disconnected actions, its unrelieved disunity, and its sense of existential despair. Deans personality manifests itself in this performance, chiefly in its feelings of bareness, strangeness, mockery and -- above all -- its sense of the ridiculous. The piece begins with Dean and Marshalore doing an absurd parody of an operatic ballet. In the second phase, an oddly incongruous tap dance by Dean is suddenly ended when a troupe of young girls take the stage and delight the spectators with their own quite competent routine. The third and final portion of the event features a boxing match between Dean and a young, unidentified opponent. As the two barefoot and obviously unskilled fighters go through their motions, the initial humorous and fun-like atmosphere of the match unexpectedly turns sinister. The interesting and constantly changing reactions of the audience, and the interplay between them and the performers, are essential features of this entertaining but shocking work.
The bold colours and interesting composition of William Lobchuks Fence Posts reflect engaging elements of the prairie landscape. The fence posts impose themselves on the vivid landscape and recede towards the horizon, thus evoking a sense of cyclical continuity within nature. The clear blue of the sky, combined with the rich green grass, suggests a healthy rejuvenation of the land, while the tired posts offer a quiet juxtaposition to this mood. The print is equally divided between sky and ground, while the two dominant posts break the precise horizon with a slight obliqueness to create a subtle tension. The division between land and sky, and the verticality of the fence versus the horizon, is suggestive of visual and metaphorical boundaries. During the 70's Lobchuk established the Grand Western Canadian Screen Shop, a print shop where both professional and non-professional artists could work, with the expectation that the practice of screenprinting would become accepted as a valid form of art making, and not merely a process used for commercial purposes. The delicacy of the land is captured in this traditional setting, yet it is the intriguing and suggestive placement of the posts that make it an interesting and unique reflection of the prairies.
A faculty member at the School of Art, Robert Sakowski was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1943. He graduated in1967 with a Masters in Fine Arts from the Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore. The inspiration for this work was a fall sunset at dusk on the Manitoba prairies. It represents an aspect of Sakowskis attempt to come to terms with his new home. When looking at this image, one can envision the mass of evergreens, the yellow of the sunset and the dark areas as deep shadows. The print is part of a series that contains the same theme of interweaving coloured geometric and open octagonal forms outlined in white, thus defining the colours of each shape.
Printmaking is an exploratory process which I develop as I go along. Each print changes and grows in unexpected ways as I work on it. The interaction between myself and the evolving print, is tremendously exciting, and it is the most important aspect of my work with the medium.
The subject matter of Weight Watchers Delight is a tongue-in-cheek reference to dieting. It was created for the Winnipeg Art Gallerys "Food and Art" show in 1978. Eating, or not eating, is a real obsession for many people, something Kuiper knows first hand, as she was a member of Weight Watchers during the late 70s. The use of repetition and pattern in her works were ways to show unity, regularity and predictability. "By drawing natural objects like the carrots all in a row, I could show variety within unity; we are all the same, yet we are all different" she said in a recent interview. At the time the print was completed, Kuiper knew it would be interpreted in a variety of ways. In that sense, the piece was successful. Kuiper believes that "art is a mirror, showing the viewers a reflection of something inside themselves."
An early Canadian video artist, Rodney Werden concerned himself with ideas of sexuality, and the viewer/voyeur. The themes of masochism and control which Werden confrontss in his early works are evident in Call Roger. Is "Roger" being controlled by callers asking him for sexual favors at a rate of $25 an hour? Or, alternatively, is "Roger" controlling them by insisting they explore there own fantasies? Or are we controlling "Roger" by being able to turn the video off? Werden wants us to come up with our own answers to his questions of control, intent, and sexuality that are posed in the video. There are unwritten contracts made here between the viewer, the performer, the caller, and the artist, contractual obligations we must all uphold. We can choose to leave before Werden1s piece is done, but then, have we reinforced freedom of choice? Our lack of contractual binds? Call Roger poses many personal questions, and the answers can be unsettling if we allow ourselves to be truthful. That was (and is) often the point of body (performance) art: creating empathy with the subject/object. Werden certainly elicits that empathy in Call Roger.
American-Canadian artist Suzy Lake was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1947 and immigrated to Montreal in 1968, after the race riots. She is best known for her experimental photography dealing with issues such as vulnerability, authority, identity and empowerment. She received her M.F.A in 1977 from Concordia University in Montreal, majoring in Multidisciplinary Photography. She is currently an associate professor of art at The University of Guelph. The Natural Way to Draw is a performance by Lake in which she literally draws her self-portrait onto her own face while a passage from Nicolaides textbook on The Natural Way to Draw is read to her aloud. The exaggerated representation of herself on her face poses questions of identity, as well as of concealment/disclosure.
Saleability is an example of conceptual art. Modernity brings with it mass media and consumerism to Western culture, and many artists of the 70s were interested in commenting on these processes taking place around them. Gordon Lebredt uses the medium of the poster or sign to explore notions surrounding consumer culture, and the institutions tendency to lessen artistic intention through blatant advertising. The works title is intended ironically, as it refers to the low-art form of a printed, mass-produced sign or poster that would be unlikely to be sold commercially. Lebredt used off-set lithography to create this piece, a skill he probably acquired during his time as a Fine Arts student at the University of Manitoba. This type of printing allows for the clean lines and crisp typographical edges found in advertisements. The print itself has an added curiosity at the bottom centre: Lebredt included the printed edition number "50" in the bottom margin, but he does not indicate where this particular sheet fits into the edition. By doing this, he further de-emphasizes its status as a saleable commodity.
Alex Janvier was born at the Legoff Reserve near Cold Lake, Alberta. He is known as being the first Native Canadian modernist painter. Janvier completed his formal artistic training at the Alberta College of Art in 1960. He is a pioneer in terms of his success as a practicing native artist in this country. Thunderbird Home was completed during a period in his career when he was able to devote all of his time to his art making. During these years, he began to look back into his own spirituality and his traditional Dene heritage. The Thunderbird is a common theme in the Dene tradition, and is told of in many stories, including those of the creation of the earth and the beginnings of humanity. The spiritual theme and the abstract style, covering the picture plane with linear movements and graceful lines, is typical of Janvier's paintings of the period.
The Three Furrows is a serigraph by the artist Don Proch. This print was produced on the basis of pencil sketches, employing four different tones of graphite. Proch was born in Inglis, Manitoba. His early years were spent on a farm with his parents and grandparents. The farm was located near the Asessippi, the Cree name for the area. Proch enrolled in the University of Manitoba Faculty of Engineering, from where he moved on to the School of Art. Leaving this school because he was not content, he decided to teach art at a local high school. While teaching, he developed his own style, and a sense of where his art would go. Proch's work reflects his Canadian roots, as well as his Ukrainian heritage. This works represents his view of the land, his concern for it almost as a living being. His technique involves familiar scenes, objects and concepts related to his experiences with the people and landscape of the Asessippi. Proch lives and work in Winnipeg.
Nothing about the artists' collective General Idea was ordinary. Disillusioned by the failure of the hippie movement to change the world through demonstrations, the group of three, A.A Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, formed in 1969. Adopting a deeply ironic, anarchistic method of art making, "the boys" (as they came to be known) had a tremendous influence on the Toronto art scene and began to show their work internationally. This piece entitled, Borderline Case: Five- The Great Divide, is one of their earlier and lesser-known works. Although aesthetically minimal, its meanings are covertly layered. In order to interpret this work it is beneficial for the viewer to understand the artists' perspectives. Their primary concern was to determine how nature and culture are interrelated. They are well known for their work on the nature of glamour which began with the "Miss. General Idea Beauty Pageant," and ended in the burning of the "Miss General Idea Pavilion." Their work is almost always ironic and kitschy but often dark and sentimental. When considering this piece the viewer may ask, "What does a borderline represent?" According to General Idea, as quoted in their 1989 exhibition catalogue at the Art Gallery of Ontario, a borderline is a neutral space between nature and culture, a sort of "no-man's land' or an area of collective consciousness. Most significant to this piece is the notion that a borderline is the "ideal of freedom as much as of fatalistic individual alienation." The combination of "the Great Divide" signage, with the kitschy Budget rental vehicle postcard, may evoke ironic thoughts of the ideal 1950's family. General Idea worked collectively for twenty seven years. Tragically, in 1994 both Jorge Zontal and Felix Partz died of AIDS. A.A Bronson lives and works in Toronto.
E.J. ("Ted") Howorth graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1969. At this time, friend and fellow fine arts graduate, William Lobchuk, suggested to Howorth that his drawings with magic markers were done in a style perfect for screen-printing, and that he should consider learning to use a more permanent medium, since markers would fade over time. Although he was originally trained as a sculptor, Howorth took up printmaking with Lobchuk, and joined the Grand Western Canadian Screen Shop. Howorth liked to experiment with forms melting into puddles, candy colours and absolute flat coloured objects. He was inspired by Claes Oldenburg and his soft sculptures, and continually challenged himself with the use and balance of bright colours juxtaposed in elaborate prints. Ching Ching -- Ching Ching is an ambitious piece. In it he portrays an abstract world trying to break out from itself. He did not want the title to be a mere literal description. It was intended to be as abstract as the print was, to provoke the viewer into pondering the cause of its strangeness. It is, in fact, onomatopoeic, and derives from the two forms in the foreground of the print that reminded Howorth of the streetcar handles a car operator would use to steer the vehicles -- resulting in the sound "ching-ching." The storyline for the work evolved as the piece developed. Howorth would always try to avoid literal forms, as escapism was a key component of the psychedelic style of art making he was engaged in at the time. He believes there is a duality in the process of artistic creation, in which the meaning becomes clearer to the artist, at the same time as it becomes more obscure to the viewer.
E.J. ("Ted) Howorths 1983 print Mirage 1 The 70s was produced to commemorate the 15th anniversary of William Lobchuks Grand Western Canadian Screen Shop. Many of the artists involved were asked to do a print for the anniversary. This work depicts artists who were involved in the screen shop. It is based on a photograph Howorth had taken of his friends at a bar in Europe in 1973. The photo included Don Proch, Bill Lobchuk , their wives, as well as the art writer Sarah Howorth. Ted Howorth is the splash of white light in the mirror -- the reflection of the flash of his camera. This print of a photo is a frozen moment of the 70's. It is a look back at the time and the people of that era.
Drinking Straws was created as part of a Canada Council artists exchange initiative to give public exposure to working artists, and to inform them of artistic developments and trends outside of their home provinces. In 1973 the Quebec artist Pierre Ayot was funded through this program to produce work at Bill Lobchuks Grand Western Canadian Screen Shop in Winnipeg. There, he created this work, into which he incorporated a number of techniques and found objects from everyday life: a Pop Art feel is thereby achieved and the viewer is engaged in a humourous dialogue. However, there are political undertones to this work, undoubtably elicited by the debate around Quebec nationalism and independence during the early 1970s. This is more than simply a quick look at popular culture; themes of stability and chaos are explored through the composition of the works constituent elements. Drinking Straws represents a transitional point in Ayots career. The Screen Shop introduced him to a multitude of new techniques. After 1973 he began experimenting with them, and he explored the possibility of printing on surfaces other than paper. He also shifted from working two-dimensionally to working in three dimensions, eventually creating works of sculpture and installation. In this mixed media print Ayots clever use of technique, contrast and optical play combine to produce a playful visual experience.
In this work Leslie Reid produces what is essentially a formal abstraction of the landscape she is depicting. Her landscape studies are based on formal themes found in both Minimalism and colour field painting. She represents the Canadian wilderness through her use of colour printing techniques. She also draws on elements of history, spirituality and nature. By weaving these formal and conceptual qualities together, she creates an exceedingly fine example of her work.
Gallery One One One acknowledges generous support by The Canada Council for the Arts, The Manitoba Arts Council, SOFA faculty, staff and volunteers, and especially Dr. Oliver Botar.
Gallery One One One, School of Art, Main Floor, FitzGerald Building, University of Manitoba Fort Garry campus, Winnipeg, MB, CANADA R3T 2N2 TEL:204 474-9322 FAX:474-7605
For information please contact Robert Epp firstname.lastname@example.org