From November 13, 2014 to February 22, 2015, the National Gallery of Canada presents a world premier Jack Bush, an exhibition offering a complete picture of this Canadian artist, who garnered international recognition. Visitors will be dazzled by the energy, joy and playfulness of his large, colourful paintings. Organized by the Gallery and sponsored by Enbridge, Jack Bush is the first retrospective dedicated to this artist in nearly 40 years.
The exhibition curators are National Gallery of Canada Director, Marc Mayer, and Sarah Stanners, an expert on Jack Bush and author of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist.
“The Jack Bush exhibition celebrates this great Canadian painter and provides a complete rereading of his unique story,” said Marc Mayer. “Bush is a really satisfying artist; you don’t come away saddened or confused, but cheered up. And we’re very pleased to present works that have never been exhibited in Canada before, as well as some that have never been shown to the public.”
Spanning five decades, the retrospective presents more than 130 objects - from Bush’s landscapes to his brightly coloured abstract paintings, as well as drawings and commercial illustrations. In addition, the exhibition is enriched with excerpts from the artist’s unpublished diaries. To find out more about the exhibition, visit gallery.ca/jackbush
An unconventional story
The story of Jack Bush (1909-1977) is that of a mid-century Toronto-based commercial artist turned vanguard abstract painter. A gifted illustrator by day, he dedicated years to honing his representational skills, making a name for himself over a 40-year career.
In his free time, Bush pursued a fine art practice in a long journey toward creative independence. In 1947, his psychiatrist encouraged him to paint more freely, with no preconceived ideas; advice that would soon lead the artist to abstraction.
Bush became a member of the Toronto-based Painters Eleven (1953–60), which was instrumental in developing a new audience for abstract painting in Canada. Through this involvement with the group, he met the influential New York City art critic Clement Greenberg, who became a mentor and a friend.
A resounding success on both sides of the Atlantic
By the 1960s, Bush regularly exhibited his paintings in Toronto, New York and London, with great success. He held his first solo exhibition in New York in 1962 at the Robert Elkon Gallery on Madison Avenue. That same year, he received a Canada Council Senior Fellowship, which allowed him to travel to Europe for the first time. He soon had followers on both sides of the Atlantic who sought his ravishing abstractions. At 52 years of age, he was one of the first Canadian artists of his generation to carve out a place in the international visual arts scene.
Playful, searching and mischievous canvases
In the 1960s, Bush began to simplify his compositions, adopting the technique of thinly applying colour to paint or stain the unprimed canvas, in the first of many technical experiments. His mature work is best understood within the movement known as Color Field. A complimentary exhibition in the National Gallery’s national collection space (B206) features Jack Bush with works by his closest Color Field peers Morris Louis, Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland, and Anthony Caro.
Bush’s colourful abstract paintings aim to provoke a visceral effect in the viewer, rather than to make specific references to the material world. He did not expect the viewer to see the flower or hear the music that inspired him, but rather hoped to evoke an experience of pure, unqualified beauty through his art.
In 1967, Bush represented Canada at the São Paulo Biennial along with Jacques Hurtubise. He finally retired from commercial illustration in 1968, which allowed him to paint full-time for the remaining nine years of his life. In 1972, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston hosted the first major museum survey of the artist’s work in the U.S. This solo exhibition of the artist’s work was the inaugural show for the Museum of Fine Arts’ new contemporary gallery. Bush, at age 62, had finally reached the summit. Four years later, he received the Order of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario held a large retrospective of his work, which toured nationally.
The National Gallery of Canada Foundation gratefully acknowledges The Polar Foundation, Toronto, for its financial leadership in support of this exhibition. Generous donations were also received from Rob and Sandra May, Toronto; Kenneth Pustai, Toronto, and the Y.P. Heung Foundation, Vancouver. These contributions afford essential support for the National Gallery of Canada in its commitment to mounting important Canadian artists’ retrospectives within its national and international program.
The remarkable career of Jack Bush is celebrated in this new retrospective exhibition catalogue from the National Gallery of Canada. Editors and co-curators Marc Mayer, Director and CEO of the Gallery, and Sarah Stanners, author of the forthcoming Jack Bush catalogue raisonné, carefully situate the artist within an international context, while paying due attention to his deep Canadian roots. With more than 120 full-colour plates, this book, with more than 300 pages, invites you to journey through the work of a brilliant exemplar of modern art. Published by the NGC, the catalogue features essays by by Marc Mayer, Sarah Stanners, Adam Welch, and Karen Wilkin. On sale at the NGC Bookstore for $45 as well as at ShopNGC.ca, the Gallery’s online boutique.
A series of public activities is organized in conjunction with the exhibition: talks, a film screening, a music performance, meetings with the curators, and much more. For more details, visit gallery.ca/jackbush
NGCmagazine.ca, the National Gallery of Canada’s online magazine, is a frequently updated source of information on the Canadian art world and events at the National Gallery of Canada. Correspondents from across the country provide engaging and exclusive content on historical and contemporary art in Canada. This online magazine also includes interviews with artists. This month, read the article Jack Bush’s Dazzling Abstractions.
Included with admission to the NGC Collection. Tickets: $12 (adults); $10 (seniors and full-time students); $6 (youth: 12-19); $24 (families: two adults and three youth). Admission is free for children under the age of 12 and for Members.
The NGC is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. Closed Mondays. Open between December 26 and 31. Closed on December 25 and January 1. For more information call 613-990-1985 or 1-800-319-ARTS.
About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit gallery.ca
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