Artwork by Gregory Richard Curnoe,  Moustache #9 (1965)

Greg Curnoe
Moustache #9 (1965)

collage, stamp-pad ink on paper, Plexiglass, screws, cup-washers, screw eye on painted wood date stamped “Dec. 5, 1965” lower centre
8.5 x 18 ins ( 21.6 x 45.7 cms )

Sold for $4,708.00
Sale date: November 19th 2019

Isaacs Gallery, Toronto
Masters Gallery, Calgary
Private Collection, Calgary
CUTOUT: Greg Curnoe, Shaped Collages 1965-68, Museum London, January 22 - April 17, 2011
Robert Fones, ed., Ben Portis, and Carol-Ann M. Ryan, CUTOUT: Greg Curnoe, Shaped Collages 1965-68 [Exhibition Catalogue] Museum London, 2011, pages 17-34, reproduced page 65
James King, The Way it Is: The Life of Greg Curnoe, Toronto, 2017, page 186
Sarah Milroy, “Greg Curnoe: Time Machines”, in Greg Curnoe: Life & Stuff, Dennis Reid and Matthew Teitelbaum (eds.), Toronto, 2001, pages 59-60
From December 1965 to August 1968, Greg Curnoe produced a series of approximately fifty shaped collages mounted on painted wooden supports. Unique in the history of art and within his own trajectory as an artist, the body of work to which “Moustache #9” belongs is significant within Curnoe’s practice. Allowing the artist the freedom to work intuitively and quickly, the objects mark a significant departure from his previous methods, for it was while devising the cutouts that Curnoe first experimented with unconventional materials. Constructed from found paper clippings, Plexiglass, and remnants of wood found in his studio, the experimental collages helped the artist develop his characteristic intrinsic framing system; moreover, they enabled Curnoe to test the concept of the painted freeform cutout that would appear on a monumental scale in the controversial “Homage to the R 34” (October 1967 – March 1968), a mural commissioned for the Montreal International Airport in Dorval, Quebec.

Curnoe’s choice of materials was as responsive to his formal concerns as it was to his love of popular culture and his immediate surroundings. Composing the vibrant paper artifacts collected on his daily outings no doubt satisfied a purely formal impulse of Curnoe’s, as well as a prescient desire to invest in, archive, and document a shrinking scene: by the 1970s, small businesses in downtown London would become threatened by suburban development, and local artists who had been regular fixtures in Curnoe’s studio (and the sources of many of his collage materials) were forced to relocate further afield.

Though the artist’s collages are frank visual records of his daily experiences, as Robert Fones observes, Curnoe’s juxtapositions are neither isolated, nor arbitrary: The neo-Dada and Pop affinities of American and British artists of the 1950s had an immediate impact on Curnoe. Like the other shaped collages of this brief but key period - thermometers, revolvers, ties, noses, and blimps - Curnoe’s moustaches not only demonstrate the irreverent humour he shared with his international contemporaries, but, Portis argues, reveal how attuned Curnoe was to creative processes that could transform discarded commercial waste into “shapes that referenced the abstracted, archetypal body and the machine.”

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Gregory Richard Curnoe
(1936 - 1992)

Born in London, Ontario in 1936, Greg Curnoe was a fervent regionalist visual artist and musician who championed the distinct voice of Canadian locales and London, Ontario, specifically. He attended Beal Technical School (1954-1956) and the Doon School of Art (1956) before attending the Ontario College of Art (1957-1960). Curnoe went on to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale in 1976 and had a retrospective at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1981, which then travelled across Canada. Though the artist’s work has influences of Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and even musicality, Curnoe rooted his practice in the regional visual language of his native London and greater Canada.