Artwork by Gregory Richard Curnoe,  Homage to Post Painterly Abstraction (1964)
Thumbnail of Artwork by Gregory Richard Curnoe,  Homage to Post Painterly Abstraction (1964) Thumbnail of Artwork by Gregory Richard Curnoe,  Homage to Post Painterly Abstraction (1964)

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Cowley Abbott
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

Lot #12

Greg Curnoe
Homage to Post Painterly Abstraction (1964)

oil on board
titled and dated June 1964 on the reverse
34.75 x 34.75 ins ( 88.3 x 88.3 cms )

Estimated: $20,000.00$15,000.00 - $20,000.00

Estate of the artist
Thielsen Galleries, London, ON
Private Collection, Toronto
“The Shape of Colour, Excursions in Colour Field Art 1950-2005”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, June 1 - August 7, 2005, no. 8
David Moos (ed.), “The Shape of Colour, Excursions in Colour Field Art 1950-2005”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2005, no. 8, reproduced page 48
Clement Greenberg, “Post Painterly Abstraction” in The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 4: Modernism with a Vengeance, 1957-1969, Chicago, 1993, page 196
Greg Curnoe, known for his leading role in the regionalist art movement based in London, Ontario, rejected any societal pressure to move to “the centre” (referring to Toronto or New York) to thrive as a contemporary artist, and achieved great success from his body of work that included brightly coloured painting, sculpture, video and photography. Curnoe’s oeuvre chronicled his experiences with current events and the art world, the combination of both themes present in “Homage to Post Painterly Abstraction”. The 1964 work was Curnoe’s response to the famous exhibition “Post Painterly Abstraction” of the same year, organized by influential New York art critic Clement Greenberg. Curated for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and subsequently the Walker Art Center and the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the AGO), the show presented a new direction taken in abstract art that “favored openness or clarity”. Greenberg chose 31 artists to be featured, including prominent American painters Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland, as well as Canadians Jack Bush, Kenneth Lochhead and Art McKay.

Curnoe’s “Homage to Post Painterly Abstraction” is rendered in a style akin to that of the artists of Greenberg’s exhibition. The clean lines and flat, abstract forms recall the popular work of Color-Field painters, and the diamond-shaped support brings to mind the shaped canvases of Noland, Stella and the emerging styles of Minimalism and Hard-Edge painting. Curnoe does add a personal touch to the work, however, by inserting text along the upper corner of the composition. Incorporating text, often through collage, was common in the artist’s work, inspired by neo-Dada movements and early Pop Art. “Homage to Post Painterly Abstraction” contains an additional personal and Canadian reference: Walter ‘Turk’ Broda was the famous goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1936 to 1952, and Greg Curnoe was a devoted hockey fan.

This painting was included in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s 2005 exhibition “The Shape of Colour, Excursions in Colour Field Art”, alongside many of the post-war abstract artists that were featured in Greenberg’s 1964 show. A visually pleasing and significant painting within Greg Curnoe’s multifaceted body of work, “Homage to Post Painterly Abstraction” contains a unique combination of American and Canadian references in its title, formal qualities and text.
Sale Date: September 24th 2020

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Cowley Abbott
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

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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) then returned to London in 1960.

While still attending Beal Tech he became interested in Dada art and joined the Société Pour L’Etude Du Movement Dada since he himself became dedicated to attacking existing standards of the establishment bound by international styles of art. Taking the opposite pole, Curnoe freed himself from this concern by choosing his subjects immediately around him and rejoicing in a people’s art he encountered in everyday personal experiences.

One can find in his work the elements of constructivism, op art, pop art, dadaism and comic-strip-like marriage of words and pictures, a facet of art which has been his keen interest from his earliest years (his childhood ambition was to be a cartoonist). Curnoe’s work is drawn together by colours ranging from a brilliant carnival-like intensity to softer blends of browns, oranges, pinks, greens, etc.

In an article on Curnoe’s work in Saturday Night, Barry Hale in 1970 gave this description, “Curnoe’s paintings are as immediate in their impact as superlative, blown-up comic books; they are figurative, but not ‘realistic’ - the outlines (in general) are hard edged, there is no modelling, and large, brilliant colour areas collide and vibrate to achieve a hotly overwhelming whole. Like comics, they are printed all over the works, in various manners – words as labels, or self-contained statements like cartoon-balloons; they may surround the picture frame and lead off the right edge (like the narrative print of a cartoon strip), or simply exist in conjunction as a kind of concrete poetry – so , as well as their hot impact, Curnoe’s paintings have a McLuhanesque cool, they must be read, with all the self-involvement that reading implies.”

In addition to his painting, Curnoe was involved in many other fields, including nihilist politics, writing, film making, pop music and non music. In 1961 he began publishing the magazine “Region” with friends, as his commitment to regionalism intensified. They also opened the Region Gallery. He co-founded the Association for the Documentation of Neglected Aspects of Culture in Canada and co-founded the Canadian Artist’s Representation (a national association of Canadian artists growing in stature); the Nihilist Party of London, a good natured group of hecklers of establishment parties (all members with equal say, no leader). His work was first recognized by Ronald Bloore in 1961 when Bloore was a juror of a show and awarded Curnoe a prize.

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. He is represented in the National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Sources: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977