Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Petachon

Sorel Etrog

stamped signature and numbered 2/10 on the base
8.25 x 5 x 3 ins ( 21 x 12.7 x 7.6 cms ) ( overall )

Sold for $8,260.00
Sale date: September 24th 2020

Private Collection, Montreal
“Sorel Etrog to William Withrow, April 21, 1966”, box 13, folder 10, Sorel Etrog Fonds, Edward P. Taylor Library & Archives, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Pierre Restany, “Sorel Etrog”, Munich, 2002, page 77
Florian Rodari, “Secret Paths, 1999-2000” in Ihor Holubizky (ed.), “Sorel Etrog: Five Decades”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, page 103
Joyce Zemans, “The Links: Meditations on the Human Conditions,” in “Vancouver, 2008, page 8
Throughout the “Links” period of Etrog's work, the preoccupation of linking different parts of the body seamlessly was paramount for the artist. Deeply influenced by ancient carving and sculpture techniques, Etrog notes: “I was lucky to have discovered the Etruscan links which showed me how to join the multiple shapes organically. The Link created a tension at the point where they joined, where they pulled together or pulled apart.” Etrog was developing a new visual language of the body, wrapped in internal and external tensions with the use of the linking of body parts.

In a letter to the AGO director, William Withrow, Etrog wrote: “I am witnessing how these past immediate experiences are getting in my new work. I feel certain hardness; the fluid line is being replaced by the links. It gives a more mechanical look. Yet I want to believe that I still speak about the human condition.” “Petachon” uses Etrog's visual lexicon of links to create an abstracted face. Linking the sensory elements of the face—eyes, nose, mouth—Etrog plays with the mechanizing the organic. On the importance of these link elements, Florian Rodari writes: “Inasmuch as they are points of maximum energy, these nerve centres where the body hinges and joins do their work are by nature painful; they are nodes of increased vulnerability.”

So inspired by the possibilities of the link in his practice, Etrog wrote a short poem which begins: “Art linked to life. / Art linked to death. Temporary witnesses, / linked to one another: linked to the past / linked to the unknown.” An integral source of inspiration, the use of the link returned throughout the artist's work in sculpture, drawing and printmaking and has become quintessentially Etrog.

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Sorel Etrog
(1933 - 2014) RCA

Based in Toronto for more than fifty years, Sorel Etrog was born in Iasi, Romania, in 1933. He is most well-known as a sculptor, but he also illustrated books, painted, and wrote poetry, plays, and films. His sculptures were influenced by his adolescence spent under Soviet rule and an interest in philosophical writings that questioned the nature of post-war society. He was also inspired by his grandfather who was a carpenter. Etrog, along with his parents and sister attempted to flee Romania in 1946 but were caught. His parents were then imprisoned for several weeks. Finally, Etrog and his family left Romania in 1950 and made it to the Sha’ar Aliyaa refugee camp near Haifa, Israel.

While serving mandatory time in the Israel Defense Forces’ medical corps in 1953 he began studying art at Tel Aviv’s Arts Institute for Painting and Sculpture. Inspired by Cubist collage and modernist music, he created three-dimensional paintings, mimicking constructivist reliefs. In 1958, he received a scholarship to attend school at the Brooklyn Museum of Art School.

Upon arrival in New York City, Etrog became drawn to African and Oceanic art due to their expressive shapes and began incorporating these elements into his work. While trying to find gallery representation in New York City, Samuel J. Zachs purchased one of Etrog’s paintings and invited Etrog to spend the summer of 1959 in Southampton on Lake Huron with him. While in Southampton, Etrog created his first wooden sculptures and gained gallery representation from Gallery Moos in Toronto. This encounter inspired the young artist to apply for Canadian citizenship and eventually move to Toronto in 1963.

In his mature sculptural works, Etrog explores spontaneous symbols, primal elements and the relationship between form and symbol. The artist described his art as "tension created by pulling together and pulling apart, with being stuck and being freed, a world of grabbing and holding on and losing hold...bringing shapes together but at the same time giving each an independence."

After immigrating to Canada, Etrog had his first traveling exhibition in 1965. The show began at Gallery Moos, then traveled to New York City, Los Angeles, and Montreal. In 1966, Etrog, alongside Yves Gaucher and Alex Colville, represented Canada at the Venice Biennale. He later received several important commissions, including those for Expo ’67, Montreal; SunLife Centre, Toronto; Windsor Sculpture Garden, Windsor, Ontario; Los Angeles County Museum, and Olympic Park in Seoul, Korea. Before his death in 2014, Etrog’s art was included in a retrospective at Buschlen Mowatt in Vancouver in 2003.

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

Mikulinsky, Alma, “Sorel Etrog: Life and Work,” Toronto: Art Canada Institute, 2018

We extend our thanks to Danie Klein, York University graduate student in art history, for writing and contributing this artist biography.