Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  In the Shadow I
Thumbnail of Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  In the Shadow I Thumbnail of Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  In the Shadow I Thumbnail of Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  In the Shadow I Thumbnail of Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  In the Shadow I

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

Sorel Etrog
In the Shadow I

painted bronze
stamped with signature, date (1969) and edition 1/7
14 x 8.75 x 10.5 ins ( 35.6 x 22.2 x 26.7 cms ) ( overall )

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Private Collection, Ontario
Etrog, Dunkelman Gallery, Toronto, December 12, 1970 - January 8, 1971, no. 15
Mario Amaya, Introduction to “Etrog”, Dunkelman Gallery, Toronto, December 12, 1970 - January 8, 1971, not paginated, reproduced
Pierre Restany, “Sorel Etrog”, New York, 2001, page 16
An incredibly rare piece from a finite phase of the artist’s “Links” series of the late 1960s, “In the Shadow I” represents an experimental exploration into themes of the organic and mechanical within sculpture and the trauma of the body and psyche in a Post-War context. Making it’s auction debut, “In the Shadow I” is an extraordinary bronze work painted white, the central knotted and linked form encased within a rectangular shadowbox. This exceptional piece is loaded with visual language communicating the complexities of the practice of sculpture and its relation to the human condition.

Pierre Restany argues that “Etrog shares with Brancusi an approach to the essential relationship between form and symbol: the symbol is a self-productive process of subjectivity which secretes the formal substance and conditions its evolution.” For Etrog, his psyche, senses and body are all interconnected and this relationship is articulated in the mechanical twisted knots, folds, links and hinges of his works, pregnant with tension between the physical and existential. Within “In the Shadow I”, all of these themes are expressed with an additional layer of a literal boxing-in as the central sculptural form is restrained in a rigid box.

Exhibited at the Dunkelman Gallery in 1970-71, then Chief Curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Mario Amaya, noted that with these works, including “In the Shadow I”, Etrog “has taken to ‘crating’ his more flippant figures, and to ask yet another note of irony, he has painted white the rather grave and classical medium he works in—thus, bronze becomes plaster again and vice-versa in a duel of means that describes a never to be resolved human predicament. For surely these works allude to mankind’s great tragic joke, reminding us that at moments when we think we have reached total freedom, we are in fact in complete bondage to our illusions of freedom.”

A copy of the 1970 Dunkelman Gallery exhibition catalogue accompanies this lot.
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Cowley Abbott
326 Dundas St West
Toronto ON M5T 1G5
Ph. 1(416)479-9703

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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.