Artwork by Sorel Etrog,  Small Chair (Hand)

Sorel Etrog
Small Chair (Hand)

stamped signature and edition (1/7)
17 x 9.5 x 9.5 ins ( 43.2 x 24.1 x 24.1 cms ) ( overall )

Auction Estimate: $25,000.00$20,000.00 - $25,000.00

Price Realized $18,000.00
Sale date: December 3rd 2020

Private Collection, Ontario
Pierre Restany, “Sorel Etrog”, Munich, page 77
Florian Rodari, ‘Secret Paths, 1999-2000’ in Ihor Holubizky ed., “Sorel Etrog: Five Decades”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, page 103
The “Links” series is one of the most recognizable recurring themes
in Sorel Etrog’s work. “Small Chair (Hand)” encapsulates the artist’s exploration of bodily form in contemporary sculptural practices of the Post-War era. Living through the Second World War and the Holocaust, Etrog was deeply impacted by the violence and displacement of millions during this period; he and his family migrated to Israel from their native IaȘi, Romania to flee from the pogrom throughout Romania. Bearing witness to the death and destruction of his family and community, Etrog explored these memories and subsequent emotions through his sculptural practice.

Throughout the “Links” period of Etrog’s work, the preoccupation of linking different parts of the body seamlessly was paramount. 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 linking of body parts. There is a psychological element at play in these works, an inherent tension trying to break free from the bodily constraints seeking freedom. 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 joints do their work are by nature painful; they are nodes of increased vulnerability.” “Small Chair (Hand)” exemplifies the human condition and the inherent tensions within the forms. The hand becomes a chair, an object to cradle and hold a sitter. The tension in the links combined with the comforting quality of the chair creates a complex emotive experience, whereby the object is at once vulnerable and tense while still managing to offer comfort to another.

Share this item with your friends

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.