FIGURE IN MIND
Sorel Etrog, Eric Fischl, Betty Goodwin, William Kentridge, Taras Polataiko, Jack Tworkov, Tim Zuck
Barbara Edwards Contemporary is pleased to present a group exhibition comprising important works by distinguished Canadian and international artists. While each piece takes as its focus the human form, the featured artists diverge in their methods of conceptual investigation and stylistic execution. This exhibit showcases the capacity of the human figural depiction to transcend its status as a genre of convention and offer a vibrant locus for the exploration of both the physical and the metaphysical: articulating the body offers a language at once visual, tactile, kinetic and emotional.
Eric Fischl works fundamentally through the figure, painting and sculpting how we imagine and experience the body in modern life. His works are inventive in terms of symbolism and emotionally transgressive. Associated with the neo-expressionist movement of the 1980s, Fischl is a master of creating psychologically charged narratives. The watercolours in this exhibition are quintessential instances of Fischl’s striking use of luminous, warm colours, expressive brush strokes, and attention to the qualities of light.
Sorel Etrog is best known for his abstracted figurative sculptures, many examples of which feature prominently in Toronto’s public spaces and throughout Canada. At once also a painter, draughtsman, filmmaker and writer, Etrog’s interdisciplinary practice accesses a rich philosophical foundation, exploring such existentialist dichotomies as freedom and restraint, despair and hope, and life and death. Etrog typically centres the human figure as a communicative vehicle; in this show, a marble sculpture offers insight into the artist’s tactic of anthropomorphizing everyday mechanical objects into a new language of abstraction.
Betty Goodwin is regarded as one of Canada's premier contemporary artists. Her work is concerned with the fragility and ephemeral quality of life, offering haunting and mysterious images of isolation and mourning. This show presents Secours (2), from the artist’s iconic Swimmers series. In this work, a nebulous wash of pigment ambiguously supports and submerges a solitary body. The swimmer’s limbs are shadowed by ‘phantom’ limbs in graphite, resonating with Goodwin’s recurring complementary themes of the body and the memory of the body. Presence and absence are shown in fluctuation and in terms of the corporeal, evoking human vulnerability and mortality.
Best known for his drawings, prints and animated films, William Kentridge contrasts old ideals with new desires in post-apartheid South Africa. As a first-hand witness to the dissolution of apartheid, among the twentieth century’s most contentious struggles, Kentridge imbues his work with political and social commentary. Featured here is a linocut on dictionary pages titled Twelve Coffee Pots from Kentridge's Universal Archive series. The parallel and displaced relationships between the image and the text relate to the artist’s inherent mistrust of certainty in the creative process and the construction of meaning. A movement between figuration and abstraction––engaging two of Kentridge’s common motifs, the coffee pot and the nude––alongside the works’ close relationship to Kentridge’s stage productions suggest that this body of work occupies an intriguing place in Kentridge’s oeuvre on the edge of animation and printmaking.
Taras Polataiko challenges hegemonic notions about perception, memory, and the production and reification of history, engaging frequently with the politics of his native Ukraine. Working in media including painting, photography, performance, installation, and video, and accessing at times the principles of relational aesthetics, Polataiko is fundamentally a conceptual artist. He centres the human subject both as an agent of meaning and as endlessly inflected by its spatial and historical surroundings. Featured in this exhibit is a photograph from the Eadweard Muybridge: Human Locomotion series, which draws on the work of its eponymous photographer, offering a dialogue with history and positing vision as an unstable historical product.
Jack Tworkov was a founding member of the famed New York school and its Eighth Street Club, painting alongside Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and, later, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Recognized by his peers as uniquely successful in terms of artistic spontaneity and strength of gesture, Tworkov sought to avoid mannerism and self-mythologization, instead allowing the painting to take over the process. These sensibilities speak through Seated Woman’s sketchy lines and thoughtful framing, privileging the process of depicting the human figure over the assertion of a self-conscious style.
Tim Zuck’s dedicated approach to painting and drawing has produced a distinct and visually striking body of work: each piece condenses a meticulous viewing process into one lucid image. Zuck’s work is defined by its deceptively straightforward quality, offering challenging meditations on perception in––and, crucially, through––the guise of simplicity. Re-presenting the familiar human figure from new perspectives, Zuck suggests vision as something mutable, positing our experiences of the world as contingent.
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Eric Fischl, Untitled, 2002
watercolour on paper
15.75" x 10"
Eric Fischl, Untitled, 2011
watercolour on paper
65" x 45"
Sorel Etrog, King & Queen Cornuti, 1972
marble, edition of 1
32” x 22”
Sorel Etrog, Bashota Study, 1976
bronze, edition of 10, 13" high
Betty Goodwin, Secours (2), 1983
mixed media on paper
19.5" x 25"
William Kentridge, Universal Archive (Twelve Coffee Pots), 2012
linocut on non-archival pages from Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, each page mounted on arches velin, edition 27/30
43.5" x 43"
Taras Polataiko, Eadweard Muybridge, Human Locomotion Plate 220/5, 2005
C-print, edition of 5, 36" x 24”
Jack Tworkov, Untitled (Seated Woman), 1955
pencil on paper
25.5" x 19"