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"Tribal Dancers in Blue"
Sorel Etrog, "Tribal Dancers in Blue," 1968 - 1969, oil on masonite, 60" X 47.75".
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"Two Dancers at the Bar"
Sorel Etrog, "Two Dancers at the Bar," 1969, charcoal on paper, 18" X 24".
SOREL ETROG, The Links: Meditations on the Human Condition
Buschlen Mowatt Gallery, Vancouver
Opens March 6, 2008
By Beverly Cramp
Famous for the large modernist sculptures he began creating in 1959, Sorel Etrog actually started his practice drawing and painting. Michele Becker, the curator of his March show at Buschlen Mowatt Gallery says that few people realize Etrog continued to draw and paint while he worked on his famous sculptures — work reminiscent of the human body merging into the massive bolts and hinges of heavy machinery.
“He often worked things out in paintings and drawings before proceeding to sculpture,” says Becker, who chose only paintings and drawings for the spring Etrog exhibition, none of which have ever been exhibited before. “These paintings and drawings represent a treasure trove of the ideas Etrog was working with. They reflect the style of his sculpture — nuts & bolts, links and hinges.”
Born in Romania, Etrog moved to Israel with his family in 1950, then to New York on a scholarship in 1958 and Toronto in 1959. When he was lured back to Can-ada to settle in 1963 by art patron Samuel J. Zacks, Etrog found a utilitarian eye-hook on a Toronto street. “He turned it in his hand and played with it for a few days before it disappeared into his studio,” Becker says. “But it began to ferment ideas in his mind — the idea of links as a motif.”
Becker adds that the banal eye-hook tool was one of the cues that Etrog used to begin his period known as “Links”, epitomized by visual points that clasp together and join with other points. But Etrog had also been influenced by the Etruscan sculpture he viewed on a trip to Florence in 1963. “I saw in them a strong device for connecting and creating tension, mirroring the tension in our very existence with and within the outside world,” he later wrote.
For Buschlen Mowatt’s The Links show, there are a number of portrait paintings from the 1963 to 1971 period paying homage to people Etrog admired. They in-cluded artists, writers, poets, and musicians like Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Paul Klee, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Marshall McLuhan, Igor Stravin-sky, Bela Bartok and Arnold Schoenberg.
In the portrait pictures, including Portrait of Francis Bacon, the faces are usually masses of interconnected links. From a series of paintings and drawings of danc-ers, Etrog created several sculptures that aren’t in this show, but can be seen in the Buschlen Mowatt gallery in Palm Desert, California. The links that Etrog saw and explored in this work connected the human body and human experience, with points of movement and composition during a critical period for him in his evolution as an artist.
Represented by: Buschlen Mowatt Gallery, Vancouver; Christopher Cutts Gallery, Toronto