Exhibition Review

August 10th, 2021

Fire and Light Exhibition at Art Gallery of Ontario

To talk about abstract art with a contemporary twist, the perfect subject would be Rita Letendre’s Fire and Light exhibition, courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario, based in Toronto. It featured several renowned artists, with the main artist being Rita Letendre, a painter of Canadian origin. The gallery had an extended view of the exhibition, which premiered in June and lasted until September. Perhaps they wanted the audience to soak up the aesthetics of the 40 plus pieces. After the attendance of the exhibition, it was clear that Letendre’s work leaves a lingering impression. The collection had minimal glamour and charisma; nonetheless, it had a sense of unity and order.

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There is no doubt that the Art Gallery of Ontario was a perfect fit for the exhibition. To add spectacle to the show, the entrance was illuminated with the name ‘Letendre,’ which was a sufficient indication of the main artist of the event. The exhibition in particular was important since Rita Letendre is one of the most prominent abstract artists who is still alive (Art Gallery of Ontario, n.d.). However, the turnout was average, with mainly the staunch lovers of art. The corridors and walls of the building were the display panels since they were wide and well lit. The light sources had been placed so that they provided direct illumination for each piece rather than general illumination. The rooms had easy flow from one to another allowing the audience to move effortlessly. The walls were high and created a sense of space. To capture the attention of the audience, the entrance had a well displayed brief on Letendre and her technique. Each of the pieces had been uniquely placed giving them adequate space, offering the audience room to digest every one. The gallery also had several access points as well as exits allowing an even distribution of the audience.

Recently the Art Gallery of Ontario has announced the addition of new curators. It enabled the organization of a higher number of collection exhibitions for audiences based in Toronto and internationally. The new scholars are specialized in photography, drawings and prints, Indigenous and European art (Art Gallery of Ontario, 2017b). A perfect example of the approach was Letendre’s Fire and Light exhibition. The main curator Wanda Nanibush and assistant curator Georgiana Uhlyarik, specialized in Indigenous and Canadian art, were in charge of selecting the pieces, the result being a rich and outstanding collection of an enormous proportion (Art Gallery of Ontario, 2017a).

Fire and Light was the primary exhibition to retrospect the Letendre’s collection from 1960s to 2000s. The exhibition was a reflection of passion and commitment to life, which was apparent in all her pieces. It showcased about 40 paintings, which were retrieved from public and private collections as well as the AGO collection. It was an exhibition that came so naturally to Letendre, yet has come to be famous for its abstract nature. It confirms the fact that she is a living legend.

Letendre is an old player in the industry. She is regarded a national treasure and the voice of the painted landscape in the country (Whyte, 2017). The painter is famous for her extensive use of a diverse range of materials from acrylics, airbrush, pastels, and palette knife. Each of the pieces is an accurate depiction of the various stages of the artist’s development. Her choice of bold colors reveals her bright imagination and how her creativity mingles with nature. Rita attributes her use of bold colors to her apprenticeship at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Jean-Paul Mousseau, another Canadian artist who was instrumental in revolutionizing art (Jean-Pierre Valentin Gallery, n.d.). She took part in his marketing and the announcement of the venue for his exhibitions. Such exposure allowed her to discover her art potential. When Letendre just began, the main art form of her and other painters’ work was color field paintings where prevailed the use of shouting colors and basic shapes(Pictag.org, n.d.). At that time she was a member of two Montreal abstract artist groups called Les Automatistes and Les Plasticiens (BBC.com, 2017). Since her premier in the year 1953, the majority of her pieces conveyed an outspoken and upward expression. The pieces were a visual manifestation of her anxiety as well as her journey of self-discovery. Her work is similar to paintings from American artists but Letendre’s works seems to be more of an expression of doom, tragedy, and pleasure.

Fire and Light Exhibition by Rita Letendre

Figure 1: Letendre’s use of bold colors

Since the 1900s, abstract art has become part of mainstream art. It is taken as a representation of aspects such simplicity, purity and spirituality. Obviously, Letendre’s pieces fit well into the definition of abstract art since she does not strive to attain a perfect depiction of reality. She strives to only capture and print the energy of the object, through her gestures (Phu, 2017).

Letendre draws attention of famous people. Her exhibition at the Here and NowGallery in 2016 based in Toronto was evaluated by Robert Fulford, a world class photographer. He admired how she worked using wide and rough strokes to create vivid images. She sets the paint in a thick layer and often makes use of color violently; it serves well for the expression of her original and creative persona. Those that track her art may find it fascinating that she continuously seeks the new modes of art. It is clear that she has a deep desire for new techniques and knowledge (Art Gallery of Ontario, 2017a). Secondly, she is as a force in motion and acknowledges that the force is awake in her.

Fire and Light Exhibition by Rita Letendre Art Gallery of Ontario

Figure 2: Letendre’s Use of Rough Wide Strokes

It is apparent that Letendre has a preference of painting her works in diagonal lines. They block entry into her pictures like ‘No smoking’ signs do. When the lines are placed closer to the vertical or horizontal edges, the pieces ooze optical power and command attention(MutualArt.com, n.d.). Pieces from the 80s incorporate atmospheric sprays. The colors pop out of the canvas and feed into the picture, while the stripes float on the surface. Her earlier pieces made use of repeated geometric shapes. Her interest was on concepts of space, dynamic application and emotional colors (Heffel.com, n.d.). Some of her pieces belong to abstract expressionism due to her use of simplicity and large soft edges that have no specific areas of focus. Her intention in them is to cause meditation in her audience.

Fire and Light Exhibition at Art Gallery of Ontario

Figure 3: Letendre’s use of abstract forms

The evaluation of the Fire and Light exhibition is a confirmation that Rita Letendre is a living legend. The exhibition is a revelation of the idea that abstract art can be incorporated into the pop culture. The Art Gallery of Ontario was essential in the depiction of the true nature of her collection. In particular, the illumination and floor arrangement of the gallery brought the exhibition to life. For lovers of abstract art, Letendre’s collection is a must see, her particular use of bold colors without definite shapes or lines is mesmerizing for the viewer. Personally, the lack of focus points and the lack of any real life imitation was the cherry on the ice-cream. The Fire and Light exhibition ought to be noted down for its outstanding aesthetics.

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