1683889554 Selected works from 1965 to 2017 at Gallery Stratford | woundmagazine
With her work widely represented in major public, corporate and private collections, it is a testament to both the enduring power of Ron Shuebrook’s art and the curatorial acumen of Angela Brayham, that this selection of works over 52 years, illuminates with so many key examples. , both the trajectory of his creative development and the underlying elements that have inhabited his work from the start.

Canadian artist exhibited nationally and internationally (born in the United States), Shuebrook has rooted his practice in a committed and serious exploration of questions of abstract and non-objective art. However, to say that his formal means are largely non-figurative is not to say that his work is disengaged from the world. Rather, his artistic practice embodies a visceral connection to ideas of humanity, to expressions of human life and experience, while drawing inspiration from the ambition of early and mid-century modernisms.

“Dark Spring”, 2008, oil on canvas, 96″ x 144″ Photo credit, Ron Shuebrook

dark spring is a key painting in the exhibition, bringing these elements together in a compelling tour de force. On a large scale, it is both a multi-layered exploration through modernist tropes, a psychic landscape and a dynamic abstract painting that foregrounds drawing. But it is also a work that deals with politics and tragedy: it is a painting of modern history.

As a genre, history painting was of major importance in the 19th century, but was largely shunned by 20th-century modernisms. However, masterful works like that of Picasso Guernicaor that of Robert Motherwell Elegy to the Spanish Republic series, showed that the languages ​​of modernism could address memorable events with unparalleled emotional and instrumental power. For Ron Shuebrook, the catalyst for dark spring was the fatal shooting of four students at Kent State University in May 1970. Besides its historical significance, this massacre was of personal significance to the artist: four months after the massacre, he became an MFA major at Kent State and had first-hand experience of its aftermath.

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“Dark Spring” (detail)

dark spring, however, was premiered in 2008, much as a retrospective work, completed when the historical significance of the event revealed a broader perspective and when Shuebrook’s mature abstract language was in full bloom. Four crosses, encrusted with a sense of the horizon, signify the four lives lost and suggest brutally reduced possibilities of youth. Crosses float across gray fields, articulated by Shuebrook’s serpentine, swirling line. Around the frontal immediacy of the pictorial plane of the central grays, rectilinear incrustations impregnated with curved line, suggest windows on other realities, on a world outside the tragedy.

Thus, the humanistic content of his work is not represented, but rather expressed through a highly sophisticated and expressive use of the languages ​​of painting and, indeed, drawing. Language in this context is never static: in serious work it is subject to endless relativities, developments and configurations, in the service of the art’s ongoing creative vitality and development.

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« The lament of Ishmael », 2005 Acrylic on canvas 152.5 x 245 cm

Shuebrook’s fascinating range of motifs, compositional and formal concerns change shape and transmute both in individual works and in his work as a whole. His fondness for the curved or serpentine line, for example, often refers to the monkey’s rope in Melville. Moby-Dickwhile the more orthogonal forms and lines are often architecturally inspired: however, expressed in multiple permutations through his drawings and paintings, his formal method takes on a myriad of contextual meanings and perspectives.

In works such as Emma Lake Monkeyrope And Complaint of Ishmael, both in the exhibition, Shuebrook deconstructs and juxtaposes patterns and formal elements not only compositionally but also in terms of execution – hard-edged geometries combine with flowing hand-drawn line, and the gesture is invested with a sense of performance that acts as a counterpoint to the colder logic of the composition. Each work vibrates with a balance achieved by different elements held in tension. In form and line, the serpentine and architectonic design is offset for a poetic effect.

1683889549 956 Selected works from 1965 to 2017 at Gallery Stratford | woundmagazineShuebrook maintained a significant drawing practice throughout his career. However, the place of drawing in his vast creative practice goes well beyond his body of work, which can be described as “drawings on paper”. It is central and key in his practice. Drawing underpins his painting and plays a predominant role over that of color. Often, for example, a single color like yellow plays a purely tonal role as a foil to his use of black.

If painting in Renaissance Venice can be said to emphasize color rather than drawing, and in Florence to emphasize drawing rather than color, then Shuebrook can be said to be , by sensibility, a Florentine.

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Installation view

There is indeed a sense of renaissance man in Ron Shuebrook’s career. A distinguished artist, educator and writer on art, he influenced several generations of Canadian artists. While his art is rooted in the sense of formal and material exploration and discovery that characterized early and mid-century modernisms, it is honed by observed reality, by his understanding of historical precedent and discourse. of art, and by his humanistic sensibility. In a career that spans more than 50 years, Shuebrook’s work is imbued with a serious approach that avoids the facile ironies and appropriations of postmodernism, and demonstrates the continued vitality of modernism as an authentic site of artistic possibility. for our time.

Ron Shuebrook: Selected Works 1965 -2017 at Gallery Stratford. September 30 to November 26,

Geoffrey Nawn 2017

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Installation views, Stratford Gallery.

By Bruce