1918 - 2013
acrylic on canvas, 1964
on verso signed, titled and inscribed "Blue Verticals"
49 x 47 in 124.5 x 119.4 cm
Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
Sold for: $85,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Newzones Gallery of Contemporary Art, Calgary
Private Collection, Toronto
The bold colour-field paintings of Saskatchewan artist William Perehudoff remain exemplary of this type of abstract art, whether regionally, nationally or in international circles. While he chose to live and work in Saskatchewan throughout his long career, he was well informed about American currents in abstraction in the 1950s and 1960s via the famous Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops, at which prominent international artists and critics worked alongside Canadian artists. He participated in classes by Will Barnet, Herman Cherry, Clement Greenberg, Kenneth Noland and Donald Judd. At this time Perehudoff developed the distinctive style we see in this painting, one characterized by dramatic saturated colour and the subtle deployment of washes in acrylic paint, and in 1988, he led the Emma Lake workshop. The title of his major retrospective in 2011, The Optimism of Colour, is an apt description of his work.
Influential American critic Greenberg approvingly noticed Perehudoff’s work and compared it favourably with the better-known Jack Bush. Both artists – and their American interlocutors, such as Noland and Jules Olitski – sought to have their vibrant paintings establish their own terms of reference, their own worlds within the frame. It is in appreciating the subtle expressions developed in paint that the considerable visual pleasures of AC-64-3-A arise as much for a viewer today as when it was painted in 1964.
One way in to the coordinates of colour and design in this painting is through Perehudoff’s inscription of the phrase “Blue Verticals” on the back of the canvas, just above its more neutral official title. Though only slightly off square, the effect of verticality is assured by the placement of all forms, whether blue (in two hues, lighter and darker), green, yellow-green, yellow or red. Blue dominates, forming the ground for these forms because the off-centre colour bands do not stretch to the bottom of the canvas. Perehudoff thus allows blue to flow freely over much of the surface.
Edges are crucial to the artist’s design. Pigment streams to a perfectly delineated border around the perimeter of the painting. The sense of precision and control stands in happy contrast to the artist’s playful (but equally skilful) variation of edges and borders inside the frame. Prolonged viewing reveals a remarkable variety in these manipulations. Where the four colour bands meet at the top of the work, for example, he has left open, white ground showing through, creating highlights. In this same, almost climactic zone and along the extent of the blue/green border that runs down from it vertically for much of the surface, Perehudoff’s characteristic staining techniques allow colour and form to meld and to blur any hard distinctions. One effect of this procedure is to create darkly stained passages that stand in contrast to the predominantly thin and opaque nature of the surface as a whole.
While Perehudoff consciously creates symmetries of colour and form across this surface, he avoids the rigidity of geometries and grids. If one is tempted to perceive a pattern – blue abuts green in several places, for example – no strict repetition can be found. We cannot predict what is going to happen in the painting, even after prolonged attention, except perhaps that it will continue to change before our eyes.
We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto and author of Landscape into Eco Art: Articulations of Nature Since the ’60s, for contributing the above essay.
Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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