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Harold Town: A Legacy, Revisited

Once heralded as the “Picasso of Canada,” and famously recognized as the founder of the postwar Toronto-area abstract art collective Painters Eleven, Harold Town and his legacy are revisited and reconsidered this fall in an exhibition at Ingram Gallery.

Spanning four decades of production, the exhibition includes Town’s early works on paper, his signature single autographic print collages, lesser-known SNAP series works from the 1970s and even a set of handcrafted jigsaw puzzles created for Town’s daughters Shirley and Heather.

The works selected convey the depth and breadth of an artist known for his wide-ranging, larger-than-life persona. Mummers, which merges an abstract expressionist sensibility with formal experimentation, was created in 1954 and once exhibited in Venice. The best-known work in the show, War Shadow (from the 1960s) represents Town at the height of his career. The almost sculptural use of paint in this work makes a visceral homage to Paul-Émile Borduas and the influence of the Automatistes. Town’s Stretch, from 1969, reflects a period of minimalist experimentation. It’s enlightening to see the different paths this prolific artist took.

This small, well-organized, enjoyable exhibition casts a spotlight on a Canadian art personality who has, until recently, been largely neglected by art historians—his status being obscured by the international success of his Painters Eleven peer Jack Bush. Only in the past decade has Town re-emerged as an eminent painter in his own right, with a posthumous solo exhibition at Moore Gallery in 1997 and a recent presentation of works at the Drake Hotel in 2007. The Ingram show is perhaps a prelude to increased institutional recognition for this figure who cast a long shadow in his time. (49 Avenue Rd, Toronto ON)

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