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Because it’s 2017

March 7th, 2017

At 88 years old, groundbreaking Toronto-based artist Rita Letendre has never had a full retrospective of her work in the city. That’s about to change.

Rita Letendre. Aforim, 1975. Acrylic on canvas, 137.2 x 198.1 cm. Anonymous Gift, 1975. © 2017 Rita Letendre.

True story: when AGO staff members were briefed on the upcoming exhibition Rita Letendre: Fire & Light, co-curator Wanda Nanibush, AGO Assistant Curator, Canadian and Indigenous Art, asked the group, “Are you in love yet?” There was a unified, gentle hum of agreement from everyone.

So get ready to fall in love, Toronto, with this solo retrospective on one of the most eminent living abstract artists. Rita Letendre: Fire & Light takes over the AGO’s Signy Eaton Gallery (where Anthony Caro’s Sculpture Laid Bare is currently on display until March 22) June 29 – September 17, filling the space with nearly 40 large-scale paintings spanning Letendre’s career. This exhibition, co-curated by Nanibush and Georgiana Uhlyarik, AGO Associate Curator of Canadian Art, will offer an overwhelming sensation for AGO-goers, both by the artworks and by Letendre’s undeniably fiery personality.

Born in Drummondville, Quebec to Abenaki and Quebecois parents in 1928, Letendre got her start in artmaking in 1950s Montreal as part of the influential groups Les Automatistes and Les Pasticiens. Often the sole woman artist in their group shows, she broke away from their approach to painting, finding it restrictive – today, she’s known for her bold, bright, visceral style that pushes boundaries in colour, scale and form (using brush, airbrush, palette knife and her hands) as she tries to capture “the spirit of life,” according to Nanibush.

Letendre received the Order of Canada in 2005, has completed commissions across Canada and the United States, and has been exhibited nationally and internationally. And even though she moved to Toronto in the 1970s and now calls the city home, until now she has never had a major retrospective organized outside of Quebec (her last retrospeective was in 2003 at the Musée du Quebec).

Rita Letendre. Meduse, 1960. Oil on canvas, 91.4 x 107 cm. Gift of Sam and Ayala Zacks, 1970. ©2017 Rita Letendre.

Rita Letendre: Fire & Light isn’t the only upcoming solo exhibition at the AGO that spotlights a legendary woman artist.

Starting on April 22, Georgia O’Keeffe will give Canadians an unprecedented look at the famous American artist’s career, as well as her relationships with renowned photographers of the time including Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz. Making its only stop in North America at the AGO, Georgia O’Keeffe features more than 80 works of art capturing the essence of her deeply personal connection to the landscape, architecture and nature that inspired her iconic style.

Rita Letendre. La Tourmente, 1962. Oil on canvas, 81.2 x 99.7 cm. Gift from the collection of Bruno M. and Ruby Cormier, 1985. © 2017 Rita Letendre and Art Gallery of Ontario.

Florine Stettheimer is not a household name like her contemporary Georgia O’Keeffe, but she was a key figure in the modern art scene of New York in the early 1900s. In her time she was acclaimed by artists, curators and critics – even Andy Warhol called her his “favourite artist.” You can get to know her when Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry opens next October, marking the first major exhibition of Stettheimer’s work. It’s organized by the AGO and The Jewish Museum, New York.

In March 2018, the AGO will host the highly anticipated travelling exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, offering the unique opportunity to experience six of Kusama’s most iconic kaleidoscopic environments at once, alongside large-scale, whimsical installations and key paintings, sculptures and works on paper from the early 1950s to the present. It also marks the North American debut of numerous new works by the 87-year-old artist, who is still actively creating in her Tokyo studio. With Infinity Mirrors currently making stops in the U.S., selfies taken inside her mind-blowing immersive installations are probably already flooding your timelines.

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Government Partner: Canada Council for the Arts

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