Tom Nickson, Jerry Pethick, George Sawchuck, Buster Simpson

Curated by: Daina Augaitis

29 May 1984 - 23 June 1984
Opening Reception 29 May 1984 8pm

East & West Galleries:

Reconstituted Elements

A group exhibition of sculptors from Vancouver and Victoria

“RECONSTITUTED ELEMENTS”, an exhibition of sculpture bringing together the work of four west coast artists: TOM NICKSON, JERRY PETHICK, GEORGE SAWCHUK and BUSTER SIMPSON, will open at Mercer Union on May 29th and run until June 23rd. As part of an exchange with Open Space Gallery in Victoria, B.C., it provides Toronto viewers with a rare opportunity to see contemporary work from the West.

The work of these four artists does not lend itself to any convenient labeling or grouping. Yet, there is a shared quality in their use of non-high art materials. Whether these are found in the back closet, the hardware store or recycling depots, the choices made to use these elements have been very deliberate and intentional. It is not chance or arbitrariness that governs their activities, but rather, a need to make less of a distinction between their art and their lives.

This, the first exhibition of Open Space’s Independent Curator series has been organized by Daina Augaitis, an independent Vancouver-based curator who is presently with the Western Front.

TOM NICKSON, living in Victoria, attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and has exhibited in Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver.

JERRY PETHICK, living on Hornby Island, has exhibited in England, Canada and the U.S. including two solo exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Jerry is responsible for many advancements in the field of holography.

GEORGE SAWCHUK, living in Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island, has exhibited in major centres in Western Canada, in Seattle and Washington, D.G.

BUSTER SIMPSON, of Seattle, Wa., has exhibited in the U.S. and Canada including New York, San Francisco, Artpark and Seattle. Ruster has received numerous public commissions and is active in protecting Seattle’s downtown core from encroaching redevelopment.

Enigmatic sculpture in twilight of dream
John Bentley Mays
Globe and Mail, May 1984

These group shows, which have coincided by happy accident, feature new paintings and sculptures by seven artists working along the West Coast between Seattle and Vancouver. Taken together, they offer Toronto gallery goers an unusual chance to get acquainted with some of the quirkiest, funniest and most exuberant artists now working in Canada.

Organized by Daina Augaitis, curator at Vancouver’s Western Front, the Mercer Union show is called Reconstituted Elements. That’s a rather highfalutin way of saying it, but it gets the point across. Augaitis’s artists have raided the junk piles, warehouses, hard ware stores and toy boxes of modern industrial culture, pulling out hospital sheets, toilet seats, crowbars, Cheerios, things that go squish and everything else you can think of, except the high art stuff of oil paint and marble. Then they have combined this stuff in various ways to make sculptures, most of them big and all of them (in this show, any ways) rather smart, wacky and wonderful.

If the actual materials uses in these pieces are not high-art, the tradition of assemblage is a fact of modern art that is venerable indeed. It’s so venerable, in fact, that there’s a chance these sculptures may strike the educated viewer as mere exercises In a mixed match practice going back to Picasso and Dada and the early movies.

That history is surely one reference to the work. But there’s another that is more interesting: the folk-art tradition of just fooling around to pass the time out in the logging camp (or wherever). The off hand, funky qualities in this work make it lots of fun, if not exactly compelling. Intelligently chosen by Daina Augaitis, uncomfortably crowded into Mercer Union, these pieces provide a nice counterpoint to the stern, melancholy, psychologically vexed and anxious work being produced by some of Toronto’s best new sculptors.