Fall 2016 - 1st Session Live auction
Lot # 011
Jack Hamilton Bush
ARCA CGP CSGA CSPWC OSA P11 1909 - 1977 Canadian
acrylic on canvas
on verso signed, titled, dated June 1972 and inscribed "Acrylic Polymer W.B." and "Toronto"
66 x 113 in 167.6 x 287cm
David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto
Gallery One, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
Kay Kritzwiser, “Sex Is Subtle in Etrog Sculptures,” The Globe and Mail, December 2, 1972, page 30
W. Neill Marshall, “Toronto Letter,” Art International 17, no. 6, Summer 1973, pages 40 – 43
Hilton Kramer, “A Garden for the Eye: The Paintings of Jack Bush,” artscanada 37, no. 3, December 1980 – January 1981, pages 12 - 17
Marc Mayer and Sarah Stanners, Jack Bush, National Gallery of Canada, 2014, pages 28, 42 and 88
David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto, Jack Bush: New Works, December 2 - 30, 1972
In 1980, art critic Hilton Kramer surveyed Jack Bush’s career in an article aptly titled “A Garden for the Eye.” He referred to the garden as both the home of Bush’s pictorial imagination and also one of the driving forces in Bush’s singular mode of abstraction. Indeed, as Karen Wilkin describes, “Bush repeatedly used his garden as a way of finding impulses to move his work forward, distilling his pleasure in the return of spring...into lively abstract images.” His 1972 floral-inspired works, replete with vivacious colour and an almost triumphant sensibility, capture one such step forward in his work, as well as the spirit of a summer’s day.
A series of gouaches, completed in spring 1971, are the precursors for this work. They featured bright, calligraphic motifs on neutral backgrounds (see, for example, Forsythia from 1971, which features a yellow loop above three bright vertical strokes on a grey ground). Bush returned to these motifs in April of 1972, creating canvases whose ebullience is even more emphatic. As noted by Wilkin, “The radiant hues of spring’s blossoms...have escaped the confines of the gouaches’ signs and claimed the entire expanse” of the canvas—a sentiment echoed by art critic Kay Kritzwiser upon viewing this series at the David Mirvish Gallery’s December 1972 show. She gushed that the abstractions “flow[ed] down, unconfined, joyous, color over color” in a manner that was “all very bravo, Bush.”
Turning to June Mulberry, she called the canvas “a soft ooze of color, a moment of ripeness.” The ground is the mottled colour of crushed mulberries, as if they were applied directly from Bush’s roller. The coloured brush-strokes at upper right nearly suggest fluttering petals on our periphery, meanwhile retaining the work’s resolute abstractness through the imbrication of the brush-strokes with their ground. The work may evoke a day in the garden, but it denies both illusionism and representation. As with any garden, pruning is necessary. Viewers of the work may be drawn to the pink area at right. While to the uninitiated it seems like a restoration job, it is, in fact, classic Bush. He was a relentless editor, returning to works about which he was uncertain. The thumbnail sketches in his record books often feature excisions, additions and arrows suggesting orientation changes.
The pink section evinces an edit: Bush removed additional coloured bars from the finished work, as dutifully noted in his record book. Bush never attempted to obviate the processes by which final compositions evolved. Works such as Tight Sash, considered one of the finest Colour Field paintings by critic Roberta Smith, bears similar overpainting in the upper section, and it is not unique in this respect (Sarah Stanners discusses the numerous edits to Paris #3 from 1962 to 1963 in the National Gallery’s 2014 Jack Bush catalogue). Marc Mayer notes this tendency for works to be “visibly patched, exposing the artifice through scruffy workmanship” as something that is both disarming and, ultimately, a sign of Bush’s unique facility: the works maintain their unity in spite of the exposure of their process.
This simpler composition is certainly successful. Kritzwiser, in her review, agrees: “In June Mulberry, Bush drains off the lower right hand color in a way we might resent...but respect [here] as a release from color surfeit.” He is sensitive to sensory overload; he wants to keep the view pleasurable without being cloying. Bush keeps things playful and light, a breath of fresh air on a June day.
We thank Elizabeth Went, project coordinator and lead research assistant for Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné, for contributing the above essay.
This work will be included in Sarah Stanners's forthcoming Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné.
Estimate: $125,000 ~ $175,000 CAD
Sold For: $165,200.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)