ARCA OC OSA
1927 - 1977
My Desk Top at School
mixed media on wood
initialed and on verso titled on the exhibition label and inscribed "#1"
13 x 23 1/2 in, 33 x 59.7 cm
Estimate: $3,000 - $4,000 CAD
Sold for: $4,063
Collection of the Artist
By descent to the present Private Collection, Toronto
The Isaacs Gallery Ltd., Toronto
This work comprised of a wooden desk top, contained in an original frame made by Kurelek. The full size including the frame is 21 1/8 x 31 5/8 inches.
A relentless autobiographer, Kurelek drew on his own history when producing his works, frequently drawing on childhood memories, dramatized family histories, or personal strife in order to create his introspective and lightly fabulist images of life in the prairies. This exceptional work is a different kind of self-portraiture, depicting the graffitied desktop from his time as a school boy. The worn wooden boards are scratched, chipped and faded, almost entirely covered in the calligraphic scrawls and scuffs of bored students. The board is dominated by a carved muscular figure, naively rendered: Kurelek claims this with his prominently displayed initials that seem to glow in the center of the image. The remainder of the field is left to the students that presumably came before him, and the marks they engraved on this open omni-present canvas: their carved initials, their distracted etchings and divots, the burnished wood rubbed by their elbows. An engraved note reading “Stonewall, MAN.” likely locates the source of this in the one-room schoolhouse that Kurelek attended with his brother John – himself perhaps the source of the prominent “JK” to the left of the figure.
Kurelek has placed his desktop within a facsimile of a chalkboard, written over with classroom games, teases, scribbles: “WILLIAM KURELEK DREW SECRETLY UNDER THIS DESK COVER” taunts one tantalizing note. Kurlek has rendered a history that is at once deeply personal and an extended record of his community, layered with the marks and memories of the children who filled his recollections.
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