1933 - 2013
oil on board
signed and dated 1960 and on verso signed, titled, dated and inscribed "In Edmonton JR League Rental Show '60-'61 Only" / "Returned '61"
48 x 36 in, 121.9 x 91.4 cm
Estimate: $6,000 - $8,000
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Acquired directly from the Artist by the present Private Collection, Toronto
Dennis Burton, Dennis Burton: Retrospective, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 1977, page 17
Shortly before producing the “Gartermania” paintings that would define the core of his production in the mid-1960s, Burton would see success with a self-conscious turn to abstract painting. He was greatly inspired by the 1955 Painters Eleven show at Hart House, University of Toronto, as well as by the mentorship provided to him by Jock Macdonald while studying at the Ontario College of Art. This was followed by first hand exposure to the American Abstract Expressionists through visits to New York and the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. This lead to the development of his own language of abstraction, taking cues in particular from the works of William Ronald, Willem de Kooning, and Jack Twarkov. Burton worked out the pictorial issues of abstraction through specific figurative reference - particularly in response to his family, his upbringing, and (most notoriously) the eroticized body.
Late in 1957, Burton’s father died. This inspired him to develop his practice with a new fervour: “His dying affected me dramatically; I came back to Toronto driving his old Studebaker and vowed that I was going to ‘make it’ in honour of my father.” Dad’s Target could be a reference to his father’s interest in mechanical things: he had an interest in the complexities of automobiles or musical instruments, and would frequently be found tinkering in his home workshop. This interest in the complexities of construction resonate clearly here. The work is dominated by a yellow field, washed over an abstracted ground. The almost calligraphic perforations through the yellow expose the roiling gestural strokes underneath, at once concealing and doubling them. A central blue mark punctuates the center of the work, as if to nail the two layers together. Through this layered construction, Burton demonstrates an interest in the interplay and methods of concealment and revelation that he would explore more explicitly with his later works, and marks Dad’s Target as an important example of Burton’s position as a distinct voice in Canadian abstraction.
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