Excelsior! 1975-2015 / Dave Gordon

Friday, March 10, 2017 to Friday, April 21, 2017

Opening Reception: Friday, March 10, 7-9 PM  

Duration: Friday, March 10 – Friday, April 21, 2017

Forest City Gallery is proud to present Excelsior! 1975-2015: a survey of forty years of artwork, by one of FCG’s founding members Dave Gordon. Dave Gordon was born in London, Ontario and has been active in artist-run activities since the early 1970s. When the 20/20 Gallery closed in 1970, he and Jamelie Hassan founded the Polyglot Gallery in a local bookstore, and both helped establish the Forest City Gallery. In the mid 1970s, Gordon relocated from London to Kingston and in this new setting helped establish the Kingston Artists' Association, Inc. / Modern Fuel Artist-run Centre in 1977.

Gordon’s endeavors to support artist-run initiatives and artists’ rights have been widely celebrated and recognized in Canadian arts.  With roots in London’s Regionalist movement, his work presents a watchful perspective, one that is observational, keen, and active. Gordon assesses his surroundings and renders succinct depictions of things that feel symbolically, or even stereotypically Canadian. But these painted symbols have weight. His stereotypes appear authentic.

Gordon’s deceivingly simple portraits of the city and the wilderness – both vast and manufactured - speak to the paradox that is London, Ontario, and other mid-size cities wedged between Toronto and the American border. We struggle with personal and communal identities, as they are frequently in flux. In considering these shifts, slips and changes to the physical and political landscape, the artist here remained vigilant and aware. The result of perpetually sketching, journaling, and surveying, this exhibition exists as a pigmented chronology of Canada’s gems and blunders - making the local feel widely accessible.

Excelsior! 1975-2015 was also exhibited at Modern Fuel (Kingston, ON) from June 27, 2015 to August 8, 2015 and the Niagara Artists' Centre (St. Catharines) in August 2015. 

About the artist:

Dave Gordon grew up in London ON and has been active in artist-run activities since the mid '60's. London was known then for the regionalism of Greg Curnoe and Jack Chambers, but there were many others on the scene.  James Reaney, Favro and Martin, John Boyle, Royden and David Rabinovitch, Robert Fones, Kerry Ferris, Jamelie Hassan, Dorene Inglis, Kim Ondaatje, Don Bonham, Bob Bozak, Paterson Ewen, Tom and Ron Benner, Lynne Donoghue, Richard Bonderenko, as well as the Art Departments at Western, Fanshawe College and Beal Tech made for a rich cultural milieu and was Gordon's real art education.

Gordon was part of the group that established the Forest City Gallery in 1973. After moving to Kingston to teach art at St. Lawrence College he helped found Kingston Artists' Association Inc/Modern Fuel ARC in 1977. In the early ‘90’s he lived in Sydenham, a small town north of Kingston. He has travelled to Cuba, Spain, France and Syria (2009) and in 2005/6 taught English in Shanghai, China. His work is in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canada Council Art Bank, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and in numerous private collections. He has maintained a lifelong interest in fishing, and chess. 

Statement from Dave Gordon:

Excelsior! 1975-2015 is a look back on 40 years of art-making. It is fitting that it ends at the Forest City Gallery, back where it began. In 1975 the gallery was located on the 2nd floor of a building on Richmond Street just north of Dundas, in the heart of London. My piece “Don’t Carp London ON 1975” lists the names of people who were on the scene as well as critics & famous artists. From the vantage point of 2017 it looks like an affectionate portrait of a vanished era.

I moved to Kingston in 1976 to take a job in the art department at St. Lawrence College where I met Tobey Anderson, Richard Buff, Terry Pfliger and others. Tobey was a good friend of Dennis Tourbin who had moved from St. Catharines to near Peterborough, ON and founded Artspace with David Bierk. The network of ARCS not in Toronto was thriving, with connections in London, St. Catharines, Peterborough, Kingston and OttawaMy work developed in the direction of local subject matter with a nod to the artists that I admired – Cezanne and Philip Guston. In Sydenham I did a series of woodpile paintings under the general title of “My Mt Ste. Victoire” that I showed in Kingston, St. Catharines and Toronto.  I spent a lot of time painting watercolour landscapes in the beautiful lake-dotted country north of Kingston.

When the fine art department closed in 1994 I did some contract teaching at Queen’s and at Millhaven and the Kingston Pen. Teaching in the prisons steered my work towards political commentary. The Mike Harris reign followed by Stephen Harper gave me lots of material.  A visit to Syria to visit my son just before the war also was an inspiration – in stores and in the back windows of cabs there were posters of Bashar al Assad, but people were playing chess in the cafes and the old city in Damascus was crowded, unaware of the coming cataclysm.

I continue to paint faces and landscapes, sometimes putting the faces in in the landscape, to connect a person to a place, and allude to a story.

The title of my show – “Excelsior!”- onward, upward - references a famous poem by Longfellow, and a chess problem by a Russian composer Korolkov that is a response to a problem by another composer, Sam Lloyd, contemporary of Longfellow, and a show that I did at Forest City in 1974. Very convoluted. The poem was also caricatured in drawings by James Thurber. The point, if there is one, is that the artist’s life is a long and lonely climb up a mountain, or a comical quixotic quest.