This painting presents four forms on a white background. A large brown mass and a smaller yellow one occupy the upper half of the canvas, while two bands, one blue and one red, zigzag across the lower half.

Jack Bush

(Toronto 1909 – Toronto 1977)

 

Salute to New York

1958

Oil on canvas

227.7 x 136.6 cm

Purchased in 1997

National Gallery of Canada, 38431

© Estate of Jack Bush / SODRAC (2018)

Photo: National Gallery of Canada


Like the title, the brushwork of Salute to New York echoes the exuberance of the city’s art scene in the 1950s. Despite its apparent simplicity, the spare composition of four different-coloured forms on a flat white ground is dynamic. The roughly textured surface that results from the painter’s gestural handling seems to make the masses and bands of saturated colour vibrate in a precariously balanced tension. Jack Bush, whose aspirations were turned toward New York as the new capital of modern art when he produced this work, soon earned a degree of international recognition rarely attained by a Canadian artist.


The Toronto-based artist Jack Bush began his career as an illustrator, and for more than forty years he continued to work in commercial art while pursuing his personal practice. Bush was a leading member of Painters Eleven, a group committed to abstraction. In 1957, he met the influential American art theorist and critic Clement Greenberg (1909-1994), who encouraged him (and later, the Canadian artist Kenneth Lochhead) to simplify his compositions. This new approach, with colour serving to build structure, opened the door to the New York market and contact with the most renowned artists of the day.

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