The Hand and the Fire – The Life and Work of Sylvia Lefkovitz
September 8 - 29, 2018

Opening Reception: Saturday, September 8, 2018 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

Sculptures

Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve, 1969
bronze, 13" × 21" × 13"
Adam and Eve Under the Tree
Adam and Eve Under the Tree, 1967
bronze, 17" × 11" × 9"
Barbara
Barbara
marble, 12" × 6" × 9"
Couple
Couple, 1966
bronze, 10" × 3" × 2"
Female Figure
Female Figure, 1976
bronze, 17" × 4" × 3"
Io
Io
Bronze, 13¾"
Inuit Woman
Inuit Woman, 1965
silver, 6" × 3" × 2"
Medea #2
Medea #2
bronze, 9" × 6" × 5"
Mother and Child #1
Mother and Child #1, 1971
bronze, 31" × 8" × 5"
Mother and Children
Mother and Children
bronze on marble base, 7¾" × 12¾" × 4½"
Oracle
Oracle, 1972
silver, 10" × 2" × 2"
Pieta #1
Pieta #1, 1973
bronze, 19" × 7" × 6"
Star Gazer
Star Gazer, 1966
bronze, 12" × 3" × 2"
The Chorus
The Chorus, 1966
bronze, 29" × 39" × 7"
Woman in the Wind
Woman in the Wind, 1968
bronze, 22" × 5" × 5"

Paintings

Atwater Market (St Henri, Montreal)
Atwater Market (St Henri, Montreal)
oil on board, 24" × 36"
Beach scene with Umbrella
Beach scene with Umbrella, 1972
oil on canvas, 12" × 24"
Bonsecours Market (Old Montreal)
Bonsecours Market (Old Montreal)
oil on board, 24" × 36"
De Bullion After the Storm
De Bullion After the Storm, 1983
oil on canvas, 24" × 36"
Flower Market Vendor
Flower Market Vendor
oil on board, 34" × 48"
MacDonald's Farm, St. Anne de Bellevue
MacDonald's Farm, St. Anne de Bellevue, 1984
oil on canvas, 18" × 35"
Mexican Washer Women
Mexican Washer Women, 1954
oil on board, 24" × 30"
On The Train
On The Train, 1957
oil on board, 30" × 48"
Refugees
Refugees, 1978
oil on canvas, 27" × 35"
Seascape Mother and Child
Seascape Mother and Child, 1979
oil on canvas, 12" × 24"
Street Scene (Montreal)
Street Scene (Montreal), 1958
oil on board, 36" × 48"
Umbrellas and Children
Umbrellas and Children
oil on board, 18" × 24"
Untitled #1 & #2 (Mexico)
Untitled #1 & #2 (Mexico), 1955
diptych, oil on board, 72" × 48"
Winter Scene #10
Winter Scene #10, 1981
oil on canvas, 23" × 19"
Winter Scene II
Winter Scene II, 1984
oil on canvas, 18" × 35"


Slideshow

The Hand and the Fire:
The Life and Work of Sylvia Lefkovitz

by Barbara Samuels.

"No artist can afford to stay home and say, 'I know everything. I'll find everything here.'" – Sylvia Lefkovitz, 1969.

Many people — artists or otherwise — might disagree with that idea. But for Sylvia Lefkovitz, it was a mission statement. She saw herself as a perennial student. And while the world was her school, she always came home to Montreal.

The daughter of working class immigrants, Lefkovitz supported herself through much of her schooling and travels with nightshift factory work and bookkeeping jobs. And she began her odyssey in the late 40's, when the concept of a woman leaving the safety of Canada to live "abroad" was close to shocking. But leave she did — to art studies at Columbia in New York, then further schooling at both the Louvre and the Académie Julian in Paris. A year later, she moved on to absorb the work of the masters in Spain and Italy.

1954 found her in Mexico, studying the techniques and social concerns of the great muralists. They inspired her to apply these skills to some of the darker chapters of Canadian history. Once back in Montreal, she used her new proficiency with the Pyroxylin lacquer technique to create murals depicting the life of Louis Riel and the Expulsion of the Acadians.

The work won Lefkovitz her first major professional recognition.

By 1960, she had saved enough money to leave again. She returned to Italy, and shifted her focus to sculpture. In the marble studios of Florence, she took an apprenticeship in carving — and became one of the few female sculptors able to wield the requisite ten-pound mallet. In the city's ceramic factories, she learned the art of terra cotta. And working with the storied Florentine foundries, she mastered the ancient technique of lost-wax casting — and astonished the city's art circles.

Most contemporary sculptors opt to create a plaster-of-Paris model to cast their bronzes; that approach requires the intervention of a skilled artisan to duplicate the plaster model in wax. But Lefkovitz wanted no one between her and the fire. She was fierce about her need for a direct connection with her medium.

"I can't understand how anyone could hand over responsibility for the finished piece to someone else," she said. She was intent on making her work "a product of the hands," and perfected the "gouged out" texture that would become her trademark.

During a 1962 interview with a Quebec journalist, she pointed to one of her bronzes. "You see here?" she said. "Those are the marks of my fingers." And then to a work in marble: "My hands made this stone smooth. I never worked a piece of marble that I couldn't carry to the studio myself."

In 1962, she was awarded Florence's Porcellino Award as the best resident foreign artist.

"I lived a stone's throw away from Renaissance masterpieces," she said. "Those boys were a threat. They forced me to give my absolute best."

She returned home later that year, now fluent in Italian and accompanied by nine crates of her painting and sculpture. The Waddington Galleries in Montreal mounted a solo exhibit of her artwork. And she used this brief homecoming to begin sculpting with Canadian wood.

1963 was another year of travel work, and study — in Greece for a time, and then Rome. She finally settled in Milan, where she had her first major Italian solo exhibit at the Galleria Montenapoleone. The show won critical acclaim, and she was lauded for her interpretation of the Italian Renaissance tradition in both her painting and sculpture.

"The problem I set myself," she said, "was to be contemporary, but not to deny the threads that connect us to the past. I don't believe that yesterday has nothing to do with making you what you are today."

Her decision to reside in the then hard-edged northern city was a complex one. In order to create, she told the Montreal Star in 1967, she needed to live in the present. "Florence was marvellous as an influence and a reference, but Milan is contemporary." She'd also discovered that the city was home to some of the best foundries in the world.

So it was here that Lefkovitz would spend the better part of seventeen years, living and working on a student visa. She found her major themes in mythology and the Bible, but interwove them with contemporary life. This almost two-decade period saw a succession of exhibitions, retrospectives, and awards. She won significant public and private commissions in both Europe and Canada, and the resulting work is some of her most important.

It includes the massive five-figure bronze Chorus, commissioned for the Mies Van der Rohe complex in Montreal's Westmount Square, her Fathers of Confederation, commemorating the 1967 Canadian Centennial, and her eighty-figure Divine Comedy, purchased by the Canadian government and exhibited in the Dante Room of the Royal Palace in Milan on the occasion of Dante's 700th birthday.

The site-specific Chorus — cast at the renowned Valcamonica e Visigalli Foundry in Milan and intended for a life in Canada — was almost an inversion of her own experience. And she was acutely attuned to the sculpture's interface with its future home; the bronze, she said, "needs to breathe. It needs differences in temperature… and wind and rain and snow."

But she had never intended to live her whole creative life abroad. On one of her visits back to Canada, she told a journalist that she had no curtains in Milan, "and I still need things for the kitchen. I refuse to buy them… [Montreal] is my home."

Lefkovitz returned for good to that home in 1981, where she worked and taught from both her Montreal studio and at the Saidye Bronfman Centre School of Fine Arts till her death in 1987. She was 62 years old.

The threads that connected Sylvia Lefkovitz' work to the past connect it to our present some thirty years later. Her paintings of nomads look like images from yesterday's news feeds. The isolation of her bronze figures resonates now more than ever. The perennial student had learned enough to leave behind work that still teaches us about the human condition — her all-consuming preoccupation.

"What I'm trying to say concerns human dignity," she remarked in 1967. Human beings, she warned then, "are still vulnerable and defenseless."

If the last few decades since her death show us anything, it's that the things Sylvia Lefkovitz tried to express still desperately need to be heard.

Daphne OdjigDaphne Odjig, Canadian Indigenous Artist and Icon Dies at 97. Click here for more details.

Odjig is frequently referred to as the "Grandmother of Indigenous Art." She has been the recipient of many awards, honours and recognitions for her works, to name a few: The Order of Canada, the Governor General's Award, and eight Honorary Doctorates. Her works have been shown in the National Gallery of Canada, The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Art Gallery of Ontario.


She established the first native-run fine art print house in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1971. Known as 'Odjig Indian Prints,' this print house was so successful that it evolved into an Indigenous gallery space in 1974, called the New Warehouse Gallery, run by Odjig and her husband, Chester Beavon. She was also a founding member of the Indian Group of Seven. This artistic group's purpose was to promote Contemporary Indigenous art and artists.

Alex JanvierAlex Janvier's major retrospective, "Alex Janvier: Modern Indigenous Master" is now open at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario until January 21st, 2018. Afterwards, it will travel to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.

This exhibition was recently on display at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina. Alex Janvier is one of Canada's most acclaimed contemporary artists. His career of sixty-five years has yielded thousands of paintings, and more than twenty-five murals and public commissions. (Photo credit: Kim Griffiths)

Rita LetendreGallery Gevik congratulates renowned Canadian and International abstract painter, Rita Letendre, on her first major museum retrospective exhibition outside of Québec. Rita Letendre: Fire and Light is now open until September 17, 2017 at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

This exhibition, which covers Letendre's career from the 1960's to 2000's, is co-curated by Wanda Nanibush and Georgiana Uhlyarik. The retrospective features nearly forty large-scale paintings drawn from major national public and private collections.

Letendre was widely exhibited with the artistic groups, Les Automatistes and Les Plasticiens. She has received the Governor General's Award in Visual Arts, the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas, and the Orders of Canada, Ontario and Québec. Click here for more details.