Head Space

Five Decades of Bruce Head

Bruce Head, Untitled, 1984.

Bruce Head, Sleeping Giant, 2003.

Graduating from the University of Manitoba, School of Art in 1953, Bruce Head has been a leading painter and designer in Winnipeg for than 50 years. Head Space looks at Bruce Head's artistic career in the context of his experimentation and innovation with materials.

Along with Frank Mikuska, Winston Leathers and Tony Tascona, Head was an innovator of the "ink graphic" in the late 1950s, gradually moving into an exploration with a painterly and lyrical approach to organic abstraction. After exhibiting in eight out of the eleven famous "Winnipeg Shows," he made a radical departure with his shaped canvases of the 1960s. Head punctured the surface, stretched the canvas over old film reels, sewed and collaged the canvas to create elegant and surprising results. While references to landforms and sky are evident in the 1980s, with the Prairies, British Columbia, and later Mexico as recurring subjects, the expressive and generative possibilities of abstraction are primary. The breathtaking developments in his paintings of the last few years employ his understanding of shape, colour and pattern to create the illusion of dematerialization.

Head's public art works such as the concrete reliefs in the Portage and Main underpass or the hot orange and yellow shaped canvases visible from Broadway are popular local icons. Over the years, Head has blurred traditional genres such as printmaking sculpture, and painting, making significant contributions to the development of abstraction on the Prairies. He applies paint with brushes; carved blocks, fingers, hand crafted rollers and sponges, while experimenting with concrete relief and wood sculpture. Like many Canadian artists through the 20th century, Head made a living as a designer, working for over 35 years for CBC in Winnipeg where he provided television graphics and court drawings.

Head Space features 137 paintings, sculptures, prints and works on paper, with loans from The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, The Canada Council Art Bank, The Art Gallery of Hamilton, The Nickle Arts Museum, The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and local public and private collections.

This exhibition has been curated by Amy Karlinsky, an independent curator and critic. who curated the Ivan Eyre exhibition for the WAG in 2005. A full colour illustrated catalogue with contributing essay by Patricia E. Bovey is available in the Gallery Shoppes.

Exhibition sponsored by The Winnipeg Foundation with support from Manitoba Blue Cross, EQ3, Smith Carter, the Manitoba Arts Council, and the Canada Council for the Arts.


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