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Tony Scherman Paints Humanity

Step into the swirl of conversations between icons of history in the form of monumental multi-faceted portraits. Tony Scherman: Heroes, Ghosts, and Dreams is a stirring collection born from the Canadian artist’s intimate knowledge of his subjects. Curated by Dr. Stephen Borys, WAG Director & CEO, this exhibition delves into the souls of people at both extremes of societal tensions and presents a retrospective of the artist’s career, from the 1970s to present day.

Scherman’s encaustic layers the paintings with rich, tactile textures, and gives them an awe-inspiring presence. The ancient technique blends hot wax and pigment, which create time-sensitive conditions for the artist as the wax dries and begins to form ruts on the canvas. The physical difficulties encaustic presents almost led to its disappearance in the 16th century. Recently, the technique has been revived by contemporary artists, although few are committed to working exclusively in the medium.

The WAG’s relationship with Tony Scherman was strengthened in 2009 when the artist donated 11 carefully curated paintings. Then in 2018, the WAG received six paintings from his About 1865 series, a gift from Ian and Catherine (Kiki) Delaney. At their residence, Borys was blown away by the portraits of American Civil War Generals Grant Lee and Sherman, along with that of Abraham Lincoln, juxtaposed with paintings of two unidentified African American women. When he travelled to Richmond, Virginia for a meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors, Borys walked down Monument Avenue, which features a number of controversial statues dedicated to the Confederate veterans of the Civil War, and the idea for the exhibition emerged.

Works from the About 1789About 1865Difficult Women, and The Junkies series, among others, evoke issues brimming at society’s surface, in a rare public gallery exhibition of Scherman’s art. Figures such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King appear timeless, as their messages and work are carried on today. The artist examines all aspects of social conflicts and their ongoing repercussions.

Through his deep personal investment in the project, Borys worked alongside the artist’s team to gather a collection of stories, in the form of colossal portraits that demand to be seen in person.

Tony Scherman: Heroes, Ghosts, and Dreams will be on display in Galleries 5 and 6 from Saturday, April 6 to Sunday, August 11, 2019. Join us for the public celebration on Thursday, June 13 – the artist will be in attendance!

Brando as NapoleonJacques at VersaillesMartin Luther KingEnglish Cuts of MuttonDogStill-life with fruitRosa ParksUntitled, and Walk On, No Lines will receive floral interpretations as part of Art in Bloom, April 11-14.

The Tony Scherman: Heroes, Ghosts, and Dreams exhibition catalogue will be available for purchase in the Gallery Shop. Delve into Scherman’s work through guest critic essays, an in-depth conversation with the artist, and full-page colour images.


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WAG-Qaumajuq recognizes that land acknowledgements are part of an ongoing dialogue with Indigenous Nations, and we are grateful to live and work on these lands and waters. Institutionally, WAG-Qaumajuq is committed to acknowledging our colonial history and we are actively working to interrogate the Gallery’s colonial ways of being.

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