Shirley Wiitasalo

Art Gallery of Ontario

Shirley Wiitasalo came into her own as a New Image painter in the ’70s. At the time, formalism was a decade past its prime and, according to many in the art world, painting was dead. Shunning the formalist approach, Wiitasalo and others set about transposing issues like two-dimensionality and objecthood into ironic images and pursuing a type of painting based on a representational visual language and a more intimate scale. It was clever, educated, and casual, and underscored a resurgence of improvisational subjectivity.

Wiitasalo’s earlier work was not included in this midcareer retrospective (curated by Philip Monk), which consisted of 20 pictures done between 1981 and ’87; but the same issues and concerns have continued to shape the ideas that inform her painting. The subject of pictures such as Interview, Interior, Expensive/Expansive, and The Glow and the Flow, all from 1981, is the

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