Ron Martin

Art Gallery of Ontario

Ron Martin is probably English Canada’s most noted abstractionist and this traveling exhibition focuses on his best-known paintings: the one-color works from 1971 to 1981. These pictures started out as gestural exercises in ultramarine blue and bright red and then settled down into an eight-year investigation with black acrylic paint. The black paintings represent another ne plus ultra of reductivism. They proffer a four-part equation between paint, canvas, gesture, and reception that pares painting back to its barest bones. Their essentialism refers to a transcendental formalism intent on revealing eternal truths about painting. In an artist’s text published in the catalogue accompanying this show, Martin assembles a supportive patchwork of quotations that situates his work within an augustly authorized cultural provenance.

The artist’s references to Poussin and Delacroix aside, however,

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