Come Together

Over the last couple of years, Oshawa’s popular community events, such as live music performances, Fiesta Festival, Pride, and the Peony Festival, shifted to digital formats. With plans for a return to in-person events, this exhibition reflects on ways historical Oshawa gathered in the past, and celebrates the importance of community coming together in celebration.

Complete Freedom

Painters Eleven was the first abstract artist collective in Ontario. They were founded in 1953 at the cottage of artist Alexandra Luke on the Oshawa/Whitby border. The Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s collection began in 1967 when artist Alexandra Luke, a member of the Painters Eleven, donated thirty-seven works from her private collection. Luke’s donation of art included work by all of the members of Painters Eleven and helped to establish the RMG’s unique focus on collecting and exhibiting the work of Painters Eleven. Today, the RMG’s collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints by Painters Eleven has grown to over 1000 works, including works from before and after the Painters Eleven years (1953-1960). The RMG has regular exhibitions featuring works by the group, pulling together different aesthetics or themes.

Rather than having a common philosophy or style, Painters Eleven banded together around their shared desire to support abstraction and exhibit together. As Jock Macdonald noted: “The meaning of our group is the fact that we think alike about creativeness in art and the unity established is our power.” Rather than a manifesto, the group settled on a statement: “There is no manifesto here for the times. There is no jury but time. By now there is little harmony in the noticeable disagreement. But there is a profound regard for the consequences of our complete freedom.” (1955)

Recent Acquisitions: Abstraction

The foundation of the RMG’s Permanent Collection was an initial donation of 37 works by Alexandra Luke in 1967. This gift set the original focus on Painters Eleven and contemporary Canadian Art, which continues to shape our collecting priorities today. Over the years, the Collection has grown to include nationally significant works of modern Canadian abstraction, the largest holding of Painters Eleven in the world, and an expanding collection of contemporary art. These areas will continue to be enhanced alongside an intention to collect historically excluded artists to reflect a more holistic, diverse, and equitable and reflective history of Canadian art.

This exhibition features recent acquisitions to the Permanent Collection from the past five years, focusing on works that tell the ongoing history of abstraction in Canada. Included in the exhibition are recent acquisitions of works by Painters Eleven, early examples of important Canadian modernism, and contemporary abstract paintings. Abstraction is an important part of the RMG’s story, and this exhibition highlights our efforts to expand and strengthen this part of our history.

Who were Painters Eleven? And why are they important to the RMG?

Painters Eleven was the first abstract artist collective in Ontario. They were founded in 1953 at the cottage of artist Alexandra Luke on the Oshawa/Whitby border. Rather than having a common philosophy or style, the diverse group of artists banded together around their shared desire to support abstraction and exhibit together. As Jock Macdonald noted: “The meaning of our group is the fact that we think alike about creativeness in art and the unity established is our power.” The group was unified in their appreciation for each other’s work and a commitment to promoting abstraction. 

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s collection began in 1969 when artist Alexandra Luke, a member of the Painters Eleven, donated thirty-seven works from her private collection. Along with this donation of work that launched the RMG’s collection, she and her husband, Ewart McLaughlin, also gave a generous donation towards the construction of the first gallery building. Luke’s donation of art included work by all of the members of Painters Eleven and helped to establish the RMG’s unique focus on collecting and exhibiting the work of Painters Eleven.

Today, the RMG’s collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints by Painters Eleven has grown to over 1000 works, including works from before and after the Painters Eleven years (1953-1960). The RMG has regular exhibitions featuring works by the group, pulling together different aesthetics or themes. This exhibition features work by each member of Painters Eleven and shares a common aesthetic approach of clean lines and hard edges. In the 1960s, members such as Harold Town, William Ronald and Ray Mead experimented with the prevalent hard edge-style painting characterized by areas of flat colour with sharp edges. While these artists explicitly experimented with hard edge painting, the other members did not fully venture in this style but did commonly explore sharp lines and large colour fields. Constantly exploring abstraction, the members of Painters Eleven were not defined by abstract expressionism, but were committed to many new forms of abstraction.

Rolph Scarlett: Inner Vision

“The searching non-objective artist does not turn to nature for inspiration or direction; rather, he looks within himself, within his own soul, as he strives to cultivate that spark of inner vision which lies latent in all of us.” – Rolph Scarlett

Artist Rolph Scarlett described abstraction as the highest form of creative expression and wrote in-depth about his search for pure form. Born in Guelph, Ontario in 1889, Scarlett was a modernist painter, designer, and jeweler. He moved to New York City in 1908 where he studied briefly with the Art Students League before relocating to Los Angeles where he worked as a set and industrial designer.  In the 1920s, while on a trip to Europe, Scarlett met Paul Klee who encouraged him to experiment with spontaneous abstraction. After settling in New York City in 1937, Scarlett befriended Hilla von Rebay, the first director of the Guggenheim Museum and a champion of abstract art. Through this friendship, Scarlett would become dedicated to modernism and became a lecturer at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York (later renamed the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum). His early non-objective works show clear influence from Klee and Kandinsky, often featuring geometric elements, bright colours, and a rhythmic style. While the aesthetic interests of his inner circle, including Hilla Rebay and Rudolf Bauer, were focused on the expression of the spiritual through abstraction, for Scarlett it was about aesthetics and universal order. He was a prolific painter, who continued to explore abstraction until his death in 1984. His work is in many public and private collections including the Guggenheim Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

This exhibition features eleven works by Rolph Scarlett recently acquired by the RMG. These paintings exemplify a range of styles from geometric abstraction to his later looser and more expressive approach. The RMG continues to be committed to telling the story of modernism in Canada, and Rolph Scarlett played an important role in this history through his contributions to abstract art in North America.

Oshawa’s Jewel by the Lake

 Since the late 19th Century, Oshawa’s shores along Lake Ontario, that currently make up Lakeview Park, have been a popular summer destination. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Lakeview Park. Presented in partnership with the Oshawa Museum, this exhibition features historical photographs from the Thomas Bouckley Collection, looking back at the park’s rich history. Presented in tandem with the Oshawa Museum’s online exhibition Lakeview Park Oshawa, together these shows capture many important milestones of the last century in the park: www.lakeviewparkoshawa.wordpress.com

Part of the traditional hunting grounds of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island, the land in this area was divided after the arrival of European and American settlers in the late 1790s. In 1840, the first efforts were made to develop the Oshawa Harbour with the construction of the pier and breakwaters by the Sydenham Harbour Company.  The opening of the Harbour brought further settlement along the lake, including the construction of the homes that comprise the current Oshawa Museum.

As early as 1890, the area by the lake, referred to more generally as “Oshawa-on-the-Lake,” was used for summer recreation. In the summer, the Oshawa Railway ran an open aired streetcar from downtown to the lake, that transported beachgoers with 11 trips per day for a fare of 5 cents. In 1920, the McLaughlin family purchased the 44 acres of lakefront property in the name of General Motors of Canada. On July 16, 1920, General Motors then sold the land to the Town of Oshawa for $1, contingent that the land become a public park. While the area along the lakeshore had long been used as a park, this gift made the area public parkland and accessible to all. The name, Lakeview Park, was selected from approximately 240 submitted names and officially opened in late September. The occasion was presided over by Mayor Stacey and was marked with live music and free transportation to the park from the Oshawa Railway.

Lakeview Park has been enjoyed by citizens of Oshawa and beyond for over a century, and as we look back at its history to celebrate its 100th birthday, we are reminded of summer days gone by, cold wintry winds off the lake, and are filled with excitement for the future of this waterfront park.

Aberrations

Aberrations is the first major exhibition at the RMG dedicated to the wonderful range of photo-based work in the collection. Like many public galleries our size, our photo collections have not been given the same attention as other media, and the collecting histories have been relatively short.  This exhibition explores our rich holdings through four frameworks: strange secrecy, trick mirror, shifting ground, and ordering the world. These propositions act as guideposts to view the works in new ways, inviting new connections and ways of understanding.  The selected photographs represent vastly different time periods and locations, as well as wide ranges of scale, colour, and material.

With the prevalence of photography in everyday life, photographs have a unique ability to shape the way we see and understand the world. The term aberration means something different from the norm. We invite you to lean in to these differences, relish in the juxtapositions, and bring fresh eyes to these incredible works.

Virtual Tour

Aberrations

Photos by Toni Hafkenscheid

Journeys

This exhibition is currently closed due to renovations within the gallery. It is expected to reopen in 2022. In the meantime, experience an exciting NEW 360 tour of Journeys here

In countless literary epic journeys, the hero(ine) encounters trials and adventures along their path, which ultimately lead to personal growth and transformation. While these mythic stories are fictional, they can reflect our common experiences. Over the course of our lives we too embark on both physical and emotional journeys that lead to new perspectives. Drawing together works to explore how the journey can often be more important than the destination, this Permanent Collection exhibition is divided into four sections: Going Places, Movement of Goods, Wandering Artists, and Spiritual Explorations.

Our Permanent Collection holds over 4,700 artworks and is continuously evolving through both the exploration of fresh narratives as well as the acquisition of new artwork. As the world experiences restrictions on physical travelling, we invite you to let the collection take you to new places and consider the journey we are all on together.

Journeys

Painters Eleven

The RMG’s collection of works by Painters Eleven has grown to over 1000 works. The gallery’s first mandate emphasized collecting and exhibiting the work of the group, and we remain committed to this by showing works by members of Painters Eleven at all times. Each exhibition often brings together different works along a common theme. The current exhibition focuses on works that depict organic forms or include representations of nature.

The Joy of Living

Born in 1928 in Drummondville, Quebec to Abenaki and Quebecois parents, Rita Letendre moved with her family to Montréal in 1941. After attending Montreal’s École des Beaux-Arts in 1948, she left the following year finding the school’s teaching style too conservative. “To make a painting showing a little house on a street, that doesn’t show life” she said, “I wanted to show the joy of life, its difficulties, its power.” Abstraction allowed her to do just that, and soon she caught the attention of the artist Paul-Émile Borduas, a founder of the Automatiste group. She blossomed from there and soon found her own direction.

Letendre describes her long career as a continual progression, claiming, “in my case, one tiny step leads to another.” Works in this exhibition, from the RMG’s Permanent Collection, capture Letendre’s ever-evolving style of abstraction. It includes paintings from her abstract expressionist beginnings, her crisp hard-edged abstractions, as well as the vibrant and dynamic gestural works from her most recent series.


The Joy of Living

Photos by Toni Hafkenscheid