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Reviewed by:
  • HEADSPACE: Five Decades of Bruce Head
  • Shirley Madill (bio)
Patricia Bovey and Amy Karlinsk. HEADSPACE: Five Decades of Bruce Head. Winnipeg Art Gallery. 120. $30.00

Published by the Winnipeg Art Gallery with essays by Patricia E. Bovey and Amy Karlinsky, HEADSPACE is an engaging visual and intellectual journey through the artistic career of one of Winnipeg's most prominent senior artists, Bruce Head. The book is a visual and narrative construction of Head's artistic production over fifty years. The essays offer compelling insights into the personality and politics that, for a few years, gave star billing to abstract art on the prairies. Bruce Head was among a group of abstract painters who rose to fame in the late 1950s and early 1960s, attracting national attention.

Similar to the exhibition of the same title, the book presents an overview of Head's stylistic development and his radical breakthroughs in painting, sculpture, and printmaking over fifty years. A common pitfall with many retrospective exhibitions and their accompanying publications is that they become overkill. They provide too much visual information to the point of redundancy and diminish the importance of textual analysis. Such is [End Page 461] not the case in HEADSPACE. This publication does not disappoint. Rather, through a visual interlocking with text, a comprehensive and cohesive analysis of Bruce Head's work is accomplished. Not only does the reader gain insights into Head's work in the context of Manitoban and Canadian art history, but also a fuller appreciation of the richness of Head's work.

At the beginning of the book, a visual narrative of early works by Bruce Head is revealed. The visual intricacies and articulation of these abstract works set the stage and tone for Patricia Bovey's essay, 'Visual Poetry.' Bovey's previous history with the Winnipeg community and the Winnipeg Art Gallery shines through in her dialogue on abstraction in Canada, its impact on Winnipeg artists, and Bruce Head's radical departures in painting, including moving away from the flat canvas to moulded sculptural environmental works. Bovey provides a comprehensive and accessible viewpoint of abstraction on the Canadian prairies, its development and influence. Her narrative includes an analysis of the influence of landscape on Head's work through his use of various pigments and layering of textures and colours.

Amy Karlinsky begins her essay, 'Total Environment,' with reference to the infamous Winnipeg Show and the purchase of a key work by Bruce Head titled Landmark by the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The impact of the Winnipeg Show on Manitoba and the rest of Canada can never be underestimated. The exhibition was a radical break with the annual juried show presented by the Winnipeg Art Gallery and it played a significant role in Canadian art by revealing the most advanced contemporary art. Karlinsky does an excellent investigation into the Canadian art scene during this period with particular reference to the prairies and Clement Greenberg's visit to Winnipeg in 1963. Greenberg's visit was significant in reshaping abstraction on the Prairies. Of note is Karlinsky's reference to other influential artists such as Eli Bornstein, Joyce Wieland, Lucio Fontana, and Ian Baxter during this period.

Intensive, cohesive, and comprehensive, HEADSPACE offers an excellent overview of Winnipeg's place in the development of abstraction in Canada through the work of one of the city's most influential figures. Not only that, the book is a beautiful artwork in itself and reflects the consummate professionalism and talent of Winnipeg Art Gallery's photographer, Ernest Mayer, combined with the sensitive design of Mike Carroll.

Shirley Madill

Shirley J. Madill, Faculty of Humanities, Brock University



Additional Information

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pp. 461-462
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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