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Winnipeg Art Gallery Presents William Kurelek. The Messenger

The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) presents William Kurelek: The Messenger on view to December 31, 2011.

William Kurelek, Zaporozhian Cossacks, 1952.

Throughout a 20-year career that spanned from roughly the mid-1950s until his death, William Kurelek (1927-1977) and his art have meant many different things to many people. The Alberta-born, Manitoba-raised artist was a painter of innocence and fun, his scenes reminiscences of a simpler and timeless past. He was also a chronicler of the experiences of various cultural groups in Canada, devoting entire series to Ukrainian, Jewish, Polish, Irish, French Canadian, and Inuit peoples. But there is another Kurelek—the tortured man who spent two years in mental hopsitals, the anguished prophet of a modern apocalypse, whose art is an indictment of the secular age and a testament to unwavering faith.

An important and unique aspect of this exhibition for Canadian audiences will be the inclusion of several works from Kurelek’s crucial and highly formative period in England from 1952 to 1959. During this time the young artist underwent psychiatric treatment and converted to Roman Catholicism, which profoundly altered his subsequent approach to life and art making. It is in consideration of these early works that the exhibition reveals Kurelek’s complex psyche and the central role it played in everything he produced.

As the first large-scale survey of William Kurelek in thirty years, The Messenger seeks to bring together the most important and engaging works executed by the artist during his career. The exhibition, which will be mounted in Hamilton and Victoria following its inaugural opening in Winnipeg, includes over 80 key paintings and drawings that encompass the artist’s entire practice. The works are drawn from major private, corporate, and public collections in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Following its closure on December 31, William Kurelek: The Messenger will tour to the Art Gallery of Hamilton from January 29 to April 29, 2012, and to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria from May 25 to September 3, 2012.

The exhibition is the result of a partnership between the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Hamilton, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Generously supported by Canadian Heritage/Patrimoine canadien; Pattison Outdoor Advertising; Mayberry Fine Art; the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko; Heritage Grants Program, Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism; and the Wasyl Topolnicky Memorial Foundation Inc.

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