Sorel Etrog’s sculptures adorn Toronto street corners. He designed the Genie, Canada’s equivalent of an Academy Award. He collaborated with giants of 20th-century culture, from Samuel Beckett to Eugene Ionesco to Marshall McLuhan.
Still, the 79-year-old artist has never won the attention or acclaim of his contemporaries. But a beautifully presented, carefully curated survey at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto makes a case for changing that. With sculptures, paintings, graphic projects, and even a rarely seen film, Sorel Etrog presents the artist as a boundary-breaking thinker and a blazing intellectual foil for his marquee-name collaborators.
“Etrog’s career took off in Toronto, and he found support here, but he never had a breakthrough moment in an art-world center like New York or London,” said AGO curator Greg Humeniuk, who organized the multimedia exhibit – the first comprehensive look at Etrog’s work in a half-century. “And in the 1960s, with pop and minimalism beginning to hold sway, some of Etrog’s work looked not quite ‘with it’.”
But Etrog “is a one-man school, a one-man genre,” Humeniuk said. “As a sculptor, painter, draughtsman, filmmaker, and writer, he’s one of the most multifaceted artists of his generation.” Today, Humeniuk notes, collectors are buying Etrog’s work “avidly,” and younger artists “are looking toward his work as a strong part of the lineage of modern sculpture.”