Gary Michael Dault, John Abrams at Canada Quay, Harbourfront Globe and Mail, August 2003
John Abrams Amoureux 2002 5 x 20 feet oil on 56 panels
Toronto painter John Abrams's exhibition in the small glassy pavilion at Harbourfront called Canada Quay is called Amoureux.
It is a remounting of the first part of a larger exhibition shown last August at Toronto's Loop Gallery, and consists of 56 very small oil paintings on wood panels, lushly painted in Abrams' scalding red-on-red, red-on-pink pigments that have become something of an Abrams trademark in the last few years.
Actually, the reds-on-reds make up a brilliant choice of palette for Amoreux, since the point of the exhibition is to present a suite of images of famous, well-loved national and international landmarks and landscapes (the houses of Parliament in Ottawa, the Acropolis, Mount Rushmore, the statue of Liberty, etc.) that require, as Abrams puts it, "our environmental and cultural caretaking." Painting them in molten reds provides them with a chromatic equivalent to the emotional urgency of the ecological tasks continually at hand.
As presented at Canada Quay, the 56 little paintings are arranged as an outline of an enormous pair of lips (conveniently red), a shape that evokes, as Abrams points out, the big red lips floating over the landscape in the famous painting by the American surrealist painter and photographer Man Ray -- a painting which Abrams refers to as Amoureux, but which is also known as Observatory Time (1932-4). Either title, however, speaks admirably to the import of this elegant little exhibition.