JACK BUSH 1909-1977


     Known for his knockout oversized paintings, Deep Yellow Down is a rare example of a small abstract canvas by Jack Bush. After 1960, Bush only made three paintings on canvas that measure smaller than Deep Yellow Down, which is 31 3/4 x 16 1/2 inches. Despite its atypical size, the colour in Deep Yellow Down packs a punch that commands a room and expresses exactly what so many of his best paintings shout: POW!

     At the time that Bush painted Deep Yellow Down, in September 1970, his work was included in a group exhibition titled Color and Field 1890-1970, which opened at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, and later traveled to the Daytona Art Institute and the Cleveland Museum of Art. By the end of October 1970, Bush enjoyed a solo exhibition at the André Emmerich Gallery in New York City and was included in the prestigious annual exhibition at the Carnegie Institute (The 1970 Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture).

     Just one year before this surge of showings in the US, Bush was celebrated in a solo exhibition at Galerie Godard Lefort, simply titled Jack Bush (18 February—8 March 1969). This exhibition was significant for the artist. It was his first solo exhibition in Montréal, the city in which he grew up, from age 8 to 19. Mabel Bush, the artist’s wife, was also from Montréal and while the vast majority of their adult lives were spent in Toronto, many of the couple’s family members lived in Montréal. Bush explained the personal significance of his exhibition at Galerie Godard Lefort in an interview with Dennis Reid which appeared in the April 1969 issue of ArtsCanada: “I was determined that my first show in Montreal, really my ex-hometown, would be major; the best work I could turn out and shown at its best. That’s why I held out for a show in Mira’s new gallery. I wanted to go back ‘home’ as strong as I could go.”

     While Bush’s association with Mira Godard and her gallery was brief, their connection occurred at an important time, at the peak of his career, and an important place, on the stomping grounds of his youth. For years, Godard held a Bush painting in her personal collection, which had similar, though slightly larger dimensions than Deep Yellow DownLittle Yellow, from 1968, was stretched at 44 x 25 1/2 inches, and suited Godard’s own taste, small but mighty. No doubt she would have enjoyed Deep Yellow Down, too.


Sarah Stanners, Ph.D.