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 Ron Albert (Ronald) Martin  (1943 - )

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Lived/Active: Ontario / Canada      Known for: abstract expressionism painting, drawing, printmaking

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Bright Red #18
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ron Martin (1943)

An important Canadian painter, draftsman, and printmaker, Ron Martin (AKA: Ronald Albert Martin) was born in London, Ontario and lives in Toronto, Ontario (about 120 miles north east of London). His art is discussed in most of the recent comprehensive Canadian art history books, many major Canadian museums collect his works, and he's been featured in numerous landmark exhibitions. He was chosen to represent Canada in the Venice Biennale* and he's won numerous Canada Council* awards as well as the Governor General's Award for Visual and Media Arts*. (1)

His mediums include oil paint, acrylic, enamel paint, watercolor, pastel, collage*, graphite, ink, felt tip pen, found objects*, serigraph* and mixed mediums. Most of his work is abstract, so his primary subjects are shape, color and texture. As a conceptual artist, the process and experience of creating and viewing his work is also a primary subject which is frequently discussed by the artist and reviewers. Martin has also created representational works; here the subjects include allegory*, figures, nudes, portraits, landscapes, social commentary, and still life. He is best known for large format monochromatic* Abstract Expressionist* paintings, of these, the AskART images Mass Plane Black (though not large) and Bright Red #18 are good illustrations. His styles also include Color Field Painting*, Conceptual Art*, Cubism*, Fauvism*, Geometric Abstraction*, Hard Edge Painting*, Minimalism*, Op Art*, Pop Art* and Surrealism*. AskART Images have good illustrations of his oeuvre.

Martin's only formal art education appears to be four years (1960 - 1964) at H.B. Beal Secondary High School, which is noted for its art programs and for offering an extra year of study (see below - "Bealart 80 Years of Experiment 1912 - 1992"). Upon graduation (1964) he began working as a professional artist and had his first solo exhibition at Pollock Gallery in Toronto in 1965.

From the very beginning of his career, he's been included in major museum exhibitions such as "Young Contemporaries", Museum London, Ontario (1964); "Seventh Biennial of Canadian Painting", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1968); "Swinging London", Museum London, Ontario (1969); "The Heart of London", National Gallery of Canada and touring (1968 - 1969); "12th Winnipeg Show", Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1970); "Contemporary Canadians", Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York (1971); "Diversity - Canada East", Edmonton Art Gallery [now Art Gallery of Alberta] (1972); "Recent Vanguard Acquisitions", Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1972); "Boucherville, Montreal, Toronto, London 1973", National Gallery of Canada (1973); "Contemporary Ontario Art", Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1974); "Forum 76", Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1976); "17 Canadian Artists: A Protean View", Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1976); "Contemporary Canadian Painters", Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, France (1977); "Pasted Paper: a look at Canadian collage, 1955 - 1965", Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (1979); "Aspects of Canadian Painting in the Seventies", Glenbow Museum, Calgary (1980); "Spring Hurlbut, Ron Martin, John Massey, Becky Singleton", Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1981); "Toronto Painting 84", Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1984); "The Forgotten Gesture", Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1987); "The Heart of London Revisited", Museum London, Ontario (1993); "How Red Works", Hamilton Art Gallery, Ontario (1995); "Ten Years of Collecting", Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan (1997); "Repeated Gesture", Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, B.C. (1997); "Bealart 80 Years of Experiment, 1912 - 1992", Museum London, Ontario (1998); "Art in Bloom", Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina (1999); "Nature Rearranged: 150 years of Still-life", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1999); "Plan B", Museum London, Ontario (2000); "Art Of Our Century, Part II", Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, Florida (2000); "Pleasures of Sight and States of Being: Radical Abstract Painting Since 1990", Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts,Tallahassee (2001); "Story board", Museum London, Ontario (2001); "Absence or Presence", University of Lethbridge Art Gallery (2003); and "Pop Pop Pop: Pop", MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina (2006).
Martin's works have been in several important touring exhibitions including the National Gallery of Canada's 1967 "Centennial Exhibition", which toured Canada; the Art Institute of Ontario's 1967 - 1970 "Ontario Centennial Art Exhibition", which circulated in Ontario and Quebec; Time Canada's 1975 - 1976 exhibition "The Canadian Canvas", which visited the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), Edmonton Art Gallery, Vancouver Art Gallery, Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon), Art Gallery of Ontario, Dalhousie University Art Gallery (Halifax), Alberta College of Art (Calgary), and the Winnipeg Art Gallery; the Art Gallery of Ontario's 1980 - 1981 exhibition "10 Canadian Artists in the 1970s" which visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebaek, Denmark), Stadtische Kunsthalle (Recklinghausen, West Germany), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Ghent, Belgium), and The State Museum (Luxembourg); and the National Gallery of Canada's 1981 exhibition "20th Century Canadian Painting" which toured Japan, visiting the National Museum of Modern Art (Tokyo), Museum of Modern Art (Hokkaido, Sapporo) and The Oita Prefectural Art Center (Oita).

As noted above, Martin was chosen to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale in 1978. He's been the subject of solo exhibitions at Museum London, Ontario (1973), the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1976 and 1989); the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, New York City ["Ron Martin: Black Paintings, 1974 - 1981"] (1985); the Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1989); the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1990); the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1991); and the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina (1991). (2)

His works have also been included in solo and group exhibitions at numerous prominent commercial galleries including Forest City Gallery, London, Ontario; 20/20 Gallery, London, Ontario; Christopher Cutts Gallery, Toronto; Moore Gallery Limited, Toronto; S.L. Simpson Gallery, Toronto; and Carmen Lamanna Gallery, Toronto.

Martin's works are avidly collected in Canada, they are frequently traded on the Canadian auction market, and they're in many corporate and museum collections.

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, his works are in the permanent collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Art Gallery of Windsor (Ontario), Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario), Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum (Charlottetown, P.E.I.), Joliette Art Museum (Quebec), Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (Quebec), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Museum London (Ontario), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), University of Lethbridge Art Gallery (Lethbridge, Alberta), Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa). (3)

Among his numerous awards and honors are eleven Canada Council awards (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977), and five Ontario Arts Council Awards (1973, 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977).

In 2012 Martin was presented the Governor General's Award for Visual and Media Arts. The citation reads in part:

"What happens when 100 colours of a manufacturer's palette are applied, pure, in one painting? How do our eyes read short precise brushstrokes, or sweeping gestures made with bare hands? How does light play off thick viscous layers of paint? His process is objective? the impact is emotional. Through his work, Ron Martin opens a window that reveals the endless wonder that paint on canvas continues to inspire in us to this day." (4)
(1) In 1978 Canada was represented by two artists at the Venice Biennale - paintings by Ron Martin and sculptures by Henry Saxe. Earlier that year the exhibition was previewed at the Center for Inter-American Relations in New York City. Source: Ron Martin - Henry Saxe (1978), by Pierre Théberge (see AskART book references).

(2) In 1989 the Art Gallery of Ontario launched the exhibition titled "Ron Martin, 1971 - 1981", which subsequently visited the Vancouver Art Gallery (1989), the National Gallery of Canada (1990), and the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1991). In 1991 the MacKenzie Art Gallery had the exhibition titled "Ron Martin: Geometric Paintings 1981 - 1985".

(3) There are over 900 Ron Martin works in Canadian museums, the Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa holds 698 of them. According to the gallery, the collection was amassed, mostly during the 1990s, through the donations of several benefactors. After examining many of the item descriptions online, the collection appears to be comprehensive with examples of most of the artist's oeuvre. Sources: Carleton University Art Gallery and the Canadian Heritage Information Network*.

(4) Source: Canada Council for the Arts.
Canadian Who's Who - 2011 (2011), edited by Lynn Browne and Gwen Peroni (see AskART book references)
Abstract Painting in Canada (2008), by Roald Nasgaard (see AskART book references)
Canadian Art: From its Beginnings to 2000 (2002), by Anne Newlands (see AskART book references)
Contemporary Artists, Fifth Edition (2002), edited by Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast (see AskART book references)
Sights of Resistance: Approaches to Canadian Visual Culture, Volume 1 (2001), by Robert James Belton (see AskART book references)
The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references)
Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century (1999), by Joan Murray (see AskART book references)
E. Benezit Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (1999) (see AskART book references)
Contemporary Canadian Artists (1997), edited by Robert Lang (see AskART book references)
Art and Architecture in Canada (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)
Art Gallery of Ontario - Selected Works (1990), by William J. Withrow, et al. (see AskART book references)
Ron Martin, 1971 - 1981 (1989), by Philip Monk, Walter Klepac, James D. Campbell (see AskART book references)
A Concise History of Canadian Painting, Second Edition (1988), by Dennis Reid (see AskART book references)
National Gallery of Canada - Guide (1988), by Suzanne La Casse (see AskART book references)
The Canadian Encyclopedia (1985), edited by James H. Marsh (see AskART book references)
Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references)
Visions - Contemporary Art in Canada (1983), edited by Robert Bringhurst, et al. (see AskART book references)
Who's Who in American Art 15th Edition (1982), by Jaques Cattell Press (see AskART book references)
10 Canadian Artists in the 1970s (1980), by William J. Withrow (see AskART book references)
The Index of Ontario Artists (1978), edited by Hennie Wolff (see AskART book references)
Contemporary Artists (1977), edited by Colin Naylor and Genesis P-Orridge (see AskART book references)
A Dictionary of Canadian Artists: Volume 4, Little - Miles (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)
The Canadian Canvas (1974), by Time Canada Ltd (see AskART book references)
Boucherville, Montreal, Toronto, London 1973 (1973), by Brydon Smith and Pierre Theberge (see AskART book references)
Canadian Heritage Information Network*
Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art*
Canada Council for the Arts*
National Gallery of Canada
Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online)
Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (catalogue summaries online)
Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa (phone call with Patrick Lacasse, September 4, 2012)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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