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 Gordon Rayner  (1935 - 2010)

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Lived/Active: Ontario / Canada      Known for: abstract easel and mural painting, printmaking, sculpture, commercial art, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Gordon Rayner (1935 – 2010)

An important Canadian painter, printmaker, sculptor, muralist, commercial artist, musician and educator, Gordon Rayner was born in Toronto, Ontario where, with the exception of travel, he lived his whole life and died. He is discussed in virtually every Canadian art history book written since the mid 1960s, and his works have been featured in numerous exhibitions at major venues including two at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and five at the National Gallery of Canada. His art is in the permanent collections of dozens of Canadian museums as well as the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.

His mediums included acrylics, oils, Lucite 44, gouache*, fresco*, charcoal, chalk, collage*, ceramic tile, found objects*, assemblage*, happening*, photography, film, monoprint*, serigraph*, lithography*, welded steel, appropriation and mixed mediums. His subjects included portraits, landscapes, still lifes, cityscapes, figures, birds, animals, humor, whimsy, allegory*, social commentary and abstraction (line, shape, color, texture). His styles included Abstract Expressionism*, Color Field Painting*, Constructivism*, Fauvism*, Impressionism*, Neo-Dada*, Op Art*, Post Painterly Abstraction*, Realism* and Surrealism*. AskART images illustrate some of the range of his oeuvre. (1)(2)  

Quote: ‘Rayner's early 1960s work, with its juxtaposed materials, experiments in canvas shape and sense of humour, reflects the neo-dada mood then prevalent in Toronto. In time he became a sumptuous painter of Canadian landscape, especially the area around Magnetawan, Ontario. His cityscapes reflect his home on Toronto's Spadina Avenue. Rayner's work boldly ricochets from one concern to another, even within the same painting, though his inventions are united by his broad touch and spectacular sense of colour.’ (3)

Rayner was a high school dropout (Northern Vocational High School) and a self taught artist. He began working as a helper in commercial art firms, starting with his father’s (Gordon Wesley Rayner), when he was about 15 years old. Soon after, he got a job apprenticing with Jack Bush (see AskART) at Wookey, Bush and Winter (c.1950 – 1954). Rayner continued as a commercial artist and part-time painter and sculptor until 1964 when he became a fulltime artist. His noted influences include his artist friends Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, Dennis Burton, Graham Coughtry, Rick Gorman, Jean Horne (1914 – 2007) and Robert Markle; as well as the art of Toronto artists William Ronald and Tom Hodgson; and American artists Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Stankiewicz.(4)(5)

Rayner traveled extensively and frequently beginning with a trip to England and Spain (c.1957) and following, over the years, with travel throughout Europe, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Morocco, Central America and South America.

He taught at the Three Schools of Art* [The New School] (c.1965 – 1977) and at Arts Sake Inc. (1977 – 1980) a school which he co-founded. His CV also notes teaching positions at the Ontario College of Art*, Toronto; York University, Toronto; Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver; and at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax.

Rayner exhibited with the Ontario Society of Artists* (1957 and 1960), the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (1960), the Spring Show of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1962 and 1964); and the Sculpture Society of Canada (1965).

His works were featured in numerous important themed group exhibitions such as the “6th Biennial of Canadian Painting”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1965); “Some Canadians in Spain”, Art Gallery of Windsor, Ontario (1965); “Canada ‘67”, Museum of Modern Art, New York City (1967); “Canadian Artists 68”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1968); “Rayner, Coughtry, Markle”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1968); “12th Winnipeg Show”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1970); "Prints from Halifax”, Museum of Modern Art, New York City (1971); “Toronto Painting: 1953 – 1965”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1972); “Opening Exhibition”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1974); “The Artists’ Jazz Band”, Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Quebec (1974); “The Isaacs Gallery at the Owens Art Gallery”, Owens Art Gallery, Sackville, N.B. (1974); “Survey of Canadian Painting”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1975); “Canadian Tapestries ‘77”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and touring (1977); “The Artists' Jazz Band”, Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, France (1978); “The Ontario Community Collects: A Survey of Canadian Painting from 1766 to the Present”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1975); “Modern Painting in Canada: Major Movements in Twentieth Century Canadian Art”, Edmonton Art Gallery [now Art Gallery of Alberta] (1978); “The Artists' Jazz Band: Signatures in Time”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1980); Printmakers ‘82”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1982); “Toronto Artists”, Scottsdale Arts Centre, Arizona (1982); “Toronto Painting of the 1960s”, Art Gallery of Ontario (1983); “The Colour Connection”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1983); “Toronto Painting 1984”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1984); “Landscapes of the Mind: Images of Ontario”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and McMaster University Art Gallery, Hamilton (1986); “The Crisis of Abstraction in Canada: The ‘50s”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1993); “Shape Shifters”, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario (1995); “Israel at Fifty”, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto (1998); “In the Wilds: Canoeing and Canadian Art”, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinberg, Ontario (1998); “Redefining the Still life”, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal (1999); “About Face: Portraits and other Pictures”, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa (2005); "The Sixties in Canada", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2005); and “Abstract Painting in Canada”, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax (2008). (6)
 
The public venues for Rayner solo and retrospective exhibitions included Sir George Williams University [now Concordia University], Montreal (1971); the Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario (1973); Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario and touring extensively in Canada (1979); Concordia University Art Gallery, Montreal (1987); and the Art Gallery of Peel, Brampton, Ontario (1990). (7)

Quote: “Gordon Rayner was part of the celebrated Isaacs Gallery stable of artists in Toronto with notable Canadian artists such as Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, Dennis Burton, Graham Coughtry, John Meredith, Rick Gorman and Robert Markle.” (8)

In addition to the Isaacs Gallery, Rayner’s works have been featured in solo and group exhibitions at commercial galleries such as Waddington & Gorce, Inc., Montreal; Galerie Esperanza, Montreal; Blue Barn Gallery, Ottawa; Teodora Art Gallery, Toronto; Moore Gallery, Toronto; Leo Kamen Gallery, Toronto; Drabinsky Gallery, Toronto; Equinox Gallery, Vancouver; Dianne Ferris Gallery, Vancouver; Evelyn Aimis Art Gallery, Boca Raton, Florida; and Max Hutchinson Gallery, New York.

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 Alberta (Edmonton), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Northumberland (Cobourg, 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.), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, D.C.), Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (Kitchener, Ontario), Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (Quebec), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Museum London (Ontario), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), Simon Fraser University Gallery (Burnaby, B.C.), Trent University Art Collection (Peterborough, Ontario), Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa). (9)

The original locations of some of his public space works are Our Lady of Fatima Public School, Elliot Lake, Ontario (mural – 1970); Bank of Montreal, Toronto (mural – 1970); Ontario Place, Toronto (building facade and canopy sculpture – 1971); Benson & Hedges Tobacco Company, Toronto (outdoor mural – 1971); Toronto Transit Commission, St. Clair West Station (mural – 1977); Scarborough, Ontario (earthworks, outdoor sculpture –  1983); and Cineplex Odeon Corporation, Canada Square Cinemas, Toronto (wood relief sculpture, oil & acrylic, neon – 1985).

Rayner’s honors and awards include eleven Canada Council* grants (1961, 1970, 1971,1973, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1986, 1987 and 1989); a  Film Award Fellowship (1966); First Prize for Prints in the 12th Winnipeg Show (1970); and a  City of Toronto Competition, First Prize (1970).

Footnotes:
(1) For more illustrations of Rayner’s work, see the Hirshhorn Museum website which has two excellent early Rayner works illustrated, and the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art* website which has photos of 173 Rayner works done between 1959 and 2003, all arranged in chronological order.  CCCA Link – http://ccca.concordia.ca/artists/image_timeline.html?languagePref=en&link_id=243&artist=Gordon+Rayner.

(2) In 1959, Rayner along with artists Dennis Burton and Graham Coughtry organized the first “happening” in Toronto, which took place in Burton’s studio. In 1965, Rayner along with Burton, Richard Gorman, Harold Town and Walter Yarwood organized a “happening” at the Art Gallery of Toronto, which was attended by more than two thousand people. Source: Pages 83 – 84, “Contemporary Canadian Art” (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references).

(3) Quote source: Joan Murray, The Canadian Encyclopedia (1985), edited by James H. Marsh (see AskART book references).

(4) When Rayner wanted to start sculpting in steel he went back to Northern Vocational High School to learn welding (c.1957). Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 7, Rakos to Sadowski (1990), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

(5) Please note: All artists mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with life-dates after their name, have their own records in AskART.

(6) Formed in about 1962, The Artists Jazz Band was made up of artists Michael Snow, Robert Markle, Graham Coughtry, Harvey Cowan [architect] (b.1935), Terry Forster (1936 – 1991), Jim Jones (b.1942), Nobuo Kubota (b.1932), Gerald McAdam (b.1941) and Gordon Rayner, who played drums. Sources: Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art and Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references).

(7) The Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s Gordon Rayner Retrospective toured to the following museums between March 2, 1979 and September 1, 1980: London Regional Art Gallery (London, Ontario), Art Gallery of Windsor (Ontario), Rodman Hall Arts Centre (St. Catharines), Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (Kitchener, Ontario), Sir George Williams Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), New Brunswick Museum (St. John), The Art Gallery of Memorial University of Newfoundland (St. John’s), Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, N.B.), Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), Southern Alberta Art Gallery (Lethbridge, Alberta), and the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto). Source: Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art.

(8) Quote source: Art Gallery of Northumberland, Cobourg, Ontario (website).

(9) Please note: Several sources list the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA) and the Museum of Modern Art (New York) as collectors of Rayner’s work; unfortunately, these two museums could not be confirmed online as having Rayner’s works in their collections. However, of the over 227,000 works in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection only 71,313 objects are listed online; and of the over 150,000 works in the Museum of Modern Art's collection only 51,018 works are listed online. Sources: Philadelphia Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art websites.
 

Sources:
A Concise History of Canadian Painting 3rd edition (2012), by Dennis Reid (see AskART book references)

Painters Eleven: The Wild Ones of Canadian Art (2010), by Iris Nowell (see AskART book references)

Canadian Who’s Who – 2010 (2010), edited by Elizabeth Lumley (see AskART book references)

Abstract Painting in Canada (2008), by Roald Nasgaard (see AskART book references)

Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (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)

Who's Who in American Art, 2001 – 2002 24th edition (2001), edited by Donald Bunton (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century (1999), by Joan Murray (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)

Masterpieces of Canadian Art from the National Gallery of Canada (1990), by David Burnett (see AskART book references)

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 7, Rakos to Sadowski (1990), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)

Cineplex Odeon: The First Ten Years (1989), by David Burnett (see AskART book references)

The Canadian Encyclopedia Second Edition (1988), edited by James H. Marsh (see AskART book references)

The Best Contemporary Canadian Art (1987), by Joan Murray (see AskART book references)

Visions – Contemporary Art in Canada (1983), edited by Robert Bringhurst, et al. (see AskART book references)

Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff (see AskART book references)

Who's Who in American Art 15th Edition (1982), by Jaques Cattell Press (see AskART book references)

Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Landmarks of Canadian Art (1978), by Peter Mellen (see AskART book references)

The Index of Ontario Artists (1978), edited by Hennie Wolff (see AskART book references)

Modern Painting in Canada: Major Movements in Twentieth Century Canadian Art (1978), by Terry Fenton and Karen Wilkin (see AskART book references)

The Ontario Community Collects: a survey of Canadian painting from 1766 to the present (1975), by William C. Forsey (see AskART book references)

The History of Painting in Canada – Toward a People's Art (1974), by Barry Lord (see AskART book references)

Contemporary Canadian Painting (1972), by William Withrow (see AskART book references)

Creative Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth Century Creative and Performing Arts (1972), by Helen M. Rodney (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art Today (1970), by William Townsend (see AskART book references)

Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection"(1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield (see AskART book references)

Agnes Etherington Art Centre (1968), by Frances K. Smith (see AskART book references)

The Canadians: 1867 – 1967 (1967), edited by J.M.S. Careless and R. Craig Brown (see AskART book references)

Great Canadian Painting: A Century of Art (1966), by Elizabeth Kilbourn (see AskART book references)

Canadian Heritage Information Network*

Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art*

Art Gallery of Ontario Research Library & Archives

National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa)

Art Gallery of Northumberland (Cobourg, Ontario)

Museum of Modern Art (New York City)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com. Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx

Written and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.
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