Saturday, August 01, 2015

Street Performance Painting - Is It Art?

 "Reach into your pocket, grab some money, fold it up and put it in the hat."
A street performers payment pitch

The Canadian painter Levine Flexhaug was a street performer, a busker, a strolling player who frequented National parks, resorts, department stores and bars, anywhere a crowd with some time to spare could be found.

The successful street performers formulea is tried and true. Attract a crowd, present a 20 to 30 minute performance, pass round the hat or in Flexhaug's case sell the painting. And from the end of the great depression to swinging 60's Flexhaug made his living touring his act through western Canada.

Unmoved by the changing fashions Flexhaug painted the same scene with minor variations over and over again entracing his audience with the magical transformation of a blank canvas into a mythical eden. An ideal idle away from the trials and tribulations of the everyday.

Now, some 40 years after his death, Flexhaug's paintings have become collectables costing far more than their $10 street price. And 450 of his paintings have been curated into the  touring exhibition A Sublime Vernacular: The Landscape Paintings of Levine Flexhaug by the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie.

About which the exhibition's curators, Nancy Tousley and Peter White, have written "As engaging as they are aesthetically, Flexhaug's paintings also offer a point of entry for consideration of significant critical questions ranging from issues of taste, originality versus repetition in art, the appeal of landscape and its iconography – particularly in the Canadian context – to whether art can have integrity as art even if it is unapologetically commercial."

A Sublime Vernacular is currently on show at Saskatchewan's MacKenzie Art Gallery until the 9th of August.

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