National touring Flexhaug exhibition set to open at ACAD’s IKG

A Sublime Vernacular: The Landscape Paintings of Levine Flexhaug, a national touring exhibition of more than 450 paintings of the itinerant artist Levine Flexhaug (1918–1974) circulated by the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie, runs at the ACAD's Illingworth Kerr Gallery from October 29 to December 5, 2015.

Long revered by a small number of contemporary artists and collectors, Flexhaug has otherwise remained little known. This is the first overview of his career. Often working on more than one painting at a time, Flexhaug essentially produced slightly different versions of the same idyllic mountain-lake thousands of times.

Peter White, who co-curated the exhibition with Nancy Tousley reflects that “Flexhaug was untrained but had remarkable skills as a painter that are endlessly fascinating. As curators of the exhibition we’re especially happy that the show is in Calgary and at ACAD because his career is a great example of engagement and determination for students to experience.”

Alison Miyauchi, Associate Vice President, Research and Academic Affairs at ACAD comments, “Flexhaug’s fantasy landscapes of essentially the same generic scene are carefully crafted. Even as they may be seen as part of the picturesque landscape tradition, they provide a vehicle for examining how we think about kitsch. It’s a visually intense exhibition and is decidedly absorbing.”

Flexhaug was a “speedpainter” whose countless variations of essentially the same idyllic mountain-lake scene were made and sold on the spot in national parks, resorts, department stores, restaurants, and bars across western Canada from the late 1930s through the 1960s. Using a basic formula, he completed his paintings in a matter of minutes, often working on several at one time. Despite their origins in popular and commercial art, his paintings have a richness and intensity and are distinguished by an inventive use of colour that far exceeds the limits of their genre.

The largest show that the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie has circulated in its history, the exhibition will be presented later next year in Grande Prairie. The tour concludes in 2017 when the exhibition will be seen at Rodman Hall Art Centre, Brock University in St. Catharines and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 160-page book published in association with Figure 1 Publishing, Vancouver, and also features an interactive website which features all the paintings in the exhibition. A feature documentary by Gary Burns and Donna Brunsdale, Flexie! All the Same and All Different, has been made in conjunction with the exhibition.

The organization and circulation of A Sublime Vernacular: The Landscape Paintings of Levine Flexhaug is supported by the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.