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The one thing you should see this week: the rediscovered work of a forgotten Canadian artist

Kathleen Munn’s The Last Supper (Image: Art Gallery of Ontario/Kathleen Munn Estate )

This week’s pick: The Passion of Kathleen Munn at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Sure, the AGO’s Abstract Expressionist New York exhibit, with its hyperkinetic, dramatic works by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, is a must see. But don’t let the fireworks on the second floor dazzle you into missing this rare look at the work of Kathleen Munn, a sadly ignored lone wolf of Canadian abstractionism who has only recently recaptured the public eye.

Born in Toronto in 1887, Munn booked it out of Hogtown at an early age to study in New York, originally producing pastoral landscapes, but soon taking cues from the new European cubists. Her paintings are swathed in stark, angular strokes and deep flushes of colour, and her drawings are steeped in textured shapes. When they appeared in the late 1910s and ’20s, these pieces diverged from the nationalist, landscape-heavy works of her contemporaries, alienating her from the mainstream success she craved. Discouraged, Munn eventually retreated from the art world in 1939, remaining unproductive until her death in 1974.

The pioneering painter finally gets her due in this retrospective, which features 40 paintings and paper works, as well as archival materials from Munn’s early years. Don’t miss her Passion Series, a group of stirring, occasionally disturbing religious drawings that reimagine the last supper and crucifixion with Munn’s trademark fusion of intellectualism and mystical rhapsody.

The details: To Aug. 28. $19.50. Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648, ago.net.

 

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