Evergreen presents recreation of the iconic mural Sunrise by Canadian artist Rita Letendre
Replication and response to the mural by Métis artist Tannis Nielsen on display at the Brick Works.
TORONTO, ONTARIO (September 27, 201) — Evergreen has commissioned a new artwork as part of its public art program — a replication of Sunrise, Canadian artist Rita Letendre’s iconic mural from 1971. The mural has been painted by Toronto-based Métis artist Tannis Nielsen and will be accompanied by a mural of Nielsen’s own in response to Letendre’s work, with the generous support of the artist and Gallery Gevik. Sunrise will be on display under the pavilions at Evergreen Brick Works beginning in September.
“Public art plays a vital role in creating inclusive and vibrant cities,” said Orit Sarfaty, Evergreen’s Chief Program Officer. “The re-commissioning of Rita Letendre’s work speaks to changing perspectives towards the contributions of female and Indigenous artists to public art in Toronto. Letendre’s work and the response by Tannis Nielsen will continue to spark important conversations about our connection to one another and to our urban landscape.”
Rita Letendre is one Canada’s most important living artists, with a career that spans decades. She is internationally known for her distinctive approach to abstract painting, using hard-edge techniques and experimenting with an airbrush to create dynamism and movement in her work. In the late 1960s and 70s she created numerous public art projects across Toronto, from a mural at Royal Bank Plaza to stained-glass skylights at Glencairn subway station. At one point, Letendre had as many as 12 public murals on view in Toronto which, in recent decades, have all been destroyed or covered over.
Sunrise was installed in 1971 on the outside wall of Ryerson University’s Neil-Wycik Building. Spanning 60-by-60 feet, it represents Letendre’s largest work to date. The mural expanded Letendre’s signature geometric, hard-edge style on a huge scale, with colourful rays radiating from a central point elevated high above the city. It was obscured by a neighbouring condo tower shortly after its completion, prompting a wave of media coverage and public protest.
“Bringing one of Letendre’s works back into circulation addresses a critical gap in the history of public art in Canada,” said Kari Cwynar, who commissioned the piece during her time as Evergreen’s Senior Curatorial Advisor in 2020. “This story is a particularly important one to reintroduce at this moment — the massive but overlooked role of an acclaimed woman artist in Toronto’s public art landscape 50 years ago. Reproducing Sunrise is a gesture both honouring Letendre’s work and opening conversations around how her work in the public realm reflects Toronto and its changing values.”
“With Kari’s direction, the replication of Letendre’s mural and Nielsen’s response are key in the ongoing process of recognizing Indigenous and women artists’ contributions to art history in the land now called Canada,” said Charlene K. Lau, Evergreen’s current Curator of Public Art.
Tannis Nielsen, a Métis artist of Sohto/Anishnawbe and Danish descent, has been painting the reproduction of Sunrise. Nielsen is also painting a large-scale abstract mural of her own at Evergreen, titled Ishkode, in response to Letendre’s legacy and the dynamism, movement and light in her work.
This project is made possible thanks to the support of the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts, Partners in Art and the Ontario Arts Council, with generous support of the artists and Gallery Gevik.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Rita Letendre is an internationally-renowned Canadian artist, who began exhibiting with Paul-Émile Borduas and the Automatistes in 1954 and whose career has since spanned decades. Born of Abenaki and Québéçois parents in Drummondville in 1928, she has lived in Toronto since late 1969. She received the Order of Canada in 2005, has completed commissions across Canada and the United States, and has been exhibited nationally and internationally.
Tannis Nielsen is a multi-disciplinary artist, muralist and educator based in Toronto. She recently completed two murals commissioned by the City of Toronto: Gchi-twaawendan NIbi/Honour the Water (Water Wall) and N'gekaajig kidowog/My Elders Said (Elder Wall).
For media information, please contact:
Renee Tratch | Senior Manager, PR & Content | Evergreen | 416-596-1495 X 273
Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Avenue, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3X8
Evergreen is dedicated to making cities more livable, green and prosperous. For 30 years, we’ve been facilitating change in communities through connection, innovation and sustainable actions. We work with community builders across sectors to solve some of the most pressing issues cities face: climate change, housing affordability, and access to nature and public spaces. Through our award-winning programs and collaborative initiatives across the country and at Evergreen Brick Works, our headquarters in Toronto, and through national partnerships with Future Cities Canada, we are building resilience in schools, public spaces, housing and communities as a whole.
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