As an artist and teacher, Dennis Burton (1933-2013) helped foster the growth of the reputation of Canadian art around the world. Though he was born in Lethbridge, Alberta, and died in Vancouver, British Columbia, Burton will be remembered primarily for his connections with the Toronto art and music scenes. He taught painting and drawing at the Ontario College of Art (1970-1971), was Director of the New School of Art (1971-1977), and was President of Art’s Sake (1977-1978). Burton also spent time in other regions of the country, teaching at the Banff School of Fine Arts (1974), the University of Lethbridge (1976 & 1989), and the Emily Carr College of Art (1980). As Ashley Johnson remarks, “Students remember being inspired by his erudite commitment to communicating a sense of contemporary aesthetics in a spirit of enjoyment” (www.artoronto.ca).
Burton’s work exemplifies the spirit of the Toronto art scene during its formative period in the 1970s. Marked with humour and a commitment to cutting-edge trends, his paintings offer an incisive look at how the aesthetic disposition of post-war creativity brought distinction to the North American cultural landscape, especially in New York and, increasingly, in Toronto. Burton’s obsessive pursuit of challenging, and sometimes even erotic, subjects has been described as “an anarchic delving into modernism”. Simultaneously tantalizing and taunting, his works cut straight to the core of Toronto’s strict, uncompromising mores, even provoking criticism, controversy, and censorship. Now, well beyond those times of incendiary activity in Toronto’s art circles and several years after his death, La Parete Gallery proudly embraces Burton’s work and celebrates his achievement.