General Idea


In 1967, General Idea was founded in Toronto by AA Bronson (b. 1946), Felix Partz (1945-1994), and Jorge Zontal (1944-1994). Over the course of 25 years, they made a significant contribution to postmodern and conceptual art in Canada and beyond.

The group was both prolific and multi-disciplinary long before it became de rigueur. They worked across a wide range of media including photography, sculpture, painting, mail art, video, installations, multiples, and performance.   

With their subversive approach and interest in parody and appropriation, General Idea addressed a broad range of social (and art-world) issues such as the cult of the artist, mass media, queer identity, the pharmaceutical industry and consumerism.

While General Idea is not typically associated with appropriation artists (think Barbara Kruger, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince) much of their output from the late 80's and early 90's is aligned with the Pictures Generation artists and their contemporaries. While these artists used mass-market images, notably advertising, or banal consumer goods, General Idea tinkered with fancy, Queer, or canonical images and blue-chip references. Of course their most iconic appropriated work is Robert Indiana's "LOVE" however General Idea tinkered with artworks by Marcel Duchamp, Yves Klein and Piet Mondrian. 

Being from Canada they appropriately claimed one of the country's most revered artists; Tom Thomson. In this work entitled “Northern River / Pharmacology" General Idea took a printed card of one of the painter's most iconic and moody landscapes and added three pill-shaped forms on the horizon line in their signature colors. 

It is worth emphasizing that this work was created in 1994, the same year that two of the group's members died of AIDS. This was after nearly a decade of creating works that confronted, both overtly and indirectly, the epidemic and the complicity of the pharmaceutical industry in their work. Perhaps most heartbreaking is the repeated motif of abandonment set in nature. (Fin de Siecle is perhaps the most epic example of this tragic theme)   

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“Northern River / Pharmacology"

Canada, 1994

Gouache on offset card 

Signed, titled and dated by the artist

7"H 5.75"W (work visible)

18.5"H 14.5"W (framed)

Minor wear to frame.

Exhibition history: Haute Culture: General Idea. A Retrospective 1969-1994, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2011-2012

Note: additional images coming soon

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