Mendelson Joe

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Aldridge Art Gallery
161 Gerrard Street East, Toronto ON M5A 2E4
(across from Allan Gardens)
Wed - Fri Noon - 7 pm
Sat. 1 pm - 5 pm
Sun Noon - 4 pm
and by appointment
Patricia Aldridge cell 647-226-8857

























Sept 16, 2008
Press Release – For Immediate Release

Aldridge Art Gallery
resents an exhibition of paintings by
Landscapes Very
Oct. 2 – Nov. 15/08 
Preview Oct. 1, 7 pm – 9 pm
Beauty is a great healer in this existence as I’ve lived it. Aside from my obsession to paint women, the beauty of sky, water, trees, rocks and wildlife still thrill me; it’s all music to my eyes.
I make art to stay sane in what seems like an ever-accelerating crazy world. The more beauty I paint, the saner I get. My buddy Philip says I’m very sane. I exist therefore I art.

Aldridge Art Gallery
161 Gerrard St. East, Toronto, ON, Canada M5A 2E4
Tel: 647-226-8857 • E-mail:
Gallery Hours:
Wed through Fri Noon – 5 PM
Saturday 1 – 5, Sunday Noon – 4 pm
Other times by appointment

Mendelson Joe

Born Birrell Josef Mendelson on July 30th, 1944, in Toronto, Canada, Mr. Joe, a self-taught guitarist since age eleven, grew up in Toronto and Maple, a rural community 20 miles north of Toronto. In 1966, Mr. Joe Graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He studied neither art nor music, yet music paid the rent since 1964.
In 1975, Mendelson rescued some derelict paints from the garbage, and tried painting "just to see what it was like". A distinct style soon evolved. That style is called naive. Folk art. Outsider art.

Today Mendelson Joe's paintings are internationally recognized as original, unique examples of contemporary Canadian art. His work is housed at the Art Bank (a government-owned art collection), the Portrait Gallery of Canada, and in numerous private and corporate collections worldwide. He has received several Canada Council grants, including Explorations Grants to develop both his literary talents as a playwright, as well as his performance art in video.

In 1980/81, the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris showcased Mendelson Joe in Pursuit of the Truth', a two-month solo exhibition. The year 1982 marked the beginning of Joe's marathon self-commissioned series of portraits entitled Working Women. As he continued to focus on portraiture, Mendelson still pursued his pleasure, landscapes, especially blue snow winter scenes, some of which appear on his famous postcards. In 1986, Ten Years of Joe, Mendelson Joe's first retrospective, was presented in Toronto. In 1987, he penned his first play, a farce-fable entitled A Kind Dog's Life. Joe also donated a self-commissioned series of 30 paintings to the internationallv-renowned nuclear industry watchdog foundation Energy Probe. The money raised from this gift exceeded 530,000
1988 marked a rebirth for Joe's four decade-long recording career. Canada's Anthem Records released Joe's LP, Born to Cuddle featuring Toronto's highly acclaimed street-jazzers, The Shuffle Demons. Joe's other focus for `88 was another self-commissioned series called The Meaning of Life; numerous and Glorious renderings of the female breast. Artist/curator Derek Besant featured Joe's latest series in Multi-Media Joe (The New Gallery, November 1988, Calgary), a one-man celebration of Mendelson Joe's diverse output, which included paintings, poems, published letters to the editor, excerpts from his unpublished book Paint Is Drying, as well as his music and videos.

A full year of protest marked 1990. Joe vociferously attacked the Mulroney-proposed goods & services tax (GST) during his weekly Sunday protests in front of the Art Gallery of Ontario. He also continued his weekly demonstrations against further nuclear reactor expansion by Ontario Hydro. Of all his paintings from 1990, the one that matters the most to Joe is Empty Chairs, in memory of the fourteen women murdered in Montreal, on December 6th 1989.

In January 1991, Mendelson Joe completed another in his series of buttock-headed portraits of Canada's contemptible prime minister Brian Mulroney. In a painting entitled Thumbs Up For The American Way, Joe depicted Mulroney proudly attired in desert fatigues -- a sad omen of the slaughter to follow, in Canada's first official war since 1945. The Canadian government funded Canada Council Art Bank purchased one of Joe's Where's `Da Blood? paintings. Mr. Joe expanded his Working Women series, with over a dozen new subjects, including writer Margaret Atwood and winning motorcycle racer Marianne Fraser. Anthem Records released Joe's umpteenth album, Addicted, as he put the finishing touches on yet another LP, Women Are The Only Hope. In June, Lake Galleries in Toronto presented The Gigantic Joe Festival, a huge exhibition (72 works) with weekly acoustic "Joe" concerts.

In 1992, the Canada Council awarded M. Joe a senior "A" grant to paint a series called Liars. To offset the labour of Liars, Joe continued his decade-long commitment to Working Women. Numbering nearly 180 portraits, Joe's newest subjects included a psychiatrist, a leather-worker, a private investigator, and high-profile women's advocate/columnist Doris Anderson.
In 1993, Joe carried on with his Working Women, and included noted performing artists Daisy DeBolt and Jane Siberry. Naturally, Joe celebrated the departure of outgoing prime minister Mulroney (and Mrs. Mulroney), and painted the incoming self-declared pot smoker, Prime Minister Kim Campbell.

If there's a portrait that stands out from 1993, it has to be Joe's large self-portrait as Jew in the disturbing No Hoax Folks. In the same vein, but with the inspiration and guidance of activist-writer Lisa Cherniak, Joe created a beautiful painting to illustrate her slogan: "We are all one people; different faces from different places; but we are all one people". With the name Artists Against Racism, Cherniak and Joe mounted a poster campaign to help youth challenge the rising virulent tide of racism. The campaign is ongoing.

Landscapes. M. Joe's obsession with Canadian landscape is without boundary. Joe produced another series of magnificent "Joe-scapes", which he donated to help nuclear watchdog Energy Probe fund their court battle against Canada's bogus Nuclear Liability Act.

1994: Joe celebrated his 50th birthday, and 30 years as a professional musician. He also exited the lower bowels of downtown east Parkdale after 18 years at the self-founded Ossington Institute of Fine Art and Music. Prior to his exit, Mendelson produced several more Working Women portraits, including Quebec rebel-scholar Dr. Esther Delisle and Catholic women's advocate Joanna Manning.

The year 1995 started with Joe's The Mulroney Years: A Tribute, a month-long exhibition documenting Mulroney's pathetic legacy, at Toronto's Lake Galleries. With the approach of spring, Mayor Barbara Hall presented Mendelson Joe with the City of Toronto's William P. Hubbard Award for promoting racial harmony. Canadian Art, Canada's premier national visual arts publication recognized Joe's seminal presence with a tidy feature depicting Joe's portrait of Mulroney as a desert warrior (buttock-headed) in Thumbs Up For The American Way.

Meanwhile, Joe augmented Working Women with philanthropist M. Joan Chalmers, pop star Alannah Myles, TV broadcaster Hana Gartner, ACTRA union president Sandi Ross, and outspoken broadcaster/author Irshad Manji.

1996: The Joseph D. Carrier Gallery of Toronto played host to Joe's first major showing (100 works) of his Working Women series of portraits. Encouraged by the turnout for Working Women, Joe forged forth creating numerous new portraits, culminating with Burlesque entertainer/activist Katherine Goldberg and Toronto's good mayor, Barbara Hall.

CBC Television's Adrienne Clarkson Presents re-aired world-class figure skating team Gary Beacom and Gia Gaudat performing to Joe's song `Think I'm Losing My Marbles.

Joe commenced work on an anthemic laudation to motherhood and the universality of the female breast, with 24 Nipples. Toronto Sun writer Linda Fox volunteered to model, and documented the experience in a feature article.

From day one back in 1975 when Joe discovered that painting was "no different from making music", the big man (Mr. Joe is over six feet tall at 225 lbs.) has often depicted himself. The year 1997 marked Joe's portrayal of himself as a blue canine. He also painted Art Gallery of Ontario curator Matthew Teitelbaum and numerous Working Women candidates, some of whom include film maker Gail Singer, lawyer Susan Eng, TV talk show host Jane Hawtin, and Joe's hero, Dr. Rosalie Bertell. On a final musical note, Mendelson Joe completed his umpteenth album, Hunzans Bug Me, and began Brushes in Spoiled Bratland.

1998: With Liberal prime minister Chretien continuing his Mulroney-based dismantlement-of-Canada program (term number two), Mendelson Joe countered the degradation with two more depictions of Canada's jocular ("I like pepper on my steak") leader. Probably the most disturbing works of '98 were Joe's blunt renderings Sleepingbag Man and the no less depressing picture of S11100

bound Toronto, Have A Nice Death, the latter spawning the song of the same name, which is included in Mendelson Joe's twenty-fourth album.
1999. As some humans prepared anxiously for what was termed Y2K (a non-event), Joe documented a pitchman's posterboy, "The Great One", hockey player Wayne Gretsky, in all his commercial endorsement badaes. To vent his ever-growing rage over the demoralizing mismanagement of Ontario under Ralph Klein-clone Mike Harris, Joe portrayed Harris as Glib Fascist. Finally, Mendelson Joe completed his 24`" album of songs entitled Everyone Needs A Pimp, which, like the dynamic range of his paintings, goes from the sublime to the bizarre.

Year 2000 marked Mendelson Joe's exit from Smogmopolis (Joe's term for Toronto). Residing west of Algonquin Park, the content of Joe's painting became the drama of seasonal change in the semi-north. Trees. Sky. Moose. Moonlight. Nevertheless, Joe's preoccupation (and unabashed disgust) with Canada's politicians fostered portraits of Ontario Finance Minister Erie "Paving the Future" Eves, as well as federal Opposition leader, avowed homophobe and religious zealot, Stockwell Day.
Toronto book publisher ECW Press published Joe's spoken biography titled
Alien: The Strange Life and Times of Mendelson Joe, featuring a colourful array of Joe paintings, selected song lyrics and revealing interviews with some of Joe's peers.

2001. Though 2001 will be known by the numerals "9/11 " and America's subsequent response, Mendelson Joe painted more than blood; he painted World War III. America's democracy quickly devolved into hypocrisy.
Once again, Joe chronicled three-term prime minister Jean Chretien as corporate figure-head mocking democracy. Ontario's public television station TVO sent master-journalist Steve Paikin north to conduct a feature interview with Joe for Canada's best news magazine, Studio 2. Featured in Mr. Paikin's piece were new landscapes of Muskoka, new Working Women portraits and the aforementioned rendering Prime Minister Chretien.

2002. Nothing rocks a life like face to face confrontation with one's mortality. Mendelson Joe survived emergency surgery and painted the experience right down to the incision. As is his nature, Joe soldiered on painting many more women for his twenty-year series culminating with a portrait of Canada's first female astronaut, Dr. Roberta Bondar.

2003. Twenty-one years after he began painting his self-commissioned series of portraits celebrating women, M. Joe closed the show (so to speak) by portraying Canada's heroic wornen's advocate, the woman known as Jane Doe. The series numbers over 300 works.


Mendelson Joe continued painting landscapes to document the beauty of his neighborhood in the woods near the hamlet of Sprucedale, east of Parry Sound, Ontario. "The beauty heals me," says Joe.
2004. The so-called war on terrorism led M. Joe back to yet another depiction of U.S. leader George W. Bush as ever-unnatural, ill-spoken brat-bully clad in bunny-sleepers.

Twenty-two years after commencing his self-commissioned series of portraits of Working Women, ECW Press of Toronto published the book incorporating fifty colourful images of women of diverse vocations. Among Joe's portraits from 2004, his depiction of federal Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish and pop singer Hawksley Workman are standouts.

2005 marked the accelerating decline of democracy in America under the guise of the so-called "war on terror" (translate: war on truth. in pursuit of global dominance through petroleum ownership). For Joe, his new portraits of boob-at-large George W. "Mission Accomplished" Bush bespoke life under an ominous neighborly presence. When will they invade us? We have oil and water.

But there were portraits of sane, decent folk, including several of Joe's artistic colleagues (Scott Merritt, Friendly Rich, Beverley Hawksley, Jessica Holmes, Maja Bannerman), as well as that of courageous Toronto physician, whistle-blower Nancy Olivieri.

M. Joe's third book, Joe's Toronto, by ECW Press, was launched in October. With forward by Toronto Star architecture critic Christopher Hume, Joe's Toronto documents fifty faces of men, women and children dating back to his difficult days residing in a storefront on lower Ossington Avenue.
Music. Out of nowhere, EMI Canada released a compilation Best Blues Alburn Ever,

Vol. II, featuring Joe's song Mainline from the 1969 classic Stink LP recorded by McKenna Mendelson Mainline in Soho, London.
2006. Joe wasted no time when he immortalized newly-minted Conservative PM Stephen Harper as The Fastest Hypocrite in the West.
If Joe enjoyed a highlight in 2006, it was when English Canada's satirical TV star Rick Mercer visited. Joe portrayed Mercer as well as exhibiting a selection of political portraits for the camera. Among other subjects, Joe painted blues musician Morgan Davis, magazine illustrator Anita Kunz, music promoter Harvey Glatt, and sundry figments of the Joe imagination, including Pope Ratzinger, movie star anti-Semite Mel Gibson and, for posterity, another depiction of Homer Simpson-like bellicose boob George W. Bush.

The crowning glory in the painting department was the completion of Joe's book documenting the ongoing challenge of coping with the local (adjacent) beaver infestation. Look for Joe Versus Beaver in the future.
"Being self-taught in all my media of expression, I'm still an open door of possibility. And, still a thrill to music myself; it's still an amazement to paint a dream, an idea or the muse of beauty. And, the ballpoint pen affords me access to almost anyone, whether they like it or not!"
2007. M. Joe thought he had seen the last of the much-loathed oleaginous baritone from Baie Comeau, three-term PM Brian Mulroney.

Serving as consultant to current Reform-Alliance-Conservative PM Harper, Mr. Mulroney was finally outed for receiving several cash payments from arms dealer/Air Bus pimp Karlheinz Schreiber. The stench of Mulroney and his declaration to appear "with bells on" before a public inquiry (for which he publicly advocated) inspired yet another depiction from the imagination of self-appointed political historian Joe. Mulroney with bells on indeedy.

As much as M. Joe continued this labour of contempt (depicting folks such as former RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli and former U.S. Attorney General Gonzales) Joe portrayed several decent neighbours and a few heroes too! The list of those who've sat for Joe-portraits numbers in the many hundreds. And, when it comes to numbers, M. Joe's musical masterpiece Everyone Needs a Pimp CD was released on Toronto boutique label Pacemaker. Hear/see Joe on YOU TUBE and MY SPACE. And, finally, look for Joe's fourth book Joe's Politicians due out in March '08 in conjunction with his exhibition at The Art Gallery of Peterborough.

At age sixty-four, M. Joe remains resolute in documenting the big picture as he sees it.

In his own blunt style, "Whackos in the names of God and greed continue to pervert humanity as they systematically ravage our very finite habitat. I still contend that women are the only hope to slow this male-driven drawn-out apocalypse."


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