Historic Art | Otto Rogers


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Sunset Whitecaps 1984

Technique: acrylic on canvas

Dimensions: 30 x 22 in.


Otto Rogers (1935 - ) was born in Kerrobert, a small town in Saskatchewan. He spent his youth laboring on the farm, with the Bible being the only literature in the home. He attended the Saskatoon Teacher’s College where a professor noticed his artistic talent and encouraged his studies and later, his career in art. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison receiving both a Bachelors and Masters in Arts before returning to Saskatchewan.

In 1963, Otto Roger was singled out by Clement Greenberg in Canadian Art magazine as the only “big attack” painter in Saskatoon, one with a “fullness of inspiration.” He soon became a recognized national art figure. By the 1970s, Rogers was exhibiting in Toronto, Montreal, Paris and Milan.

Rogers’s paintings emphasize value contrast over subject matter. Whether within a narrow range or a more expansive one, the overall composition declares him a tonal painter. He stands apart from much Canadian abstract art, in which colourists working with a high-keyed palette so often held the majority of critical attention. This preoccupation with shifts in values reflects Rogers’s love of light. It is tempting to credit that love merely to the vast, sunlit expanse of the prairies he was raised on. But light has a special meaning for him beyond that. He associates it with knowledge and wisdom, in part because of his Baha’i faith. Baha’ullah, founder of the faith, once said, “My name is light and I come from the province of light,” and for Rogers, “the two great factors in creation [are] unity and light.”

Rogers’s works from the 1980’s are highly abstract and inspired by New York Internationalism. In 1984 sculptor Anthony Caro invited Rogers to attend his Triangle workshop, a communal artist retreat in Upstate New York attended by artists from all over the world. A likeness to Mark Rothko can been seen in the blocks of muted tones and the attention to detail in the application paint. Rogers’s was also teaching at the University of Saskatoon in the 1980’s, continuing to be inspired by effects of light on the Canadian landscape.