The 1950s
April 15 – June 3, 2011
Helen Christou Gallery | LINC | Level 9


The 1950s

April 15 – June 3, 2011

Helen Christou Gallery
Curators: David Smith and Allison Spencer, Museum Studies interns

Planned in conjunction with Historic Lethbridge week.
Works from the University of Lethbridge Art Collection and the Galt Museum & Archives.


The earliest accounts of printmaking in history date as far back as 105 A.D., shortly after the invention of paper. Historically, printmaking has been used by artists of all eras as a medium for artistic expression. It appeals to artists since the end product is a work that manifests itself in multiples. Each print is considered an original work of art because the prints are not copies or reproductions of an already existing work. Traditionally artists mark their prints with editions, which resemble fractions near the bottom edge of the print. The bottom number signifies how many prints were produced while the top number is the individual print number in the run. In this way, artists limit the amount of prints that are produced and thus the number of multiple originals created for that series.

The prints in this exhibition were chosen based on their medium and their subject matter, but also their collective aesthetic properties. On the wall opposite the prints, the photographs depict historic Lethbridge and are used to highlight the relationship between the prints and the photographs which are both objects of mass production. A painting by Ray Mead was chosen for the feature wall to connect our choice of subject matter from the prints to other media which focused on abstract expressionism in the 1950s.


Photographs have constituted a major form of documentation since their invention in the 1800s. In the past couple of decades, photography has made a significant shift from analog, which uses recording media such as film and is developed in a chemical-based solution, to digital photography. The change in materials and processes has enabled new ways of creating documentation and making art. During the 1950s, there was a similarly significant change in photography as the equipment and processing technology became more accessible to a wide range of people, both professional and amateur, spurring an increase in both serious documentation and photography as a hobby. The widespread availability of photography in the 1950s created an increase in the images of smaller communities such as Lethbridge.

In conjunction with Historic Lethbridge Week, the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery and the Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives have come together to display the historical past of Lethbridge through the photographic viewfinder. It was important for us to display images of architecture and city spaces that are still present today and are represented not only as historical documentation, but also as images of aesthetic beauty. These photographs were chosen for their examination of historical sites in Lethbridge and for the way the realism of the photographs contrasts with the abstract prints installed on the other side of this space.


Borrowed from the Sir Alexander Galt Museum and Archives, this photographic equipment was owned by residents of Lethbridge in the 1950s. The collection of materials represents the range of cameras used during the decade. Thomas H. McCready, the owner of McCready’s Drugstore, which existed on 3rd Avenue South from 1909 – 1981, made a large donation of photographic equipment to the Galt. McCready’s extensive collection of photographic equipment was regularly displayed in the pharmacy’s window through the 1950s. Many of the artifacts chosen for the exhibition are the same objects that would have been seen in his window 60 years ago.

Ray Mead is remembered as a pioneer of contemporary abstract Canadian painting. As a member of the artists’ collective known as the Painters Eleven, a group credited with bringing abstract expressionist painting to Canada, his work continues to inspire and influence artists today. Mead is best known for paintings created using non-figurative abstraction (compositions that are not derived from imagery). Cherry Season was chosen for this exhibition to illustrate that abstract expressionism was not contained to printmaking in the 1950s, but rather permeated many artistic disciplines including painting and its style is consistent and typical of Mead’s work.

David Smith and Allison Spencer
Museum Studies Interns, Dept. of Art