Fonds - Eric Metcalfe fonds

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Eric Metcalfe fonds

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    • Source of title proper: Title based on the creator

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    • 195?-199?, predominant 1968-1976 (Creation)
      Metcalfe, Eric, 1940-

    Physical description area

    Physical description

    1.47 m of graphic material and textual records

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    Archival description area

    Name of creator


    Biographical history

    Eric William Welton Metcalfe was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1940 and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, where his family moved in 1943. He began drawing, cartooning and printmaking while attending St. Michael’s school in Victoria and later studied drawing and sculpture under Czech artist Jan Zack. After travels in Europe, Metcalfe returned to Victoria in 1963 to resume studies in art at the University of Victoria under Joan Brown, Denis Bowen and Dana Atchley.

    In the late 1960s, Metcalfe became involved with Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov in the Image Bank correspondence network. The movement was based on an aesthetic of ephemerality, with artists adopting alter egos, forming fictional companies or building archives of collected images. It was during this time that Metcalfe developed the persona of Dr. Brute. In 1969, Metcalfe married artist Kate Craig (who adopted the alias Lady Brute) and, together, they collected materials with a leopard theme. Mail art correspondants contributed found images incorporating leopard imagery.

    Dr. Brute was "an urban sadist meant to caricature the secret passions that smouldered underneath the veneer of genteel society in Brutiful British Columbia." (Scott Watson, "Return to Brutopia" in Return to Brutopia (Vancouver: UBC Fine Arts Gallery, 1992): 14.) Brute occupied Brutopia, a fictional world that incorporated leopard-spot imagery in every possible way. Metcalfe's Leopard Realty research, begun in 1970, was aimed at discovering and revealing the ubiquitous nature of ordinary exotica, synonymous with pornography and kitsch as well as a certain expression of sexual power.

    Since the 1970s, Metcalfe has remained active, with recent exhibitions including The Attic Project (Southern Alberta Arts Gallery and Kamloops Art Gallery) and Laura (Arts-speak, Vancouver, 2004).

    Metcalfe has had solo exhibitions at the Victoria Art Gallery (Victoria, 1968), A Space Gallery (Toronto, 1973), Western Front (Vancouver, 1977) and Artons (Calgary, 1977). Metcalfe also produced and performed in film and video extensively from 1972, in 1973 co-founding the Western Front artists' centre in Vancouver and, from 1978, curating its performance program. Metcalfe has also participated in group exhibitions in Canada, the United States, France, Australia, Argentina, Germany and Belgium.

    In 2008, Metcalfe was awarded with the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

    Custodial history

    Scope and content

    The fonds consists of textual and graphic materials relating to the development of Metcalfe's art projects and themes, including Leopard Realty and Banal Beauty Inc.; photographs and clippings documenting Metcalfe's works; and materials sent and received through Metcalfe's participation in several Mail Art networks, including Fluxus West, General Idea and Image Bank.

    Materials from each of the abovementioned categories are organized into three series, based on content: Art Projects, Correspondence and Collected Materials. The series and subseries contained in this fonds break down as follows:

    4.1 Art Projects series
    4.1-1 Look at This subseries
    4.1-2 Banal Beauty Inc. / Brutopia subseries
    4.1-3 Leopard Realty subseries
    4.1-4 Howard Hughes subseries
    4.1-5 Spots Before Your Eyes subseries
    4.1-6 Howard Hughes subseries
    4.1-7 Films and videos subseries
    4.1-8 Artworks and exhibitions photographs subseries
    4.1-9 Artworks and exhibitions documentation subseries
    4.2 Correspondence series
    4.2-1 Mail art subseries
    4.2-2 Mail art compilations subseries
    4.2-3 General and business correspondence subseries
    4.3 Collected materials series
    4.3-1 Western Front subseries
    4.3-2 Collected images subseries
    4.3-3 Collected publications subseries
    4.3-4 Collected ephemera subseries
    4.3-5 Bag of marbles subseries

    Notes area

    Physical condition

    Some material in binders and folders is in fragile or poor condition. All materials should be handled with appropriate care. Please consult gallery staff.

    Immediate source of acquisition

    The fonds remained in the custody of the creator until its donation to the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in a series of accessions from 1997 to the present.


    A rearrangement of the fonds was conducted in 2010-2011 to simplify the series structure and to reduce redundancy across the fonds. The current series are divided by content. During this rearrangement, in consultation with the artist and the Gallery's director and registrar, several artworks were removed from the fonds and added to the Gallery's permanent collections.

    Language of material

      Script of material

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        Restrictions on access

        Restrictions on access: please consult gallery staff.

        Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

        Please consult gallery staff.

        Finding aids

        Series and file lists are available. Preliminary item lists for some materials are also available. Please consult gallery staff for more information.

        Associated materials

        The Belkin collection contains drawings, prints, assemblages and the Leopard Chair sculpture by Eric Metcalfe and several monographs featuring Metcalfe's works (please see the artists file for a list of works and collection ID numbers).

        The Sax Island collection contains materials related to Metcalfe's 1984 video collaboration with Hank Bull, including storyboards, original drawings, photocopies, props and promotional materials.
        The Morris/Trasov Archives contains materials related to the Image Bank correspondence network of which Metcalfe was a significant part, as well as material on the Western Front artists’ center in Vancouver of which Metcalfe was a founding member. The Gary Lee Nova fonds contains significant correspondence between Nova (alias Art Rat) and Metcalfe (alias Dr. Brute). The Kenneth Coutts Smith fonds contains Fluxus-related material.

        Art works by Metcalfe are held by the Canada Council Art Bank, University of Victoria, University of Calgary, National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, Musée d'art contemporain, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Banff Centre School of Art, Vancouver Art Gallery, Burnaby Art Gallery and in international collections.

        Related materials


        2009 accrual to the fonds includes new series and additions to existing series:
        Brutopia: 5 cm of graphic material
        Leopard Realty: 5 cm of textual and graphic material and 3 rubber stamps
        Correspondence: 15 cm of textual and graphic material
        Western Front: 4 cm of textual and graphic material
        General Idea: 3 cm of textual, graphic and other material
        Art Projects: 2 cm of graphic material and colour photos
        Mail Art: 13 cm of textual and graphic material
        Collected Images: 12 cm of textual and graphic material
        Collected Publications: 18 cm of textual and graphic material
        Collected Ephemera: 4 cm of textual and graphic material

        No further accruals are expected.

        General note

        English, with some graphic material in Spanish, German and other European languages.

        Alpha-numeric designations

        BCAUL control number: MHB-6

        Physical description

        Includes: 4 Plexiglas-mounted graphic images, ca. 400 color and b&w slides (35mm), 3 albums (color and b&w photographs and postcards), 11 binders (textual and graphic material), ca. 15cm graphic material and textual records, 14 colour film and video reels, and 1 cloth bag of White Ballott marbles.

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