In 1961, McEwen was at the height of his powers and this painting epitomizes his experiments. The composition relies on a binary structure obtained by a vertical line “in reserve,” which divides the coloured, opaque and densely textured space into two irregular surfaces. Rather than referring to the “image” of a weight suspended at the end of a string, the title evokes the simple presence of the structural vertical line that ensures the inherent balance of the painting.
Among the sequence of events that led to McEwen’s fame, Long Plumb Line No. 2 assumes great significance. The work was kept for his first solo show in New York in February 1963 at the prestigious Martha Jackson Gallery, whose focus was on the promotion of American and international abstract art. The same year, McEwen was invited to represent Canada at the 7th São Paulo Biennial, where nine of his paintings, including this work, were shown in an exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada. At the closing of the Biennial, McEwen received an honourable mention for his body of work.
© Estate of Jean McEwen / SOCAN (2021)