When Eli Bornstein, an award-winning artist and professor emeritus, first started The Structurist in 1960, he had little idea he would be producing the publication for more than the next half-a-century. An international, interdisciplinary journal dealing with art, architecture, ecology, culture and communication, The Structurist was intended to bring clarity to the issues and approaches of modern art.
While the magazine’s 50th anniversary issue—published in 2010—was initially intended to be its last, Bornstein said the legacy of The Structurist will continue with the production of a new issue to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
“I had no great plans about establishing something on a permanent basis, but after the first issue it attracted enough attention and dialogue from artists around the world who were experiencing similar concerns that were happening relating to the future of the arts,” said Bornstein.
“It started on a shoestring but it gradually took on a bit of an identity for itself. As with each issue, I focused on specific and neglected subjects, and there were always a variety of responses.”
The latest publication, which is being printed as a double issue, deals with evolution and ecology in art. These themes, including the history of art, is something that Bornstein sees as vitally important.
“The Structurist acted as a forum to look at different and often controversial points of view and evaluate them, and not a lot of that was happening when I first started the publication,” said Bornstein, who is set to be honoured at a gala event at the Remai Modern gallery on September 19. “I felt like it was serving an important purpose, and believe it is still serving that purpose.”
Born in Milwaukee, Bornstein arrived on campus at USask in 1950 and quickly established himself as head of the university’s Department of Art and Art History, bringing his expertise to students through the teaching of a variety of mediums, including painting and sculpture. Despite what was, at the time, a relatively small university community, Bornstein recalls being delighted by how engaged his classes were.
“As an artist it was extremely gratifying,” said Bornstein. “There was this concentration from the students, many who would travel to be here and would be so eager to learn. They kept me busy trying to communicate and stimulate them, which was important and necessary.”
Juggling his own burgeoning practice, teaching a full course load and publishing duties for 12 years, The Structurist eventually moved into a biennial publishing schedule to allow Bornstein more time to focus on his own painting and sculpture. Eventually, he began creating complex three-dimensional structurist reliefs—something that helped to establish him as one of the Prairie’s most influential artists, with a career that has placed his works in major galleries across the globe.
Inducted into the Order of Canada earlier this year, Bornstein credits his time at USask as providing the spark that carried the publication to an international art audience.
“I felt that the arts were not some very rare or isolated and highly specialized activity, but were connected to many, if not all, major subjects of human know-ledge and creativity. And those were good connections to make, and I hoped that was reflected in The Structurist.”