“I want people walking in and out of my painting…it must be dynamic with action and an interaction that continues in the mind of the spectator,” said Rita Letendre about her mural Sun Forces. This piece is of historical importance to the North American mural movement, as outdoor wall paintings were rare at the time of the 1965 Long Beach International Sculpture Symposium.
This desire determined the choice of placement for the bridge over a busy campus walkway, to reinforce her approach. The epoxy paints, provided by the Flex-Coat Corporation of Los Angeles, CA, were chosen because they would chemically bond to the surface and not fade, flake, chip or crack. They were blended especially to Letendre’s specifications (i.e., she particularly wanted intense cadmium yellow). Unfortunately, due to the paint not fulfilling the early promises for its durability and color fastness, Letentre returned to CSULB to restore the mural. Additionally, the painting was also vandalized during student riots in the early ‘70s when gray and blue paint were thrown on it; locating funds to restore Sun Forces was difficult, as it was several years before it could be done.
Born in Drummondville, Quebec, in 1928, Rita Letendre studied art at the Montréal School of Fine Arts. During the 1950s and early 1960s, she developed an abstract style and participated in the Automatist movement. In 1954, her career reached a turning point with the exhibition La Matière Chante, as she became recognized in the art world. In the following years, she made many trips abroad, including a trip to Italy where she met Israeli sculptor Kosso Eloul. For the next 30 years, Letendre and Eloul shared a life together, until his death in 1995.
Throughout her career, Letendre has received numerous prizes and grants, including the Prix Rodolphe-de-Repentigny in 1960. Her work has been exhibited in Paris, Rome, London, Tel Aviv, and Osaka, as well as in major U.S. and Canadian cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Her works can also be seen in many private and public collections, including the National Art Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Montréal; the Art Gallery of Vancouver; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Carleton University, Ottawa; the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto; the Long Beach Museum of Fine Arts, California; and the Embassy of Canada, Rio de Janeiro. In 2003, the Musée du Québec held a retrospective exhibition of Letendre’s work.