- Alternate Names:
Eric W. W. Metcalfe
- Vital Dates:
Eric William Welton Metcalfe was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1940.
Born into a family with an interest in the arts, including dance, painting, and music, he was
raised in Victoria, British Columbia, where his family moved in 1943. While attending St.
Michael's school in Victoria, he began drawing, cartooning, and printmaking, later studying
drawing and sculpture with Czech artist Jan Zack. After travels in Europe Metcalfe returned
to Victoria in 1963 to resume studies in art at the University of Victoria with Joan Brown,
Denis Bowen, and Dana Atchley. He exhibited at the University of British Columbia Fine
Arts Gallery in 1967 and at the Victoria Art Gallery in 1968.
Metcalfe became involved with Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov in the Image Bank
correspondence network, the correspondence or mail art contingent in Vancouver in the late
1960’s. 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 at this
time that Metcalfe developed the persona of Dr. Brute (sometimes referred to as Mr. Brute),
who grew and flourished, and the leopard saxophone, a wooden instrument painted with
leopard camouflage and fitted with a kazoo, became his most famous attribute. Dr. Brute’s
fictional world, Brutopia, included leopard-spot decoration used in every possible way.
Metcalfe married artist Kate Craig in 1969, and, with her collaboration (alias Lady Brute,
sometimes referred to as Mrs. Brute) collected leopard material, and their mail art
correspondents contributed found images of leopard-pattern usages. 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. This led to exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, collaboration with Mr.
Peanut and Marcel Dot (Vincent Trasov and Michael Morris), General Idea, and Hank Bull,
and performance at the 1974 Decca Dance in Los Angeles.
Metcalfe was included in the 1970 Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition New York
Correspondence School, and Morris/Trasov's Image Bank Postcard Show, 1975. 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
programme. Metcalfe continues to collaborate, exhibit and perform widely in Canada,
Europe, the United States, and Australia, notably at the Museum of Modern Art, New York,
in 1984, at Documenta 8, 1987, and the National Gallery of Canada, 1999.