Archive for the ‘galleries’ Category

Identity.  What springs to mind when you hear the word identity?  And how does that relate to art?

Let’s now take those general questions and narrow it down to the work of three artists, or photographers to be more precise: Suzy Lake, Lori Blondeau, and Shelley Niro.  I haven’t chosen those women randomly; I’m writing about them because their work is on view if you go to the Ryerson Image Centre.  Suzy Lake’s photos are on display in the main gallery inside while Lori Blondeau and Shelley Niro’s are showing outside.  The latter two were installed as part of the CONTACT Photography Festival.

below:  Three large images of the Lori Blondeau draped in red while standing on a rock adorn three of the large boulders in Devonian Square.   They are part of her “Asiniy Iskwew” work.  The title is Cree and translates to “Rock Woman”.    In this work, the rocks on which she stands refer back to Mistaseni which was a large sacred boulder that once marked a gathering place.   The Saskatchewan government dynamited it in the 1960’s to make room for a man made lake.

photograph or painting of a woman in red standing on a rock, directly onto the surface of a large rock in a shallow pool of water outside Ryerson Image Center, three large black and white photographs of people's heads are above and behind the artwork

The words on the wall say that Blondeau questions (“interrogates”) how the definitions of Indigenous identity are influenced by popular media and culture, not just in this exhibit but in the rest of her art as well.   Her point here is that pictures of strong woman run counter to how popular culture portrays Indigenous women.

photograph or painting of a woman in red standing on a rock, directly onto the surface of a large rock in a shallow pool of water

My questions – What and/or who shapes your identity?  That question can mean “Your” as in you the individual and it can mean “Your” as in some collective group that you belong to.     How does identity evolve?  Can it be changed?

How does history affect your identity?  As one who has done a lot of genealogy research I understand the importance of history to some people.  I have traced my Canadian ancestors – I know where they’re buried and I know where they lived.   For me that is a comfort.  But I also know that if you want to kill a conversation just bring up the subject of genealogy.  Not everyone is interested.

Back to photography and history –

A second indigenous woman artist is Shelley Niro whose work is titled “Battlefield of my Ancestors”.  It consists of 6 photographs that were taken in upstate New York and in southwestern Ontario.  The pictures are in the garden with the statue of Egerton Ryerson (1803 – 1880), the man who Ryerson University is named after.   He was many things including a Methodist minister, a founder of Victoria College (part of the University of Toronto), a Chief Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada, and the person who wrote a report/study on Native education (1847) that became the model for the residential schools thirty years later.

below: Ryerson standing in the greenery with a picture on either side of him.  On the left is a picture of a plaque in New York state that says: “Site of Indian village Gar-Non-De-Yo destroyed during Sullivan campaign Sept 21, 1779”.  On the right is a black and white picture of the Mohawk River in New York state.

statue of Egerton Ryerson in a small garden with shrubs and small trees. Two large photographs also in the picture, one on each side of the statue

below:  Photo taken of a rock at Cayuga Lake.

photo of a small plaque on a rock exhibited amongst shrubs and greenery outside

The plaque says:
Site of “A very pretty Indian town of ten houses” burned September 21, 1779. See page 76 “Journals of the military expedition of Major General John Sullivan” published by the state

Back a few lines I called Niro an “indigenous woman artist”.   I don’t know if she’d be comfortable with that.  Maybe yes, maybe no.   I used those words because they help to understand her work in the context of this blog.   Should I then use the description “white woman artist” to talk about the third person, Suzy Lake?

Lake’s photography career began in the 1970’s and for the first two decades was primarily concerned with female identity.  In almost all her photos, she is the subject.  The 1970’s were the days of  Women’s Lib and the rise of “Feminism” – the quest for political reforms on issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, and equal pay.  It was also a time of increased questioning of cultural norms with regard to women’s roles.  In many ways it resembled the increase of awareness of indigenous identity, rights, and problems that we see today.

large black and white photograph in a gallery, two men on top of a large frame are controlling the movements of a human puppet

 large photo in a gallery of a women dressed just in a long slip, sweeping up debris from the floor. Debris is bits and chunks of plaster that have been removed from the wall

below: Her most recent work involves pictures of her standing in an environment of some sort.  The photo is a one hour exposure and the end result is an image where only she and inanimate objects are present and in focus.  Here is “Extended Breathing in the Rivera Frescos” 2013-2014.   The painting behind her is one in a series by Mexican artist Diego Rivera at the Detroit Institute of the Arts.

three suzy lake photos, one of her in front of a mural and two are close ups of her face

colour photo of close up of a woman's face, just mouth, bottom part of nose and some cheek. She is wearing bright red lipstick

As I’ve mentioned before, I tried to see as many of the CONTACT Photography exhibits as I could in the last few days of May.  I blogged about two weeks ago about the ‘blocks’ at Brookfield Place.  I have been meaning to finish posting about the other exhibits I saw but there’s so much happening in the city.  I’ve been spending a lot of time walking with my camera instead of sitting in front of my computer.

Two of the exhibits that I saw were on King St West, one by Metro Hall and the other on the corner of the TIFF Lightbox building.   I haven’t been able to figure out what to say about the photos so they have sat in a folder on my hard drive.   Unfortunately they are not alone.  Yesterday I went back to take another look at the exhibits and think through a few thoughts, but the photos are gone.  Procrastination has its pitfalls.  TIFF Lightbox is now promoting their “Canada on Screen” program – all year, all free – as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.

I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

below: The corner of Widmer and King back in May.  The photos are “On Location” by Sam Cotter.

large photo on the corner of a building, taken during a movie shoot on the streets of Toronto (Bay St), a young man is sitting against the other side of the corner of the building asking passers by for money.

bikes parked in front of a large photo mounted on the side of the TIFF lightbox building, showing an orange movie shoot cone and a fake city street sign.

below: A similar viewpoint, taken yesterday.  Different pictures.. and different bikes.

bikes parked in front of a large poster advertising TIFF's Canada on Screen program, a collage of black and white pictures taken from movies.

The other exhibit was “The Sum of All Parts” by Jalani Morgan.

The water levels in Lake Ontario are higher than normal this spring – some beaches are under water and a large percent of the Toronto Islands are flooded.  In front of the Power Plant Art Gallery the water level is even with with the concrete walkway… but not high enough to deter people from enjoying the waterfront this past weekend.

a young couple sits by the waterfront, on a stone bench. He has his arm around her. There is yellow caution tape behind them because the water level in Lake Ontario is high.

It seems appropriate that the artwork on the exterior wall (facing the lake) of the Power Plant features an image of water – white crested waves on a large lake.  The piece is “Bound, Hupfield 2017” by Maria Hupfield; it is 19 feet high and 31 feet wide.   The central image is a seascape painted by the artist’s mother, Peggy Miller, many years ago.  It is being wrapped (unwrapped?) with grey felt-like material.
Is it a treasured artwork that is being readied for storage?
Is it a painful memory that is being covered up to be forgotten?
Is it a family heirloom that is being brought out for someone to admire?

a large art installation on the south exterior wall of the Power Plant contemporary art gallery, with a small tree in front of it.

a girl sits on the rail between the walkway on the waterfront and the water while she reaches a hand out towards a duck. Her mother and younger sister watch.

a mother crouches down beside a young child who is wearing a helmet and is on a scooter, the mother is waving at the Kajama as it docks, the Kajama is a boat with sails that gives tourists rides on Lake Ontario

If you are interested in more information about Maria Hupfield, check the CONTACT website.

“Objects contain meanings beyond their materiality, meanings that we bring to them or receive from them. Objects are the result of an action, entail a trace of a human gesture, and trigger reactions and memories. They have the potential to be read collectively or personally. In her artistic practice, Maria Hupfield reveals the interrelational potential triggered by objects between humans or cultural environments.”

I was away for most of the month of May so I missed a lot of the annual Contact Photography Festival.  In the few days that I had to catch up, I visited a few of the exhibits.  One of these was ‘Nous ne somme pas des heros’ (We are not heroes) by Valerie Blass at the Allen Lambert Galleria in Brookfield Place.

two large cubes constructed from pieces of photos of different people in different positions sit in the middle of Brookfield Place, under the glass arched roof.

Blass arranged people in sculpture-like poses and then photographed them from different angles.  The photographs were then cut into sections, glued on blocks,  and then the ‘sculptures’ were re-assembled.

a large stack of blocks with black and white photos of people on them by Valerie Blass.

The subjects of the sculptures are anonymous.  Their “bodies fold inward, their differences intertwine and merge into single entities” (source).

photographs of the back of a person with another person sitting on his shoulders, upper person is leaning forward with head down, the blocks on which the photos are printed are in the walkway at Brookfield Place

bottom part of photos by Valerie Blass on a block at Brookfield Place as part of Scotiabank Contact photography festival, feet. Also the feet of people walking past.

small painting of a red headed woman torso, amrs, and head, in a gold frame on a wall with lots of other paintings, except on e is missing and there is a white sign saying why its missing

All kinds of thoughts went through my head as I stood and looked at this painting at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).  A little ho hum and a little melancholy and a little well what next.  There were no new exhibits since the last time that I visited the AGO and quite a few galleries were being prepared for new showings (i.e. closed).   A little bit of that’s a waste of time.   Even here there’s a painting missing.  … no, it’s only a waste of time if I let it be.

I stood and studied her face, the expression on her face, the tilt of her head and one hand held up.  What was going through her head?  Was the artist trying to tell us something about her?  Or was he just playing with composition in a limited space?  And that’s when the game began – what expressions hang on the walls of the AGO?  A sample:

 

below: part of “Time Dissolve” created around 1992 by Carl Beam (M’Chigeeng Ontario 1943-2000) using photo emulsion, acrylic and pencil on canvas.

part of Time Dissolve, an artwork by Carl Beam. Old photo of a woman seated on the ground bRed letters saying my mother are written on the woman and a red circle is around the boy's head

below: manipulating a series of portraits by Will Gorlitz (b. Argentina 1952).  The paintings were done in 1984 and are called Genre IV, Genre XVI, etc.  Nameless.   Unless her name was Genre and he’s painted her 6 times (one of the paintings in the row is not included here).

a series of 5 women's faces hung in a row on the art gallery wall, paintings by Will Gorlitz

below: Two pieces.  A sculpture called  “Eskimo Mother and Child” (about 1938) by Frances Loring and the portrait “Bess” by Canadian painter Lawren Harris.   I have talked about Loring in a previous post.

a sculpture of a woman with a child on her back, called Eskimo Mother and child by Frances Loring. She stands by a painting by Lawren Harris called Bess which a portrait of a woman in a black hat and black coat

below: part of “Melancholy”, oil on canvas, by Hendrick Terbrugghen (The Netherlands, 1588-1629)

a painting of a young woman sitting, with her hand resting on her hand, elbow on table, lit by candle light, called Melancholy painted by Hendrick Terbrugghen

below: part of “Waitress”, oil on canvas, by Shelley Niro, 1986  (b. USA 1954)

a painting of a waitress wearing black glasses serving a plate of food to a surprised looking red head woman with green eyes, called Waitress, painted by Shelley Niro

below: Engraving on paper, “Drunken Men at a Table” by Gillis Van Breen, Dutch, around 1600.

engraving on paper called Drunken men at a table, by Karel Van Mander, done late in the 1500's

below: The last picture is obviously from a painting with a religious theme. Unfortunately, the photo that I took of the tag with the artist’s name is too blurry to read.  I tried a google search on the image and the first hit was the Wikipedia page for Paul Bernardo.  Oh dear, Google that’s a fail… apparently it’s similar to a figure in a painting by Bernardo Carbone who was a painter in the 1600’s.   So Google put 2 and 2 together and got 17.   Hopefully you (and I) don’t get many 17’s!

part of a religious painting of a young man in a red robe kneeling before another man in white who has one hand on the young man's shoulder.

This is a story about an exhibit that is showing at the Art Gallery of Ontario at the moment, “A Story of Negotiation” by Francis Alys.  The exhibit is a look at three of Alys’s large projects.  For each project there were many studies, notes, and sketches.  Drawings and paintings dot the walls and cover many tables.  There are three large videos to watch (not the ones shown below).  It is a fairly complex installation and only a small part of it is included here.

two women looking over a table with art displays on it , in an art gallery

below: In 2006 Alys tried to organize two lines of fishing boats, one from Florida and one from Cuba, that would form a bridge between the United States and Florida.  It was unsuccessful.  He repeated the project in 2008, this time between Spain and Morocco.

a young man is looking at two video screens that are mounted on the wall

a line of little sailboats on the floor, all parallel to each other, the base of the boat (hull) is a flip flop or sandal.

below: More on borders, pairs of words that depend on which side you’re on.
Words such as leave/return and us/them.

4 small green and yellow pictures on a pink wall

Alys also spent time embedded with British forces in Afghanistan.

a display of pictures, paintings, drawings, sketches, and notes as part of an art exhibit

below: Alys made a videos on kids flying kites in Afghanistan.  There was also a video of kids rolling a large reel of film through the streets and alleys in an Afghan city.

3 wood benches in front of a table mounted to a wall, art on the table, a video screen on the wall with a movie about kids in Afghanistan flying kites, some people in the background

below: Weapons made of found objects

in a yellow room with two small pictures hanging crookedly on the wall. A table in the middle of the room, glass covering artwork on the table. Sitting on the table is an automatic rifle (artwork) made of found objects

below: Instead of a round of ammunition, there is a reel of film. This is true in all of Alys’s ‘automatic rifles’ that are displayed here

close up of a sculpture of an automatic rifle where the round of ammo is replaced by a reel of film

a circle of art weapons, automatic rifles, made of found objects, with barrels all pointed inwards,

The exhibit continues at the AGO until April 2nd.

a little wooden human figure is doing the front crawl, one arm outstretched, on a bubble of clear plastic on a table top

Myseum of Toronto is a fairly new addition to the cultural fabric of the city.  It is a museum without walls.  It is an organization that helps deliver programming to different locations in the GTA.  Last night, March 6, at City Hall, Myseum of Toronto launched its second annual festival of events and exhibitions.  This festival, Myseum Intersections,  consists of 36 different events and exhibits spread around the city throughout the month of March.   “One Toronto.  Infinite Perspectives” is the motto of this year’s festival.

In keeping with that motto is an exhibit called ‘Cosmopolis Toronto: The World in One City’.   It was showcased at the Myseum Intersections launch party.   A few months ago it was on display at 18 libraries around the city but it has been brought together in one exhibit for the festival.   At the moment it can be seen on the ground floor of City Hall but it will also spend some time at Metro Hall and then end the month at the North York Civic Center.   (schedule at the bottom of the post).

people looking at an exhibit of photos and stories that are printed on upright posters standing on the floor.

“Cosmopolis” consists of a series of portraits and interviews by Colin Boyd Shafer.   The goal was to find a person from every country in the world who now calls Toronto home, hence its tagline “Photographing the world, one Torontonian at a time”.   I am not sure if that goal was attained, but the series is a fascinating look at a very diverse group of people.

Cosmopolis posters on display at City Hall as part of Myseum Intersections festival

Cosmopolis posters of Andrea from the Congo and Nevena from Serbia

Two photos were taken of each person.     The first was a portrait taken in a Toronto location where they felt “at home”.  The second was of an object that they felt connected them to their country of birth.

cosmopolis posters of immigrants to Toronto from different countries

The Cosmopolis website has more information as well as the portraits and stories of many more new Torontonians.

portrait and story about Yosvani from Cuba, a violin player

cosmopolis posters of immigrants to Toronto from different countries

***

EXHIBITION DATES & TIMES:
MARCH 5 – 8 & 13 – 19
MONDAY – FRIDAY, 8:30AM – 4:30PM
City Hall
100 Queen St W, Toronto

MARCH 9 – 12
MONDAY – FRIDAY, 7:30 AM – 9:30 PM
SATURDAY & SUNDAY, 8AM – 6PM
Metro Hall
55 John St, Toronto

MARCH 20 – APRIL 2
MONDAY – FRIDAY, 7:30AM – 9:30PM
SATURDAY & SUNDAY, 8AM – 6PM
North York Civic Centre
5100 Yonge St, Toronto

#myseumTO | #myseumX