Archive for the ‘galleries’ Category

The Great Pause, March 2020 (and then April…. and now into May)

paintings on a fence including one that says the great pause.

paintings on a wood fence, with backs of houses in the background

below: Courage, joy, spirit, celebrate, community, equality, and one that has flipped over.

coloured flags on a wood fence, red flag for , gold flag for joy, yellow for spirit, light blue for celebrate, light blue-green for community, blue for equality. , also a picture of the Beatles, black on mirror

below: All you need is love.

paintings on a fence

little wood planters on a wood fence

Canadian flag displayed on a fence with a guitar at either end

below: What to do when spring seems so far away….

chalk drawing of three flowers growing out of a wood planter mounted on a wood fence

Now at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) is the exhibit “Age of You”. Part of the show is “The Extreme Self” based on a forthcoming book by Shuman Basar, Douglas Coupland, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, of the same name.   Large panels covering two floors of MOCA, lead the viewer through the storyline using graphics, pictures, and a lot of words.  Other works by other artists can be seen among the panels but the panels definitely dominate the space.

Why the title “Age of You”?  What is that all about?  As we increase are use of technology and our dependence on it, our data seems to have become important.   Information about our habits, likes & dislikes, online behaviour, etc. is now a valuable resource.  Our profiles and data can be used to create a model of  ‘you’.   Google knows where you’ve been if you have a smartphone.  They also have an advertising profile for you ostensibly so they can target their ads.  (Check the ads that they insert into these blog posts).  This technology advances faster than our ability to adapt to both it and its consequences.

below: “You’re now becoming your extreme self… and it’s happening to you as you read these words.

large panels hanging in an art gallery, MOCA, three panels. In the miiddle is a large picture of a woman's face with a single tear. Also some words. On the right is Too stupid to fail. On the left

Technology and its effects on people, individually and collectively, has been discussed since the advent of technology.  Often it is the negative effects that are discussed the most.  Today, we use the word “disruptive” to describe companies such as Amazon and Uber, companies that use technology to change the way we do business, and the way we interact with other people, and the way we go about our daily lives.

As I was thinking about technology and its effects, I remembered the Marshall McLuhan quote, “Every technology necessitates a new war”. When I looked up that quote (to make sure my memory was correct), I found this as well: “‘Any form of continued and accelerated innovation is, in effect, a declaration of war on one’s own civilian population.”

below: “We’re now deep into the terminal phase of democracy.  This phase involves voting in leaders whose primary goal is to dismantle democracy.”

large panels hanging in an art gallery, MOCA, Too stupid to fail,

below: Four panels. Four ideas in words in pictures.  “Groups of people make dreadful decisions.” “The majority can no longer be trusted.” “Democracy needs morning after pills.” and finally, on the right, a few sentences on the breakdown of reality-based consensus.

large panels hanging in an art gallery, MOCA, four in black and white

The exhibit references a quote by Isaac Asimov : “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’   But, can’t this be extended to ‘my scribbles are just as good as your fine art?’ And then along comes social media with its anonymity and global reach …. 

So what does all this mean for the future?

Is it art?

One can’t deny that it is thought provoking but part of the reason I asked, “Is it art?” is because of the heavy reliance on words and text.  It’s a book hung from the ceiling.  It also relies on quotes and ideas that originated elsewhere, words that that the artists have collected, not created.

Text is considered to be a design element but words have the added quality of conveying meaning.  Some images carry symbolism but only words can be manipulated into phrases and sentences with different meanings.   There seems to be a trend that involves the use of more text in art.  Art is now a “teaching moment”, like an essay (or book) laid out in a format that suits a gallery.  It’s not enough to be just looked at but it has to be educational too.

The next few pictures are from Vincent Meessen’s exhibit “Blues Klair” now on the Power Plant gallery.  It doesn’t deal with future like Coupland et al. above, instead it’s more a link to the past; it’s a history project.   This is the first paragraph of the words on the wall at the entrance to the exhibit:

words on the wall accompanying an exhibit by Vincent Meessen

A plea to all writers of such words:  Please stop. We’re not stupid but we’re also not ‘experts’ in the latest jargon and this just goes over our heads. …. I found a video on youtube of Vincent Meessen talking about this exhibit – and now it makes more sense.  It’s still a history project though.  It’s also a case, again, of the artist turning a collection of other people’s work into ‘art’.

two people looking at framed pictures and pages of text on a wall that has been painted in blue and white squares

blue and white papers strewn over the floor, discarded, with a framed picture on the wall, and a blue desk in the middle

Jumping back to the future – jumping to Hito Steyerl’s exhibit “This is the future” at the AGO to be more specific.   She too uses words.  And multimedia.  And she too pushes the limits of what art is.  (Or can you argue that those limits are long gone?)

below: Two parallel stories, one on top and the other below.   The upper story is about a community where windows are purposely broken, “people are smashing windows tirelessly to generate power”. The other story tells the opposite, windows are left alone and “police with big wooden horses are guarding every window”.  It turns what we believe about society upside down – the ‘good’ people who don’t break windows are living in a gloomy police state.  The ‘vandals’ have sunshine and art.

room at the Art Gallery of Ontario with words written around the walls, and a flat screen TV laying a video in the middle of the room

below: Hell Yeah.  Well okay then, if you say so.  It probably says a lot about me and/our times when my first impression is that it would make a great background for an instagram photo.   There are other blocks of words too (not in the picture) and the whole sequence is Hell, Yeah, We, Fuck, Die.  Why these words?  They are the “five words that have appeared most frequently in the titles of songs in English-language music charts over the past decade”.  And yes, I looked it up.

large blocks, lit from inside, put together to form the words the words hell yeah

And yes, I checked instagram….  The “L” does make a perfect seat!

composite of three photos of people that have been posted on instagram showing them at the Hito Steyerl exhibit hell yeah we fuck die at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Five words.  What do they mean? What five words would you use?

 

‘Age of You’ continues until 5th January 2020.

‘Blues Klair’ is at the Power Plant until 5th January 2020.

‘This is the future’ ends on 23 February 2020

Twice in two days at two different galleries I have encountered white, or almost totally white pieces of art.

This is “Untitled (Basel)”, 1969, by Robert Ryman (1930-2019) now on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).  Yes it is 5 white panels on a white wall.   Before you scoff at this, one square similar to these sold in 2015 for more than 20 million dollars.

5 white squares arranged in a row on a gallery wall, an artwork by Robert Ryman

In the same room as the above is “The Rose”, 1964, by Canadian-born artist Agnes Martin (1912-2004).   There is a pale pink colour to this one.  The pink is made by a grid drawn by hand with red and black pencil, hundreds of red lines in all that “dissolve into a rose-coloured atmosphere”.

rose, a large canvas by Agnes Martin on a wall at the Art Gallery of Ontario, red pencil lines in a grid, it looks pink when viewed from a distance

This is the view that greets you when you walk into the Olga Korper Gallery.

art on the walls of a gallery, all frames are white, the artwork is all very pale

The art on the wall is an exhibit, “the laughter between two miles” by Ken Nicol.  The pale grey pieces on the far wall were made with hundreds of pencil lines.  Although the lines are in patterns of vertical and horizontal lines that aren’t quite a grid like the Agnes Martin piece above, the effect is the same.  The lines are too close together so the eye sees it as a single colour.

In the example below, green, blue, and red lines make a design over letters.  The letters are hand written (are you impressed?  Do you care?) and they are “Sentences on conceptual art” written by Sol LeWitt and first published in 1969.  LeWitt (1928-2007, American) is considered one of the founders of Conceptual Art.  Apparently he once created something similar where all the if’s, and’s & but’s were connected.  Here, the red lines connect all the art’s.

words in lines, sentences about conceptual art, overlaid with green, red, and blue lines

Text as a major element in a piece of art seems to be more prevalent these days, but that’s a subject for another day.

Instead, one last look at the Olga Korper Gallery before leaving – it’s a gorgeous gallery space.

walls of a gallery, white, with some all white artwork on the walls, also a large old double door that is the exit

 

women looking at paintings at the Art Gallery of Ontario

below: Two pieces by Valerie Blass from her collection titled “The Parliament of the Invisibles”.   Blass used plaster casts of body parts,  dressed them in clothing, and then arranged them in little installations.  (On the fourth floor of the AGO until 1st Dec)

art by Valerie Blass, a parliament of invisibles, clothes taking the form of people

below: Stepping out in denim shorts and red boots.

artwork by Valerie Blass at the Art Gallery of Ontario, one red boot, a pair of denim shorts and a blue ikea bag on a step stool

below: Working among the heads

below: Part of “Mother and Child with Pulled Tooth”, a sculpture made of whale bone, antler, grey stone, ivory, and sinew by Karoo Ashevak.

whale bone sculpture in art gallery, mother and child, large round face with open mouth and two outstretched arms with large hands

below: A print by Carole Conde and Karl Beveridge, Screenprint and ink on paper, about 1975. “Why does the woman do the laundry and cooking?”  Although in the image the woman is using a tape recorder and is no where near the kitchen.

q print that shows a woman working, in red ink on green background, with black words written on top of it, why does the woman do the laundry and cooking

below: Part of “Blur” by Sandra Brewster – a collage of more than 80 black and white “portraits” of people out of focus and uncentered.

a collage of many black and white blurred and uncentered portraits of people on a wall in an art gallery, part of Blur series by Sandra Brewster

below: There is also a very large out of focus image on a wall of its own.  The photo on its own wasn’t very interesting but it provided a wonderful backdrop to some experiments of my own.  There are those who stop and look and linger and those who pass by without a second glance.

people, out of focus, walking past a large out of focus picture of a woman, a photo by Sandra Brewster as part of her blur series

a couple holding hands with the woman leading the man, out of focus, walking past a large out of focus picture of a woman, a photo by Sandra Brewster as part of her blur series

people, out of focus, walking past a large out of focus picture of a woman, a photo by Sandra Brewster as part of her blur series, three men, two are together and the third is walking in the opposite direction

people, out of focus, walking past a large out of focus picture of a woman, a photo by Sandra Brewster as part of her blur series, a man in a green shirt

people, out of focus, walking past a large out of focus picture of a woman, a photo by Sandra Brewster as part of her blur series, a man pointing

Sandra Brewster’s “Blur” is on exhibit until 20 March 2020.

In honour (or in celebration) of the start of the impeachment process in the US of A, here a couple of images from a small exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario on political satire over the years.   These are illustrations by American artist Sandow Birk that appear in a collection of ten lithographs titled “The Horrible & Terrible Deeds & Words of the Very Renowned Trumpagruel”.   This project was based on illustrations by Gustave Dore (1832-1883) for a series of books that were first published a few centuries earlier about the adventures of Gargantua and Pantagruel, two bumbling giants, written by Francois Rabelais.

a lithograph, political satire, of Trump on his cell phone as he looks towards Russia, lots of demons and unsavoury characters playing in the sewer and swamp behind him

In Birk’s adaption, President Donald Trump is the clueless giant who is oblivious both to the havoc he is causing and to the problems of the world. He is firmly attached to his cell phone.  In the background little gremlins, or demons, or swamp dwellers, cavort and make off sacks of goodies. At the time that I was taking these pictures, I didn’t realize that I had chosen two that were so similar.  If you check the link on Birk’s name near the beginning of this post you should be able to see other examples.

Donald Trump on his cell phone overlooking a polluted environment

“The Horrible & Terrible Deeds & Words of the Very Renowned Trumpagruel” was printed by John Pusateri in New Zealand in 2017.

… and you’ll find it at the Aga Khan Museum.

a group of people walk past the front of the white wall of the Aga Khan museum, between the museum and the reflecting pool

The centerpiece of the latest special exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum is a large moon created by British artist Luke Jerram from detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface.  It measures five metres in diameter and is illuminated from inside.

a large model of the model hangs from the ceiling at the Aga Khan museum and is reflected in the railing that separates the second floor balcony area from the open high ceiling of the first floor

Since the dawn of civilization, the moon has captivated cultures and inspired people.  Along with the large moon, the Aga Khan Museum has put together an assortment of paintings, texts, and scientific objects that have been produced over the centuries that together give a glimpse into mankind’s fascination with the moon.

exhibit about the moon and the crescent shape, museum

below: An illustrated page from “A Translation of Stars of the Legend”, from Baghdad 1590-1599 (Ottoman-period Iraq).  Watercolor, gold, and ink on paper.

illustrated page, with Arabic text, from an ancient book about stars and legends

a groupof people sit on bean bag chairs under a large model of the moon, and on a carpet that looks like the night sky with stars

below: Many Indian palaces included moonlight gardens with white marble walkways and pools to reflect the moon.  Night blooming flowers such as jasmine were grown.  The illustration below is from the 18th century, Murshidabad, Lucknow, watercolour and gold on paper.

illustrated page of an old book depicting people sitting in a moonlit garden in India, two men on cushions

two people stand under a large model of the moon

below: “Jahangir Preferring a Sufi Shaykh to Earthly Kings”, painted by Bichitr, India, 1615-1618.  The Emperor’s halo combines the sun and the crescent moon – a slim crescent moon hugs most of the sun’s border and this day and night are brought together.    Mughal emperors, such as Jahangir, considered a harmonious relationship between the sun and moon to be essential for the fortunes of their kingship.  Sufi Shaykh, from the title, is the man receiving a book from the Emperor.   Small, and therefore less important, are the Ottoman Sultan and King James I of England.  The smallest man in Bichitr, the painter.  This is a large reproduction of a painting that is 18 cm x 23 cm.

old painting

below: Plaster cast of Queen Ahmose carrying a fly whisk (The original was excavated at Deir-al-Bahri in Egypt, from the reign of Queen Hatshepsut, 18th dynasty ca 1473-1458 BCE).  Queen Ahmose was the mother of Hatshepsut and her name means “born of the moon”.   In ancient Egypt, the crescent moon symbolized Isis, goddess of fertility, women, and the mother of gods.

an old stone tablet from Ancient Egypt with picture of woman's profile

below: “Tell me the story about how the sun loved the moon so much he died every night to let her breathe”

a quote is painted on a wall, with pictures of clouds

The Museum of Broken Relationships is now appearing at Harbourfront. The stories that accompany the items run the full gamut of emotions – sad, funny, mundane, strange, creepy, sweet, and, you get the picture. There are two permanent museum sites, one in Zagreb and one in Los Angeles. Toronto is one of several traveling exhibits. Zagreb is the hometown of the couple that started the collection, Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišic, when their own relationship fell apart.

below: “Given to me by an American “boyfriend” when I was 17 and inscribed “for… who charmed the savage wolf.” I didn’t know that he would eventually hound my parents for years, then eventually have a sex change and steal their name for his new persona.” I’ve never heard of this book before today and I thought maybe I’d like to read it. Curiosity. But then I googled it and discovered that it’s “experimental prose poetry” and written in a stream if consciousness style – so now I’m not so curious. 😎

A book by Bob Dylan called Tarantula on display in a museum show

below: “Not quite sure when it died really… the world just kind of works that way sometimes.”

a small stuffed loon toy on display in a museum show

a man and a woman looking at objects and reading the stories on display at the museum of broken relationships

below: “Empty bag of fortune cookies attached to a Starbucks cup. You were my first love. And I wished you would also be my last. When we got those fortune cookies and I opened mine, it read ‘You have to learn to read between the lines’. I should have followed that advice because between those lines there was you cheating on me over and over. Isn’t that ironic? “

An empty cup with an empty fortune cookie wrapper glued onto the outside of it,

below: “A Linksys router. We tried. Not compatible”. Droll. Succinct.

an old Linksys router on display in a museum show

below: “A spectrum of a star. We are both astronomers. On my 26th birthday he sent me a spectrum of a star in the Orion constellation as my birthday gift. This star, names pi3, is 26 light years away from the Earth. He said, “Look, at the time when you were born, the light left this star, passing through the endless interstellar space, the countless dust and nebula, arriving here after a 26 light year journey. So, have you. Here you meet your starlight, and I meet you.”

a small blue and white image that is a

below: What would you write? What have other people left behind in your life? What symbolic little keepsakes from past relationships do you have buried away?

The story that I don’t have a photo for is that which goes with a broken pair of handcuffs. A sample of the story: “What is left of the fake handcuffs is the result of a particularly passionate night/morning in bed…. I remember one morning when he had me handcuffed to the bed and the phone rang. It was the man who would, several months later, become my next boyfriend.”

At least that’s not as bad as one man’s account of life after breaking up with his wife… when a year later she committed suicide. There is only one side to the story presented here and it made me want to know the other side.

The Museum of Broken Relationships is also online. Here you will find the 1487 heart breaking stories that have been collected so far. Together they form a larger story about the way we love and lose. You can also add your contribution if you want. If you do read the stories, may you not stumble across something written by an ex!

This exhibit has also be described in Toronto Life and Now Magazine
It continues until 8th September.

At the Coldstream Fine Art gallery near King & Spadina is an exhibit of photographs by Caitlin Cronenberg called ‘Strange/Beauty’.  Among the photos are some of Drake, Toronto’s own rapper and most visible Raptor fan. two photos by Caitlin Cronenberg. On the right is a night time photo of Drake, the singer, standing beside a car that has its front headlights on. The photo on the left is of 4 men, including Drake, sitting at a table, all dressed in suits. a photo of Drake sitting among many colourful flowers

Cronenberg was the photographer who produced the image for the album cover for Drake’s “Views from the Six” album. The cover shot, of Drake sitting on top of the CN Tower, is also in this show.  Some of these photos appear in the digital booklet that accompanied the album.  The album was released in April 2016.

A winter scene, Drake, holding the leash of a dog, outside, standing beside a rolls royce car that has been out in the snow, and standing in front of a large house with white columns in the front

 

Remember that these photos are behind glass, hence the reflections.  In other words, these photos on this page are merely representations of the real thing.  They look much better in real life.

The exhibit is on until June 8th.

Each year the CONTACT Photography Festival spotlights a few artists.  This year, Carrie Mae Weems is one of them.  As I’ve walked around Toronto the past month I have tried to check out all the place where Weems’s work is on display.

below: On Spadina, just north of King is a large portrait of Mary J. Bilge (singer and actor) in red with the title “Anointed”.  In the photo, Bilge is being crowned by Weems.

a large red photo of a woman being crowned, sitting in profile, the word anointed is written in large letters on the picture. Mounted on the side of a red brick building

below: A small pink photo of a girl in the parking lot that is adjacent to the building where the above photo is mounted.  The marks on the girl’s face are problems with the display case, not with the photo.

a pink and black photo of a girl's head, on a small display in a parking lot, with a Huawei ad behind it. Ad features that head of a model

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below: At the Contact Gallery, 80 Spadina Avenue, part of ‘Blending the Blues’ which is collection of images from a few different projects that Weems has done over her thirty year career.  The picture shown here is “Untitled” 2017.

detailed picture of a woman sitting at a table with lots of things around her, on the table, behind her, and in front of the table, by Carrie mae Weems, the photo is only in blues and black

below: From ‘Blue Notes” 2014-2015 which involves blue toned images of people with coloured rectangles obscuring part of their faces.   The picture on the right is a copy of the Booking Sheet for Sandra Bland who was charged with assaulting a public servant (i.e. police officer) in July 2015.  She was died in police custody a three days later.

park of an exhibit in a gallery showing the picture of a black boy with a large red rectangle acros his face, beside it is an enlargement of the arrest record of a black man in Ferguson Missouri

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“Scenes and Take”, 2016, is composed of two large photos (“Director’s Cut” and “The Bad and the Beautiful” below) on the outside walls of the TIFF Bell Lightbox at the corner of King West and Widmer Streets.  Each photograph is accompanied by text which reads as a summary for movie.  For instance, the text for “The Bad and the Beautiful” starts as “The Plot: Bright and beautiful, a young would-be starlet in Hollywood seeking fame and fortune.  Along the way, she encounters erroneous assumptions, bad luck, and dangerous men.”

large photo on a wall outside, of a woman in a long black dress, back to camera, one hand on door sill as she stands in open doorway, by Carrie Mae Weems

The photos are of Weems as a muse, or the embodiment of the black female gaze.  She places herself on the set of ‘Scandal’, a series created by Shonda Rhimes and starring Kerry Washington.

two large photos mounted on two walls that meet at the corner of King West and Widmer, two people walking them including a woman in a head scarf

‘Slow Fade to Black’, 2010,  is a series of large posters on King Street West near Metro Hall – black performers slowly fading from fame and memory.   They address the representation of Black women in popular culture

series of large panel photos by Carrie Mae Weems, Slow Fade to Black, each photo is a person or a face that is blurry, done with one colour on black

‘Slow Fade to Black’ was also the name of a book subtitled, the Negro in American Film 1900-1942 written by Thomas Cripps and published in 1977.

two men walk past two large photos on King Street, Slow Fade to Black photo by Carrie Mae Weems, one is blue and black and the other is burgundy and black

Performers, all black women, portrayed in this series: Katherine Dunham, Koko Taylor, Eartha Kitt, Abbey Lincoln, Dinah Washington (twice), Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, Josephine Baker (twice), Mahalia Jackson, Leontyne Price, and Nina Simone.

people sitting in a streetcar with their back to the window, can see large photo on exhibit on opposite sidewalk through the windows of the streetcar

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And last, at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (the Art Museum at the University of Toronto), is ‘Heave’.  From the gallery’s website, “multi-part installation Heave combines photography, video, news media sampling, as well as ephemera to probe the devastating effects of violence in our life and time. The complex installation explores the spectacle of violence in our contemporary lives relocating this present within sustained histories of conflict and uprising.”

a collection of pictures on the wall and Life magazines on a table, part of Heave, an exhibit by Carrie Mae Weems at University of Toronto art museum and gallery

living room furniture arrangement as part of a gallery exhibit, heave, by carrie Mae Weems

4 people watching a video on a large screen, one person is standing while 3 people are sitting on a bench with their backs to the camera

‘Women in Focus’ is the name of a photography exhibit on at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) at the moment.  I want to talk about that exhibit in this blog post but I also want to expand the post to include a few other women at the AGO that caught my eye the other day when I was there.

below: A woman’s portrait by Modigliani and a sculpture of a female form in the room beyond. The latter is “The Leaf”, 1948, by Germaine Richier.  She’s a forlorn figure, standing naked and all alone.

a painting of a woman's head by Modigliano on a gallery wall in a fancy gold frame and a sculpture of a woman in the room beyond

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The ‘Women in Focus, 1920s – 1940s,’ exhibit is fascinating. The history, not only of photography but also of the subject matter, is wonderful. The world was changing. Photography was there to be a part of that change as well as document it. Cameras and processing techniques advanced. Magazines flourished. The way that we looked at the world and at ourselves evolved. Photography became an artform.

below: ‘Hanja Holm with dance group, New York’, around 1938, by Lotte Jacobi. Gelatin Silver print. The photo is actually sepia toned and not as ‘black and white’ as shown here. Hanja/Hanya Holm (1893-1992) was the stage name of a German born choreographer and dancer; she was Johanna Kuntze (nee Eckert) but considered her name “too heavy” for a dancer. She is also considered one of the founders of American modern dance.

photograph from 1938 by Lotte Jacobi, of women dancing, light and shadows on the back wall

below: ‘St. Moritz, Frau Wernod-Gtoffel with a modern film camera’, 1932, by Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995). Eisenstaedt began his career in 1929 with the Associated Press in Germany. Because of the war he emigrated to the USA in 1935 where he became a photographer for ‘Life’ magazine. I love the old camera… and what’s that in her mouth?

old sepia tone photo of a person with an old fashioned movie camera

below: ‘Bewegungsstudie’ (‘Movement Study’) 1926 by Rudolph Koppitz (Austrian, 1884-1936), bromoil print. Koppitz was a leading avant-garde photographer of his time. Bromoil prints are slightly fuzzier than other photographs as the image is produced with an oil based paint.

vintage sepia toned photo of four women moving together, 3 are dressed in long plain dresses and they are close together and supporting a naked woman who has her back arched while she walks (with her head looking backwards)

below: ‘Sea of Ice (Genevieve)’, 1935, by Ilse Bing (1899-1998). Bing was born in Frankfurt Germany. She spent the early part of her career in Paris before moving to the USA in 1941. The exhibit at the AGO includes more of her work (and it’s all good).

anold photo by Ilse Bing of a woman standing on a rock high upon a mountian. She's looking down over the valley below

below: “Good Night Marie’, 1932, by Herbert Bayer (1900-1985). It looks very contrived, doesn’t it? The study of the nude as a photographic skill – getting the skin tones right and all that. Or is it just soft porn?

old photo of a man's hand on a door handle as he opens the door to expose the backside of a nude woman

below: On the left is ‘Colette’, 1939, by Giselle Freund (1908-2000). Colette (1873-1954) was a French author and in this picture she is writing in bed. Her best known book was ‘Gigi’. She was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. The other picture is a portrait of Virginia Woolf, also a writer, by Man Ray (1890-1976).

framed photographs on a gallery wall

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Vija Celmins was born in Latvia just before the Soviets invaded during WW2.  She emigrated to the USA and settled first in California and then in New York City.  ‘To Fix the Image in Memory‘ is a retrospective of her work at the AGO (until 5th August).  Most of her work is in very muted tones if not shades of grey.

a man in an art gallery is looking closely at a pencil drawing that is hanging on the wall

below:   Five of a series of drawings (there are 6 in the series) of water done in graphite (i.e. pencil).  One is the original and five are copies of it.  These photos are small but I think that you can see that they are of the same waves.   A lot of her work was intense – detailed drawings of water and the desert floor.  She also did a series of drawings and paintings of stars in the sky.

five similar drawings of water

below: A spider web painted in oils on linen. Celmins experimented with pictures of spider webs done in different media on different surfaces.  This was my favorite – muted and slightly blurry.

a painting of a spider web in shades of grey

below: I’ve cheated a bit here…. this is a screenshot of the top part of the results of a google image search on Celmins’ name.  It gives you a much better sense of her work that I can convey.

screenshot of images of artwork by Vija Celmins

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As I was walking towards the exit of the AGO I was still thinking about how women are portrayed in art. I found myself in the ‘religious art’ section of the gallery, from a time in history when the church was a major patron of the arts in Western culture. Apparently, it wasn’t a good time for women. There are plenty of Mary’s either in her virgin mother role or seen weeping at the foot of the cross, but there is a dearth of other women. Ponder that for a while but try not to get too depressed. And while you ponder, here is a photo of a small white statue bathed in light coming through a stained glass window. Mary’s watching over you.

a small white statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus, lit by light coming through a stained glass window behind it