Posts Tagged ‘AGO’

‘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

Mickalene Thomas was born in 1971 in Camden NJ.  She’s a contemporary African American artist now based in Brooklyn New York who likes to examine how Western art has treated women and beauty.   She celebrates black femininity and sexuality with her artwork – something that has been overlooked (or neglected).

below: Close examination of ‘I Learned the Hard Way’, 2010.  Embellished with rhinestones.

a man is looking at a large painting by Mickalene Thomas of a black woman sitting on a sofa. Two women in the foreground
close up of an artwork by Mickalene Thomas at the AGO, a black woman's legs, seated, crossed at the knee, embellished with rhinestones

below: Part of ‘Qusuquzah Une Tres Belle Negresse’, 2012 showing detail in the blue veil that runs diagonally across her face.

close up of a woman's face from a Mickalene Thomas painting, blue eye shadow, and a blue mesh veil diagonally across her face

below: ‘Living Room Tableaux’ (the seats and carpets) with ‘Los Angelitos Negros’ 2016 in the background.  The latter consists of videos playing on four monitors arranged horizontally.

a mother and young daughter sit on seats in a room at the Art Gallery of Ontario, watching videos by Mickalene THomas as part of her Femmes Noires exhibit

below: Also part of ‘Living Room Tableaux’ but from a different angle.  The painting on the wall is ‘Blues’, 2016 which was influenced by the movie “The Color Purple”.  Whoopi Goldberg (in the painting) was one of the characters in this movie which was based on the novel of the same name written by Alice Walker.   Based in rural Georgia in the early 1900’s,  it is the story of Celie Harris, a young black woman and the struggles that she faces.

furnishings, comfy armchairs and a carpet on the floor, turing a room at the AGO into a livingroom. On a wall in the background is a piece by Mickalene Thomas as a tribute to the Colour Purple

below: ‘Living Room Installation’.  This one is different from the one above – in a different room at the AGO.

people sitting, furnishings, comfy armchairs and a carpet on the floor, turing a room at the AGO into a livingroom, one wall has video (or videos) playing over its entire surface

below: Part of “Portrait of Kalena”, 2017.   The geometric face is a direct reference to the style used by Picasso in some of his work.  Picasso was inspired by the work of African artists so here Thomas is re-appropriating Picasso’s geometric and mask-like shapes.

a portrait of a black woman by Micklene Thomas where the face has been done in a Picasso-like style

Thomas’s website

The exhibit at the AGO ends on 24th March

Anthropocene
an exhibit of photographs by Edward Burtynsky
highlighting the mark that man is leaving on the environment.

below:  Lithium Mine #1, Salt Flats, Atacama Desert, Chile, 2017 .  The Salar de Atacama is the largest salt flat in Chille, located in the driest non-polar desert in the world.  This is also the world’s greatest source of lithium.  The shades of yellow, green, and blue represent the different stages of lithium evaporation.

coloured ponds in a lithium mine in Chile, shades of yellows, greens and blues

below: A plastics recycling plant, Dandora landfill in Nairobi, Kenya, 2016

in an art gallery, a large photo of people and a dog among a large garbage dump

people viewing art exhibit at AGO, photos by Edward Burtynsky

below: Uralkali Potash Mine #4, Berezniki Russia, 2017.  This Russian mine includes about 3000 km of underground tunnels created by machines called combines used in the potash extraction process.   These spaces are dark.   The spiral patterns are left by the combines.

photo by Edward Burtynsky of the interior of an underground tunnel in a potash mine in Russia.

below: Morenci Mine #2, Clifton Arizona USA, 2012.  Part of this photo shows the liquid reserves of waste left over from the copper extraction process.  The marble like colours are the result of leached heavy metals.   Copper smelting requires between 1500 and 3000 litres of water for every to of processed ore.

large copper mine photograph

people viewing large coloured photos by Edward Burtynsky at the Art Gallery of Ontario

 

Two Canadian First Nations women, Jane Ash Poitras and Rebecca Belmore,  have their art on display at the moment.  Both women are concerned about the effects of history on their culture and heritage.  Both mix politics into their art.   How do you rise out of oppression while preserving your heritage?  What are the issues surrounding acculturation and do you deal with them?   But as you can see, they approach their art in very different ways.

At the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) are four paintings by Jane Ash Poitras (b. Fort Chipeywan Alberta 1951).   Poitras is Cree.  She was orphaned at the age of 6 and raised by a Catholic German woman in Edmonton.  Before turning to art, she earned a BSc in microbiology.

below: ‘Buffalo Seed’, mixed media, 2004.  Old black and white photos are used in this collage along with sunflower petals and fabulous colours of oil paint.

colourful collage and painting by Jane Ash Poitras. Uses old black and white photos

below: “Potato Peeling 101 to Ethnobotany 101”,  Placed side by side, these two large works serve to contrast traditional indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants with the teachings imposed on indigenous youth by the residential school system.

2 large assemblages, collages, by Jane Ash Poitras, called Potato Peeling 101 to Ethnobotany 101, on display at the Royal Ontario Museum

below: There is a lot of detail in the two boards that get lost in a photo like the one above so here is a closer look at some of the photos in the collage above

collection of old black and white photos of First Nations kids in schools

text of a quote by Rebecca Belmore that says "for decades I have been working amongst my people, calling to the past, witnessing the present, standing forward, facing the monumental

 

“Facing the Monumental” is the title of the Rebecca Belmore exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  It covers three decades of her work and includes photographs, sculptures, and videos of her performance art.   Her art is more conceptual.

Belmore is an Anishinaabe woman from the Lac Seul First Nation.  She spent her childhood in northwestern Ontario with her maternal grandparents where she spoke Ojibwa.  For high school, she boarded with a white family in Thunder Bay.  Many First Nations communities are too small to support a high school so students are sent to live elsewhere while they complete their education.  It is a system with many problems.  It’s probably fair to say that the whole “system” is problematic.

below: ‘Sister’ 2001.  An ambiguous image – why does the woman have her arms stretched out?  What is happening here?

Sisters, art by Rebecca Belmore at the AGO from 2001

below: “Tower”, 2018.  A condo tower of shopping carts around a clay core – the carts symbolize the homeless.

art by Rebecca Belmore at the AGO

below: “Mixed Blessing”, 2011.  Two cultures.  Blending?  Fighting each other?  Hiding in embarrassment?

art by Rebecca Belmore at the AGO

below: And last, “Fringe” 2007.  Like two of the three artworks above, Belmore uses the body to address violence against First Nations people, especially women.   The image draws you in and repels you at the same time.   You don’t want it to be real but there is the possibility that it is.   If it makes you feel better, the diagonal scar is created using make-up and what looks like blood are strings of beads.

fringe, by Rebecca Belmore, a photo of a woman's back as she's lying down, scar and beads

Jane Ash Poitras is at the ROM until April 2020.

Rebecca Belmore is the AGO until 21 October 2018.

What are words?   How do we use them?

below: “Excuses injurieuses” 2007, by June Clark.  One of her “Wine and Tea” pieces.  It consists of the words Invective and Apology written over and over again starting from the top left corner and moving inwards toward the center.  Instead of a spiral it is a pyramid shape.  Perhaps it rises upwards, or perhaps it sinks down.  It’s only 40cm x 40 cm so the words are tiny.  I’d love to know how many words there are but I think that I’d be screaming profanities before I finished counting.  What I can tell you is that the pair of words ‘invective apology’ is written 32 times on the outer square.  If  invective is a noun that means, expletive, or abusive language, what does ‘invective apology’ mean and is that the same as the french title, ‘Excuses injurieuses’?

close up artwork of words written over and over again, invective apology, in smaller and smaller circles.

June Clark was born in Harlem NY but moved to Toronto in 1968.   At the moment, the AGO is featuring some of her work.  For whatever reason, I was more attracted to the pieces with words.

below: More of Clark’s “Wine and Tea” series, 2007.  Each one is a 40cm x 40 cm square and they are made with wine, tea and paper except for the one on the top left.  It is “Poubelle Lune” and the circle is a rusted lid that fits in a circle that has been cut out of the canvas.

a grid of 8 square artworks by June Clark on a gallery wall

below: Close up of another of the eight squares, a collage of sorts, the silhouettes of two people (men?) in front of flags, one American and one ? Titled: “All Some Many”.  If you look closely, you can see small words cut out of newspapers or magazines, some, all.

close up of an artwork, ink and collage. Brown squares in checkerboard shapes, with one shape being a photo, 4 small words from a newspaper, all (twice) and some (twice).

below: The next two photos are panels from “Formative Triptych” 1989/1990.  The first one says “I always imagine that I never received anything as a child, but I do remember being disappointed that the chocolate Easter Bunny was hollow and then of course there was the red broom and dustpan set.”

old black and white photo of a black girl, smiling, in dress, with words beside that say "

below: The words say “I decided that I must become so famous and so recognizable so the they could never let me die in an emergency room.”

picture of the head and shoulders of a middle aged black woman, old black and white photo, with words beside that say "

below: More collage and more words, this time it’s “Homecominghome”, words on paper towel.   Words like proactive, dulled integrity, impotent, hostage, elation, victim, underwhelmed, illusion, and satisfied surface desires.   These are only some, there were many more, each in their own little black frame.  Paper towel, that stuff we use once and then throw away.  Can we throw away the words?  Or what is behind the words?  Do we want to?

Actually there was a story about why paper towels were used – “…was made during a residency in New York City.  I had been cleaning the space so it was empty aside from paper towels.  It was a way of dealing with my emotions around how I felt living back in Harlem.  Cutting out the words, I felt like I was captive but free – a sort of ransom situation, of calls for help and demands for responsibility. ”  Quote taken from the words on the wall at the exhibit.

a grid of 8 square artworks by June Clark on a gallery wall - black frames around pieces of paper towel with words on them formed from cut outs from newspapers,

Words are fascinating.

June Clark’s work is on exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario until December 2018.

 

And while we’re on the subject of words and the AGO, there is a whole room of panels like the one below.  This is “Jack and the Jack Paintings: Jack Goldstein and Ron Terada”

Goldstein was an artist who published his memoirs in 2003, just before he committed suicide.  Terada has taken words from the book and made them into 14 panels, sorry, I mean test-based paintings.  They are Goldstein’s words? Or are they now Terada’s words?  Whose story are they telling?

below: A large painting by Jack Goldstein (lightning) and four of the panels by Ron Terada.

The Jack exhibit continues until 16 September.

‘This Mountain Loves You’

is a mountain of positive messages stitched into a quilt-like artwork at the AGO.  Fabric squares were decorated with pictures and messages and then hand stitched together.  It is the creation of the AGO Youth Council, overseen by artist Ani Castillo.

 AGO, Art Gallery of Ontario, This Mountain Loves You, by AGO youth council, view from second level of the gallery

black and white art by Ani Castillo of 'Toronto in the Summer', many whimsical scenes of the city in the summer, birds, trees, kids on scooters, lots, of legs, all kinds of flowers, picnics, the island, sun, the ex,

An example of her work, black and white drawings with a little bit of whimsy and a lot of heart…. ‘Toronto in the Summer’ by Ani Castillo. Found online at Bored Panda.

 

AGO, Art Gallery of Ontario, This Mountain Loves You, by AGO youth council, close up of some of the squares of fabric

“I love my black hair and my black loves me”.
“It’s me and it’s you and we’re the universe too”.

Castillo worked with a group of young people (ages 14 to 24) over seven weeks and this was one of the results.   I’m not sure how high it was, 4 or 5 metres perhaps?

AGO, Art Gallery of Ontario, This Mountain Loves You, by AGO youth council, close up of some of the squares of fabric

Part of the AGO description of ‘This Mountain Loves You’ mentions that it is a tribute to, and a recreation of, Salvation Mountain in southern California.

Photo credit: by Kevin Key, found online at Los Angeles Magazine in an interesting article about the site and its creator, Larry Knight who worked on it for 30 years before his death in 2014.

As you can see in the above photo, Salvation Mountain is predominantly about God and Jesus whereas the fabric mountain proclaims a message of secular love, hope, and acceptance.  Messages such as “trust in your abilities”, “love ahead!”, and “keep families together”.

AGO, Art Gallery of Ontario, This Mountain Loves You, by AGO youth council,

Today was the last day that this ‘mountain’ was on display.

Tinirrusiangit is an Inuktitut word that means “their gifts” or “what they gave”.   It is the name of the latest exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario features the work of two Inuit artists, Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013) and her nephew Tim Pitsiulak (1967-2016).   Ashevak (1927-2013) was born in southern Baffin Island although she grew up on the land in the traditional, semi-nomadic hunting lifestyle, living in igloos and skin tents.

In the 1950’s she developed TB and ended up, against her will, in a hospital in Quebec City  This was not a happy time in her life.  She had just given birth when she was forcibly transferred; the baby was adopted by a neighbouring family. Several of Kenojuak’s children died while she was in the hospital.   One of the ways of passing time at the hospital was making arts and crafts such as beading and doll making.

When she returned to Kinngait Nunavut (previously Cape Dorset), she learned printmaking.  She was also one of the early members of the West Baffin Eskimo Collective which became Kinngait Studios.

Ashevak was the first internationally known Inuit artist.  Her most famous piece, ‘The Enchanted Owl’ 1960, was used on a Canadian postage stamp in 1970 in honour of the Northwest Territories centennial.   Owls were one of her favorite subjects.

 

below: Ravens and Owl, 1979, stonecut and stencil on paper, by Kenojuak Ashevak

a picture of an Inuit artwork, Ravens and Owl, stonecut and stencil on paper, 1979, by Kenojuak Ashevak

below: Happy Little Owl, 1969, stonecut on paper, by Kenojuak Ashevak

a picture of an Inuit artwork, Happy Little Owl, stonecut on paper, 1969, by Kenojuak Ashevak

below: Untitled, 2004-5, pencil and felt tip marker on paper, by Kenojuak Ashevak

woman in an art gallery looking at two pictures on the wall, both by Kenojuak Ashevak

Tim Pitsiulak, born in Kimmirut Nunavut,  was a hunter and a painter.  He started drawing as a young boy and although he tried carving and jewelry making, most of his artwork centers around depicting everyday life in drawings and paintings.

below: GoPro Hydrophone, 2016, pastel on black paper, by Tim Pitsiulak.  Here, the artist (the hunter) throws a GoPro camera into the water to record the sounds and images of the animals in the water.

gopro hydrophone, a painting by Tim Pitsiulak at the art gallery of Ontario

“What more could I ask for, than for people to notice what we have up here? This is the best thing about being and artist and a hunter.” Tim Pitsiulak quote on the wall at the AGO.

below: Swimming with Giants, 2015, by Tim Pitsiulak.  Beluga whales swimming with a bowhead whale.

two people sitting on a black sofa, looking at a large painting by Tim Pitsiulak called Swimming with Giants, lots of fish and whales swimming in the water

 

The exhibit continues until 12 August 2018