Posts Tagged ‘AGO’

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.

‘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

***

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

***

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

***

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