Posts Tagged ‘Art Gallery of Ontario’

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

 

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.