Summer Art Shows in Toronto

In addition to all the city’s outdoor arts and craft fairs, there are two very big artists coming to town this summer – one a national treasure, the other an international star.

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ABOVE: Lawren Harris, Lake and Mountains, 1928, oil on canvas, 51.5 x 63.25 inches

BELOW: Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling, 2012, installation, 25 x 15 feet

For those looking to see art by notable artists:

The Idea of North: The Painting of Lawren Harris

Art Gallery of Ontario July 1 – September 18

Co-organized with the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and co-curated by Steve Martin, The Idea of North brings to the AGO over 30 paintings by one of Canada’s most beloved artists.

CHIHULY

The Royal Ontario Museum June 25 – January 2, 2017

In a few weeks, acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly will be bringing some of his fragile installations to the ROM. Critics be damned, this show promises to be a crowd pleaser.

For those looking to buy art at reasonable prices – from artists who need the support:

Riverdale Art Walk

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition

Art Walk North

Queen West Art Crawl

Canadian Art Quotes

I’m feeling lazy this week, so instead of writing another post, here are a few quotes from some of Canada’s greatest artists. I’ll post more when I’m feeling lazy again.

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Emily Carr

I think that one’s art is a growth inside one. I do not think one can explain growth. It is silent and subtle. One does not keep digging up a plant to see how it grows.

Be careful that you do not write or paint anything that is not your own, that you don’t know in your own soul.

The men resent a woman getting any honour in what they consider is essentially their field. Men painters mostly despise women painters. So I have decided to stop squirming, to throw any honour in with Canada and women.

Lawren Harris

Beauty is a living abiding presence completely untouchable by all the devices of man, such as moral codes, creeds, intellectual analysis, games and cliches, the acquisitive instinct, or lust for anything whatsoever.

Art must take to the road and risk all for the glory of adventure.

Every work of art which really moves us is in some degree a revelation – it changes us.

Norval Morrisseau

Among the Indians, as among other nations, some people are born artists, but most are not. I am a born artist. I have as much interest in my people as any anthropologist, and I have studied our culture and lore. My aim is to reassemble the pieces of a once proud culture, and to show the dignity and bravery of my people.

My goal is to break the barrier between the white world and mine. I wish only one thing, to be an artist and to be respected as one – and my paintings to be seen by all people.”

My heart and soul is reflected into my mind and my mind is reflected into my hands.

Art in the U.S Capitol

Last week, I wrote about my trip to Washington D.C. This week, I’m going to write about all the art galleries I visited. If you’re an art lover like me, this city is for for you.

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ABOVE: Pierre-Auguste Renior, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-81, oil on canvas, 51 x 68 inches (as seen at the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C.)

BELOW: Beverly Pepper, Ex Cathedra, 1967, sculpture, 101.5 x 90 x 83 inches (as seen at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C.)

Whatever your taste, there is a ton of art and culture on display in Washington D.C. Here are my thoughts on the galleries I visited.

American Art Museum

A stellar museum all round, but where it really shines is in the contemporary art department – arguably the best D.C. has to offer in that regard.

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Looks like a small gallery from the ground level, but, as looks are often deceiving, contains several floors underground. Houses a wide variety of Asian art and artifacts.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

The city’s best designed art museum – all galleries should be this simple to navigate. It’s permanent collection of international contemporary art is excellent, as is it’s sculpture garden.

National Gallery of Art

By far, the best gallery in D.C. Not much in the way of contemporary art, but incredible everywhere else. It’s sculpture garden, which does include contemporary work, is awesome too.

National Museum of African Art

Like the Sackler, most exhibitions are housed underground. And, like the Sackler, it’s definitely worth a visit. Takes about an hour.

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Open since 1897, the NMWA is the only museum in America dedicated exclusively to female artists. It hosts traveling exhibitions in addition to it’s permanent collection, which includes work by Cassatt and Kahlo.

National Portrait Gallery

Sharing a beautiful atrium with the American Art Museum, this gallery is full of famous faces. The official presidential portraits are themselves worth the trip.

The Phillips Collection

America’s first modern art museum packs a lot of star power into a small space. Some of the best art in the city.

Renwick Gallery

A small gallery across from the White House. Not sure about it’s permanent collection, but the temporary exhibition we saw was wonderful.

The Wonders of Washington D.C.

Whatever your interest, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in Washington D.C. If anything, you’ll run out of time long before you’ve managed to see it all.

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From Capitol Hill and the National Mall, to the many museums and galleries in between, Washington D.C. has a ton to offer. Over the course of one week, I ran myself ragged, nearly killed my girlfriend in the process, and lost 5 pounds. But, to my credit, I saw almost everything. Here’s a brief post on that.

Like many, our first stop was the White House. Inside or out, the world’s most famous residence is a must see, but if you’re unable to see it inside (we weren’t), then you’ll definitely want to check out it’s visitor center. It’s a small museum, but it gives you a lot of interesting info on the place.

Next up, was the National Mall. It takes a couple hours to see everything, but it contains some of Washington’s most powerful symbols, among them the Washington, Lincoln and Vietnam War Memorial’s. If possible, visit once during the day, then again at night. The photo opportunities are endless.

Owing to a sketchy weather report, we decided to do all the outdoor stuff early in the week, so we hopped on the subway, and went on a tour of Arlington Cemetery with DC By Foot. It was incredible. I really cannot say enough about how impressed we were with both the cemetery, and our tour guide. From there, we walked to the The United States Marine Corps War Memorial, then hopped back on the subway and visited the The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. Needless to say, our second day in Washington D.C. was a powerful and memorable one.

Day three was spent touring the National ArchivesCapitol Hill, and the Library of Congress. The archive building, which house the Bill of Rights, Constitution, and Declaration of Independence is a quick but necessary see. Capitol Hill, while under construction, is still worth the free tour, and the Library of Congress is absolutely spectacular. We had no idea it was so beautiful inside.

Having spent the first few days exploring mostly outdoors, we decided to tackle the many museums and galleries D.C. has to offer, and over the next few days, saw 16 of them. To keep things short, I’ll write a review of all the art galleries at a later date, and focus instead on the other institutions we visited. The Smithsonian Museums of American History, Natural History and Air and Space are the top three, but all the others are great too. Of the non-Smithsonians, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was by far the most impactful. Emotionally draining, but impactful.

With our week coming to a close, we squeezed in a tour of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where they produce billions of dollars a year, then spent our last afternoon taking a self-guided tour of Georgetown, which, if you can swing it, I highly suggest.

A few final thoughts: Washington D.C. is a safe, clean, and friendly little city with enough history and culture to rival the oldest, and largest cities in the world. It is truly a bucket list destination.

Ross Bonfanti takes NYC

In writing this blog, I’m always on the look out for artists to admire. One of my new favorites is Ross Bonafanti – whose work was brought to my attention by his gallery.

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ABOVE: Ross Bonfanti, Power Struggle, 2016, concrete, toy parts,extension cord, 10 x 9 x 12 inches

Shortly after arriving in Washington D.C., I was contacted by the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in New York City, and asked if I would be interested in writing a brief post about Toronto based sculptor Ross Bonfanti – whose work is currently on display in their gallery. Although, at the time, I was unfamiliar with him, I did a quick web search, and was intrigued.

A graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCAD University), Ross Bonfanti has been exhibiting regularly since the mid-nineties, and since the early 2000’s, he’s been exhibiting more and more outside of Canada. Looking at his CV, you’re left with the impression that his career is on the rise. His success is well deserved.

To better describe his work, here is a quote from the Rebecca Hossack website:

“Bonfanti’s concreatures are created from cement, hardware materials and found soft toys, all collected in the artist’s native Toronto. But even as he redefines their sumptuous bodies and studs them with nails and screws, Bonfanti deliberately retains the toys’ fluffy seams, their felt noses and their glass eyes. The sculptures stand in a striking state of in-between: Fortified for modernity and urbanity, the charm of a bygone age still lingers.”

Although I will not be able to catch his current show, I’ll be sure to check him out when he arrives back in Toronto. For those in the NYC area, you should check him out now.

Ross Bonfanti: No Hard Feelings will be at the Rebbeca Hossack Gallery until May 15, 2016. You can find more information here.

Outsiders: American Photography and Film 1950s to 1980s

I recently visited the Art Gallery of Ontario to see its new photography exhibition. If you’re interested in counter-cultures, and street photography,  this show is for you.

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Last Saturday, I saw Outsiders: American Photography and Film 1950s to 1980s at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

From Kenneth Anger to Nan Goldin, this show is full of thought provoking shots, and lasting impressions. What’s more, it manages to flow seamlessly from artist to artist – despite the many differences in their narratives.

Being a fan of Diana Arbus, it was great to see some of her best known photos, but of all that I saw, I was most impressed with Carl Winogrand. The date and range of his work is impressive, and the curators did an excellent job in contrasting his shots of poverty and protest with those of the ruling elite. There’s a certain timelessness to it all, and given the current political climate in the U.S., it’s as relevant as ever.

As the above paragraph suggests, this is a distinctly American show, and it covers a time of great change and turmoil in U.S. history. That said, it is also a deeply humanistic show that highlights the coming of age of people previously pushed to the fringes. The room dedicated to Gordon Parks and his documentation of a struggling black family is especially powerful, as are the many unaccredited shots of cross-dressers on retreat.

All told, this exhibition forces the viewer to confront realities both past and present. We’ve come a long way since the 1980s, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

Outsiders: American Photography and Film 1950s to 1980s is at the AGO until May 29, 2016.

Toronto’s New Contemporary Art Museum

Owing to a condo boom, the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art closed in September. Fortunately, its new space, which opens in May, looks awesome.

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ABOVE: Douglas Coupland at the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art

Last year, I wrote about gentrification, and the relocation of the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (MOCCA) from the Queen West neighborhood to the Junction. While I was sorry to see the original museum replaced with a condo, I’m happy to report that the new location looks even better than the first.

A few days ago, MOCCA director and CEO Chantal Pontbriand revealed plans for the new museum. Here are some of the details:

  • The Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art is now the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto_Canada (I prefer the original name, but whatever).
  • At 5,200 square metres, the new museum is much bigger than the old one (990 square metres).
  • The site is leased for 40 years, so it will be a long time before they’re forced to move again, if ever.
  • A site specific building, currently dubbed MoCA II, will be built across the street and will add an additional 6,800 square metres of space.
  • Open from noon to midnight.

Having been a fan of the old museum, I’m really looking forward to May 2017 when they open the doors to a new era of art in Toronto.