Upcoming Toronto Art Shows

Every now and then, I do a web search to see what’s coming up in the Toronto arts scene. While things are currently slow, the following exhibitions caught my eye.

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ABOVE: Geogria O’Keeffe, From the Faraway, Nearby, 1937, oil on canvas, 35.9 x 40.1 inches, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photo: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Size Matter: Steve Driscoll and Finn O’Hara

McMichael Canadian Art Collection (opens March 11, 2017)

Juxtaposing the urban with the rural, Size Matters will be the first exhibition in in a public gallery for Toronto artists Driscoll and O’Hara.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Art Gallery of Ontario (April 22-July 30, 2017)

Organized by Tate Modern and making its only North American stop at the Art Gallery of Ontario, this retrospective contains more than 80 of Georgia O’Keeffe’s works and looks like a hit in the making.

Artifact by Deborah Samuel

Gardiner Museum (May 1 – 31, 2017)

Running as part of the Contact Photography Festival, Artifact consists of twelve 20 x 24 inch black and white prints by Santa Fe artist Deborah Samuel. As transformation is the central theme, what the viewer sees changes depending upon their distance from the wall.

Anishinaabeg: Art & Power

Royal Ontario Museum (opens June 17, 2017)

Containing art produced over the last 200 years, this show will highlight the artistic evolution of the Anishinaabeg peoples while exploring their life, traditions and sacred stories.

Mystical Landscapes at the Art Gallery of Ontario

This past Saturday, I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario to see Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more. Here is a quick review.

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ABOVE: Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night Over the Rhone at Arles, 1888, oil on canvas, 28.5 x 36.2 inches

BELOW: Eugène Jansson, Dawn Over Riddarfjardin, 1899, oil on canvas, 59 x 79 inches

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) has put together some stellar exhibitions over the years and it’s latest installment, Mystical Landscapes is no exception. Consisting of major works by major artists, it is a feast for the eyes, and the soul.

The show consists of 36 artists from 15 countries and contains almost 90 paintings and 20 works on paper. It covers the years between 1880 and 1930, and includes some of the very best art produced during that time.

Right off the bat, the viewer comes face to canvas with Paul Gauguin’s Vision after the Sermon. Even better, it is presented alongside The Yellow Christ and Christ in the Garden of Olives. This is apparently how Gauguin intended the works to be seen, and it is stunning – really, one of the best walls I’ve ever come across in a gallery.

After starting strong, the show never lets up, and around every corner is another masterpiece to marvel at. Some works, like Munch’s The Sun and Monet’s Water Lillie’s are instantly recognizable (if not iconic), but others, and their creators are lesser known. It is here that Mystical Landscapes really shines. I especially liked the works of Eugène Jansson (whose painting can be seen above), and Charles Marie Dulac (who has a room all to himself). They were incredible talents, and they deserve to be shown alongside the greats.

As flashy as this show is, some of the best art isn’t flashy at all. Emily Carr’s subtle and simple skyscapes are a real treat, and they provide a calming reprieve from some of the louder artworks on display. I spent as much time staring at them as I did anything else.

Towards the end of the exhibition, the overhead lighting gets dark and the beams shone directly onto the paintings make them appear back-lit. I liked the overall look, but I would liked to have seen them under normal conditions as well.

Curatorially, each artist is presented with a description of their religious/spiritual beliefs. While this serves as a nice compliment to the work and fits the overall theme of the exhibition, the pieces themselves are powerful enough to provoke the spiritual side of the viewer.

In summary, I loved this show. I suspect that you will too.

Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more is at the AGO until January 29, 2017.

Nuit Blanche 2016

Every year I look forward to Nuit Blanche, and every year I find something to like. Unfortunately, this was not one of those years. Here is a quick review.

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ABOVE: Director X, Death of the Sun, installation

BELOW: Myriam Yates, Planetarium/Terminal

I love that Toronto hosts Nuit Blanche and I hope they do so forever. That said, not every edition is a great one. 2016 falls into that category.

I began my night at Nathan Phillips Square where my favorite piece of the night, Floria Sigismondi’s Pneuma stole the show. It was crowded, and it took some jostling to get a decent view, but it was by far the most compelling thing on the square. In comparison, Director X’s Death of the Sun was totally underwhelming, although, to be fair, I may have caught it at a bad time  – apparently, it actually did look like the sun at times.

From there, I made my way to Union Station where Asalto Toronto’s And the Transformation Reveals consisted of climbing people projected onto the front of the station. On it’s own, this is pretty subpar, but when you learn that the projection is of regular Torontonians, it gets a little bit cooler – who says art can’t be fun?

From Union Station, I made my way to the lake front, where many of the nights exhibits were placed. While there, I walked through Smelling the Sky by French artist Julie C. Fortier. It consisted of various fragrances (created by the artist) diffused along a dimly lit passage. It was a great idea, but I could really only smell one thing – bad cologne. Maybe it’s me, I am getting a cold.

All in all, I’m still glad I went because even when it’s bad, it’s not a total waste of time. I just wish there were more large scale installations (I love those) and less video’s (there seemed to be a ton of them). While I liked that this years edition appeared less corporate, I didn’t like the overall tone. It just seemed, well, dull.

Full disclosure: The weather sucked and I wasn’t feeling that well.

Some of My Favorite Art Exhibitions

I love art exhibitions, and through the years, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some really great ones. Of them all, here are three of my favorites – in no particular order.

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ABOVE: Scott Hocking, The Reptile Room: Mercury Retrograde, installation

2012

SiTE:LAB @ 54 Jefferson (formerly the Grand Rapids Public Museum)

Grand Rapids, Michigan

In 2012, SiTE:LAB took over the former home of the Grand Rapids Public Museum and filled the space with the work of 18 artists. The building, which was vacated in 1994, still contained a number of its dioramas and exhibits, and they, along with the artist’s installations, provided the viewer with a truly unique experience. It was surreal and creepy, and, it was the top venue at Artprize 2012.

 

ABOVE: Ai Weiwei, Straight, installation

2013

Ai Weiwei: According to What? (Art Gallery of Ontario)

Toronto, Ontario

Having followed Weiwei’s exploits in the news, I was super excited to see this politically charged exhibition. Everything on display was deep, but I especially liked Straight (pictured above), which consisted of 150 tons of rebar recovered from schools that had collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake. They were all straightened, and on the wall behind them, were the names of the students who lost their lives in the quake. Heavy.

 

ABOVE: Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1, installation

2016

Wonder (Renwick Gallery)

Washington D.C.

In 2015, after a two-year renovation, the Renwick Gallery opened its doors to Wonder, an immersive exhibition featuring the work of 9 artists. Each was given a room to create a site specific installation, and the entire building became one immersive artwork. As the title suggests, it was a wonderful space to spend an hour two, and, judging by the long lineups to get in, it was a big hit with the locals too.

Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum

Lawren Harris isn’t the only artist worth checking out at the Art Gallery of Ontario this summer. The Theaster Gates show on the 5th floor is worth a visit as well.

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Two weekends ago, I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to see The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris. While there, I also saw Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum.

First, a little about the man:

Theaster Gates is an activist/urban planner/artist whose work seeks to revitalize poor neighborhoods. Living and working in Chicago, he has become famous – in part – for restoring vacant buildings and turning them into cultural institutions.

Now, a little about the show:

How to Build a House Museum is closely related to the work Gates does in Chicago. In it, he seeks to immortalize Frankie Knuckles – a legendary DJ often credited with the creation of House music – by building a museum in his honor. In addition to a mini chapel erected in his name, there is a dance hall with an iceberg shaped disco ball, and funky beats. It is a fun and energetic tribute, but, like most of Gates work, it’s full of cultural/political implications.

Packed with thought provoking imagery and statistics relating to the black experience in America, this is a powerful little show that serves as a nice compliment to the somewhat staid Lawren Harris exhibition downstairs. If you’re heading to the AGO, you should check it out. It’ll leave you with lots to think about.

Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum is at the Art Gallery of Ontario until October 30, 2016.

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

Current/Upcoming Art Shows in Toronto

There’s never a shortage of things to do in Toronto, especially if culture is your thing. That said, if you’re in the city this winter/spring, the following shows look promising.

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ABOVE: Diane Arbus, A young man and his pregnant wife in Washington Square Park, N.Y.C., 1965, gelatin silver print, 20 x 16 inches (sheet), private collection, Toronto, copyright © The Estate of Diane Arbus

BELOW: Aude Moreau, Waiting for Landing, 2015, digital print, 28 x 42 inches, collection of the artist

Outsiders: American Photography and Film 1950s-1980s

Art Gallery of Ontario (March 12 – May 29)

A selection of art misfits – including Diane Arbus, Kenneth Anger and Nan Goldin – comes to the AGO this month. Given the current state of U.S. politics, this show promises to be more relevant than ever.

Angell Gallery’s 20th Anniversary Exhibition

Angell Gallery (April 9-23)

Not a lot of info available on this (no artists listed), but I’ll give this gallery the benefit of the doubt and expect a good showing.

Aude Moreau: The Political Nighfall

The Power Plant (January 30 – May 15)

If you dig panoramas and cityscapes (I do), then this exhibition is for you. Several cities, among them Toronto and Montreal, are included.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Royal Ontario Museum (November 21, 2015 – March 20, 2016)

The world’s longest-running nature photography competition comes to Toronto with 100 stunning photos. You don’t have to be an art junky to love this.

Autumn at the McMichael Art Collection

I recently took advantage of a free pass and visited the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. I’m glad I did. Its current exhibitions are excellent.

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ABOVE: Simon Daniel James, Frog with Frog Headdress, 2000, alder, cedar bark, abalone, horse hair, acrylic, paint, 22.6 x 16 x 7.3 inches, Gift from the Cameron/Bredt Collection, McMichael Canadian Art Collection

If you’ve got a car, or know someone who does, you should jump in it and head down to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Klienburg, Ontario. While the museum’s permanent collection is itself a must see, its current exhibitions are exceptional:

Transforming Spirit / September 19, 2015 to February 15, 2016

The collection of Jamie Cameron and Christopher Bredt contains 28 artists from Canada’s Northwest Coast. As is the case with most Aboriginal art, the works in this exhibition are intricate, bold, and above all else, spiritual. This show alone is worth the trip.

This House was Made For Christmas / October 3, 2015 to January 31, 2016

A collection of Christmas greeting cards designed by some of Canada’s greatest artists, this exhibition includes works by members of the Group of Seven and the Painters Eleven. It may be a bit early for holiday cheer, but fortunately, this show extends through the Christmas season.

For Every Season: A re-installation of the permanent collection in 4 galleries / October, 2015 to January, 2016

As the title of the show suggests, this isn’t so much a new exhibition as it is a re-shuffling of the deck. Heavy on the works of the Group of Seven, each gallery in this show represents a different season. While many of the collections best works are on display, the McMichael’s most famous piece, AJ Casson’s The White Pine is nowhere to be found. They haven’t shown it in years. I wonder why.