Anthropocene at the Art Gallery of Ontario

This past weekend, I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario to check out its latest exhibition: Anthropocene. For those unfamiliar with the show, here is a quick review.

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ABOVE: Edward Burtynsky, Dandora Landfill #3, Plastics Recycling, Nairobi, Kenya 2016 (Detail), pigment inkjet print

BELOW: Edward Burtynsky, Oil Bunkering #1, Niger Delta, Nigeria, 2016 (Detail), pigment inkjet print

I’ve long been a fan of Edward Burtynsky’s photography, and the film Manufactured Landscapes is one of my favorite documentaries. For those reasons, I was super excited to check out his latest exhibition, Anthropocene at the Art Gallery of Ontario. In it, his photographs are presented alongside the work of filmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier.

For those unfamiliar with Burtynsky’s work, he travels the world documenting the effects of humans on the ecosystem. His photographs are superbly done, beautiful, and sad.

For those unfamiliar with the term Anthropocene, it is defined as follows: From the Greek anthopos, meaning “human being” and kainos, meaning “new” or “recent.” It is the proposed current geological epoch, in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change.

This is an often stunning, often depressing exhibition that will leave you with a lot to think about. Information is presented in a non-preachy manner, and viewers are left to draw their own conclusions. It is truly global in its scope, and contains images from both developed and developing nations.

Anthropocene may be the most important exhibition the Art Gallery of Ontario has had all year. If you put the time and effort in to see Infinity Mirrors, you should definitely come see this.

Antropocene is at the Art Gallery of Ontario until January 6, 2019.

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Fall Art in Toronto

I’ve been a little behind in my art viewing these past few months. Here are two current Toronto exhibitions that I plan on visiting and reviewing in future blog posts.

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ABOVE: Edward Burtynsky, Clearcut #1, Palm Oil Plantation, Borneo, Malaysia, 2016. Pigment inkjet print, 148.6 x 198.1 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto. © Edward Burtynsky, 2017.

ANTHROPOCENE

September 28, 2018 – January 6, 2019

Art Gallery of Ontario

Photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier travelled the world to document the irreversible marks of human activity. More than Banksy, even more than Infinity Mirrors, this may be the exhibition everyone should see this year.

BELIEVE

September 22, 2018 – January 6, 2019

Museum of Contemporary Art

The inaugural exhibition of the long delayed Museum of Contemporary Art, includes 16 artists and covers 3 floors. Through various materials and disciplines, each artist examines how we believe and perceive. If anything, it’s worth a visit just to check out the new space.

 

The Biggest Art Show to Come to Toronto in Years

Sometimes, a show comes around that is so popular, everyone wants in on the action. Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors appears to be that show. The buzz around it is insane.

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Yayoi_Kusama_Infinity_Room

ABOVE: Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013, wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water, 113.25 x 163.5 x 163.5 inches

From the art of the Barnes Foundation, to the works of the Musée Picasso, I’ve seen some incredible exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario. While they’ve often been well attended, they’re all likely to be eclipsed by Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. The demand for this show is crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Usually, I get tickets via my fiancé (who volunteers at the gallery), but for this exhibition, even they aren’t getting any. No, I’m going to have to go online when the next block of tickets becomes available, and if I’m lucky enough to get them, take time off work to visit the gallery on a weekday. Oh well, I’ve had a good run.

If you’re fortunate enough to have tickets to this, know that you are one of a lucky few. And please, don’t make this the only art show you visit this year.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is at the Art Gallery of Ontario from March 3 to May 27, 2018.

Guillermo del Toro at the AGO

This past weekend, I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario to see it’s latest exhibition, Gillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters. Here is a short review.

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Surprisingly, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters is not the most depressing thing I’ve seen at the Art Gallery of Ontario (that award goes to Alex Colville) or the darkest (paging Francis Bacon). Believe it or not, it’s actually one of the gallery’s lightest exhibitions, and probably the one I would have enjoyed the most as a child. That may sound a bit weird (maybe I was a twisted kid), but it really isn’t as scary as it first appears.

Although some of the imagery may terrify a small child, for adults, it’s not a particularly haunting exhibition. I get the impression that beyond the imagery, del Toro is probably a decent dude. Many artists aren’t, although on the surface, they may appear to be.

At Home with Monsters provides an interesting glimpse into the mind of a supremely creative individual, but it is not all that heavy or intellectual. That’s okay, because it is well put together and visually stunning. In fact, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon looking at cool, if not creepy stuff. If you’ve got some time between now and the new year, I suggest you go.

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters is at the Art Gallery of Ontario until January 7, 2018.

Georgia O’Keefe at the Art Gallery of Ontario

This past Saturday, I hopped on the subway and headed downtown to see the Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Here is a brief review.

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ABOVE: Georgia O’Keeffe, My Front Yard, Summer, 1941, oil on canvas, 20 x 30 inches

BELOW: Georgia O’Keefe, Nature Forms – Gaspe, 1932, oil on canvas

Georgia O’Keeffe had a long and storied career that spanned many decades, so a full accounting of her life and work would be a tall order for any institution. That said, the people who put this exhibition together tried, and for that they deserve credit. This show isn’t perfect, but it’s still pretty good. Here are my thoughts:

There are a lot of pieces on display, and for the most part, they are shown in chronological order. While I would have liked to see more cityscapes (as they are my favorite of her works) there are at least a few key pieces from each phase of her artistic journey. Interspersed throughout, are numerous photographs of O’Keeffe, posing, and at work in her studio. These bring context to the exhibition, and being shot by the likes of Ansel Adams and Alfred Steiglitz, are exceptional on their own.

While walking through the galleries, I overheard a couple complaining that there were only “6 flowers in the show.” While this is true, the quality of what is on display is pretty impressive. O’Keeffes craft is really tight, and her paintings are very well made. You can rarely spot a pencil line in her work, which shows a strong attention to detail, and a labor intensive practice. She wasn’t whipping these things off, she was taking her time.

In terms of imagery, the retrospective does an excellent job of highlighting some of O’Keeffes many influences, namely abstraction and minimalism – her simplest works are quite calming. In terms of palette, her greens, whites and blues really pop. Her reds, not so much.

Pleasantly, there is a Canadian connection to all this, that being her painting “Nature Forms – Gaspe”. It was, by far, my favorite piece in the exhibition. It’s small, and tucked into a corner, but judging by the murmurs around it, seemed to impress everyone who saw it – not just me.

All said and done, this is a fairly well thought out exhibition, that while lacking some blockbuster pieces, gives a good accounting of the life and work of one of the 20th centuries greatest artists. If you’re a fan of her work, I highly suggest you go.

Georgia O’Keeffe is at the Art Gallery of Ontario until July 30, 2017.

Georgia O’Keeffe Comes to Toronto

On April 22, the long awaited, career-spanning retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe will open at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Here is a very brief biography of the artist.

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ABOVE: Georgia O’Keeffe, Jimson Weed, 1936, oil on canvas, 70 x 83.5 inches

Born in the tiny town of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1887, Georgia O’Keeffe decided at an early age that she was an artist, and after training with a local watercolorist, she left the state of Wisconsin and enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905.

Although a great student, her time in Chicago was cut short by typhoid fever, so in 1907 she resettled in New York City and attended the Art Students League. While there, she continued to excel and was awarded a scholarship to the League’s summer school, but once again, her studies were cut short – this time do to a lack of funds. After briefly working as a commercial artist, she moved with her family to Charlottesville, Virginia and quit painting for the next four years.

In 1911, she began teaching at an all-girls prep school, and in 1912, she enrolled in courses at the University of Virginia. While there, her personal style began to take shape.

In 1918, after a series of teaching jobs, she once again moved to New York City, this time with the financial support of photographer, and future husband, Alfred Stieglitz. During this time, she captured the city skyline, and began painting what she’s best known for today, flowers.

In the late twenties, she began splitting her time between New York and New Mexico, and in addition to flowers, began painting the desert landscape, often with skulls floating on the horizon. By now, she was a famous artist.

Throughout her long career, she was plagued with a series of ailments, and in the 1970’s began losing her eyesight to macular degeneration. Nonetheless, she kept painting until her death in 1986 at the age of 98.

In the years since her death, Georgia O’Keeffe has remained a much loved and critically celebrated artist. Her work can be found in numerous galleries around the world including a museum that bears her name in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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.