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.

.

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.

.

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.

.

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.