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What’s in a name?

May 23rd, 2018

Painting of a tall skinny white geometric church in a forest

Emily Carr, Church In Yuquot Village, 1929. Oil on Canvas. Bequest of Charles S. Band, Toronto 1970,
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Copyright Art Gallery of Ontario 2007

In 1928, artist Emily Carr visited Yuquot, a Mowachaht Muchalaht village on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, and painted the Catholic church located there. As she worked, Carr took some artistic license – she moved the church cemetery and heightened the forest to increase the dramatic relationship between the building and the trees.

Carr titled the painting Indian Church. “Carr would have used the language of the day, and ‘Indian’ was the word of her day,” says Wanda Nanibush, AGO Curator of Indigenous Art. “But that word has the power to hurt – it denigrates and discriminates against Indigenous people.”

The AGO seeks to be a welcoming space to all people, reflecting the diversity of the city we call home. As part of our collection reinstallation to better reflect the nation to nation status in Canada and the multiplicity of stories in Canada, it was time to explore a new name – one that wouldn’t further discrimination, but acknowledge the past while looking to the future.

“We have to ask: ‘What was it that so compelled Emily Carr to paint this site? What was she trying to convey?’ This is important to consider as her own artistic expression. She captured the tremendous beauty and natural force of the forest as it engulfs and overpowers this man-made structure. The title then gives specificity, accuracy to the site as an up-to- date description of the work while at the same time acknowledging the painting’s history and the title Carr herself used when she exhibited it during her lifetime,” says Georgiana Uhlyarik, Frederik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art.

In 1912 Carr returned from France to paint the villages and the totems poles that she believed were part of a disappearing way of life. This sentiment reflected her own internalized colonialism. At the same time, AGO curators wanted to reflect the perspective of the First Nation community where the church was located. Carr’s painting depicts a Mowachaht Muchalaht space. We reached out to the Mowachaht Muchalaht First Nation (member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council) and the band administration connected us to Margarita James, a Mowachaht Muchalaht Elder, who supported the name change and the accompanying label text. The new name is more specific – explaining to the viewer where the church was painted.

Today the church is undergoing a large renovation project, led by the Land of Maquinna Cultural Society. Ha-Shilth-Sa newspaper quoted Margarita James, the society’s president and Mowachaht/Muchalaht Elder, on the initiative. “A lot of nations choose to tear down their churches. But because some of the elders got married there – there were a lot nice community events there – Elders at that time chose to keep it.”

Around the world museums are grappling with the issue of discriminatory language. In 2015, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum announced it was removing offending language from titles in its collection. Martine Gosselink, head of the museum’s history department, explained, “The point is not to use names given by whites to others.”

For the AGO, the point is not to ignore the original title and its harmful language. The Carr painting, currently on view at the AGO, is accompanied by panel text that talks about the painting’s history, including the original name, the artist’s intent and the reasoning behind the decision to change its name.

The title change is part of new approaches in our Indigenous and Canadian galleries. Most landscape paintings now have land acknowledgements to recognize that First Nations people have been connected to the land for generations. Gallery text also appears in English, French and Anishinaabemowin out of respect to the original nation whose land the AGO stands on.

Emily Carr’s Church in Yuquot Village is currently on view in Gallery 126.  The Indigenous and Canadian collections at the AGO are free with general admission and the gallery is free every Wednesday evening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The kids are alright

May 18th, 2018

A black and white image of Rowan Lynch in an art studio.

Portrait of Rowan Lynch. Photo by Sardar Farrokhi.

For over 10 years, the AGO Youth Council  has initiated all sorts of programming by young people for young people, including exhibitions, public art projects, events, field trips and more.

We chatted with Youth Council member Rowan Lynch to find out why she loves being a member of this collective. Lynch joined the Youth Council in her first year at OCAD in 2013. As a frequent AGO visitor, the idea of meeting other art lovers around her age and taking a peek behind the scenes of the museum sounded like an opportunity too good to miss. Read the rest of this entry »

Pride returns to First Thursday!

May 18th, 2018

An advertisement for the AGO First Thursday in June 2018 featuring DJ Andy Butler.

Image by the AGO.

Pride Toronto turns 38 this year, and once again includes an extravaganza of LGBTQ+ performances, parades, parties and panels during the month of June. The AGO is PROUD as ever to be kicking off Pride Month again – with the launch party at our First Thursday on June 7.

This year, Pride Toronto is looking back at the decades of activism in queer history with the theme, Action = Life. Inspired by this theme, AGO First Thursdays’ Bodies in Revolution program features an all-star lineup of artists who use their bodies to make change. Read the rest of this entry »

The gifts they gave

May 18th, 2018

drawing of a four headed sea creature in green, blue and greys

Kenojuak Ashevak, Seamaids, 1978. Stonecut on paper, Sheet: 61.7 × 91.8 cm. Gift of Samuel and Esther Sarick, Toronto, 2002. © Estate of Kenojuak Ashevak.

Did you know “tunirrusiangit” means “the gifts they gave” in Inuktitut?

Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak, opening June 16, will showcase the gifts of two formidable artists – including over 100 works on paper by “the grandmother of Inuit art” Kenojuak Ashevak (1927–2013), and her nephew Tim Pitsiulak (1967–2016), one of the most sought-after contemporary Inuit artists in his lifetime.

A team of Inuit artists and curators will weave first-person narratives, storytelling, poetry and film through the exhibition. The curatorial team includes sculptor Koomuatuk Curley (based in Ottawa), writer and storyteller Taqralik Partridge (based in Kautokeino, Norway), curator Jocelyn Pirrainen (based in Ottawa) and performer Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (based in Iqaluit).

Marking a new type of curatorial collaboration at the AGO, the curators led the exhibition’s development at every stage, contributing new artworks and shaping everything from public programming to exhibition texts.

“Through the exhibition, we’ve aimed to create a bridge between the past and the future, and to give the public a unique view of the work of two incredible artists,” says Tunirrusiangit co-curator Jocelyn Pirrainen. “In Inuktitut, tunirrusiangit means ‘their gifts’ or ‘the gifts they gave.’ It’s a fitting exhibition title, since it recognizes the artists’ lasting legacies, while conveying how inspirational and impactful their work has been on each of us, as Inuit curators.”

Visitors to the exhibition will pass through Silaup Putunga (2018), a constantly changing projection created by curator and performer Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (with videographer Jamie Griffiths). In a gallery featuring Kenojuak Ashevak’s images of summer hunting camps, visitors will be invited to sit in a qarmaq (a traditional sod house) to hear original stories written and shared by co-curator, writer and storyteller Taqralik Partridge. And throughout the exhibition, visitors will hear from the families of Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak, in Inuktitut with English subtitles, thanks to interviews filmed by co-curator Koomuatuk Curley, an artist and sculptor from Kinngait (formerly known as Cape Dorset) who is also Tim Pitsiulak’s nephew.

Check out below some of the gorgeous works on paper by Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitiuslak you’ll see in the exhibition.

Stay tuned for more AGOinsider stories about this exciting exhibition. Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak is included in General Admission and runs at the AGO from June 16 to August 12, 2018. Don’t miss it!

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Tunirrusiangit: Kenojuak Ashevak and Tim Pitsiulak is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario in partnership with Mobilizing Inuit Cultural Heritage, with the support of Dorset Fine Arts, a division of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative. 

A Closer Look: Krieghoff edition

May 18th, 2018

Cornelius Krieghoffs painting of a wild crowd in front of a mid-19th Century bar in the early hours of the morning.

Cornelius Krieghoff. Breaking Up of a Country Ball in Canada, Early Morning, 1857. Oil on canvas, 60.9 x 91.3 cm. The Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

In our blog series, A Closer Look, we explore some amazing works in the AGO Collection. Don’t miss our recent feature on a springtime Camille Pissarro painting. This edition, we’re turning our attention to the fantastic details of artist Cornelius Krieghoff (1815–1872).

Brawls, wild parties, sleigh rides – Krieghoff was known for his depictions of life in Quebec in the 1800s (then known as Lower Canada). A prolific artist, he’s estimated to have created up to 1,800 prints and paintings in his 42 years of artmaking.

What sets Krieghoff apart from his contemporaries are the wry details in his paintings. His work is like an 1800s version of Where’s Waldo? The AGO has over 150 Krieghoffs, and right now, 63 are on display in the galleries housing the Thomson Collection of Canadian Art on Level 2. It’s a lot to see, but if you take the time to look closely at these works, you’ll be rewarded by spotting some cheekier elements of his narrative scenes. Below we zoom in on a few.   Read the rest of this entry »

‘Til infinity us do part

May 18th, 2018

A man proposes on one knee to his girlfriend inside Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Room.

The proposal, caught on camera! Image courtesy of the couple. Work shown: Yayoi Kusama. Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013 © Yayoi Kusama

Deciding to propose to your partner is a big deal. How and when to pop the question is no small matter either. It’s something you want to get just right. Art fan and AGO visitor Edwin decided that Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors was the perfect place to propose to his long-time girlfriend, Maria. Read the rest of this entry »

Join the Club

May 11th, 2018

Inspired by Project Runways’ “Unconventional Material Challenge”, Free After Three: Style Club participants will search through the archive of AGO craft and art supplies to create a garment or an accessory. Image courtesy of the artist.

Love fashion? Know a budding fashion designer or street-style icon? This spring the AGO’s Free After Three: Style Club invites budding fashion fans (ages 14–25) to participate in a hands-on artmaking series of (totally free!) workshops, infused with the creative flare of the fashion world.

The workshops are inspired by Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors – particularly, the artist’s iconic fashion style. Led by local designers, stylists and artists, Style Club workshops explore everything from styling, to alterations, vintage collecting and more. Check out our recent feature on Style Club instructor Andréa Lalonde, a visual artist and the owner of Nouveau Riche Vintage.

Vanessa Fischer, another Style Club instructor, is an award-winning costume designer and wardrobe stylist based in Toronto, working in theatre, commercials, music videos, television and film. Vanessa will be nurturing young fashion enthusiasts with a series of workshops including one where participants learn how to mix, match and clash patterns and prints. In another, a T-shirt becomes a canvas as participants stencil, cut, paint, braid, stitch or patch a blank T-shirt. And don’t miss the street-style fashion show, where fashion fans learn how to style their favourite pieces and accessories to create runway-ready looks. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrate the long weekend with more Infinity!

May 11th, 2018

interior view of Yayoi Kusama's Dots Obsession Infinity Mirror Room, reflected endlessly in mirrors. Background is pink with black polka dots.

Yayoi Kusama. Dots Obsession – Love Transformed Into Dots, 2007, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Mixed media installation. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver.

The May long weekend is just a few days away, kicking off the season for beach days on the Island, BBQs and patios, summer festivals and leisurely afternoons in the city. This long weekend, the AGO is the place to be, with more chances to experience “the hottest ticket in town,” Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors.

This Thursday, the AGO launches the first of six nights that the exhibition, celebrating the work of one of the greatest living contemporary artists, stays open until midnight. Infinity Mirrors will be open until midnight the last two weekends of its run on May 17, 18 & 19, and May 24, 25 & 26 – with 4,000 late night rush tickets added. Sadly, after a whirlwind three months, Infinity Mirrors must close on Sunday, May 27. Read the rest of this entry »

A magical night

May 11th, 2018

Party-goers silhouetted against Maxwell Burnstein's hanging collage works at the AGO's Massive Party.

Maxwell Burnstein’s collage installation at Massive Illusion. Image by the AGO

Illusions were front and centre on April 19th at the AGO’s 14th annual AGO Massive.

While indulging in delicious themed cocktails and canapés, guests were treated to mind-bending installations from artists at Massive Illusion, including collage art from Maxwell Burnstein, an interactive bike-powered light show from Studio F Minus and the beautiful (and eloquent) installation from duo Trevor Wheatley and Cosmo Dean hanging from the ceiling of Walker Court.

Check out highlights below:

Read the rest of this entry »