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Archive: March, 2010

Gayle Gibson: Tutankhamun: A Body of Evidence (Audio)

March 18th, 2010

Was Tutankhamun murdered? Was his tomb cursed? We review the physical evidence revealed by medical science and recent scholarship to determine what did happen to the young man, and consider what his bones reveal about his life.

Featuring Gayle Gibson, Educator, Royal Ontario Museum.

Recorded: February 24, 2010 @ Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 1:26:42

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First biography of Gerhard Richter garners praise

March 16th, 2010

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter at the opening of his 1988 exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Written with complete access to Gerhard Richter’s Archives, Dietmar Elger’s new book, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting was recently hailed by the Financial Times as a landmark text.

As Richter’s former assistant, Dietmar Elger, currently the main curator of the Galerie Neue Meister of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and head of the Gerhard Richter Archive, had the chance to delve into the personal stories and private archives of this influential German artist.

From the review:

Elger creates a splendid portrait of Germany’s postwar amnesia refracted through the prism of Richter’s rapid developments….he unravels a psychologically compelling story: how across the decades Richter’s art of restraint and non-commitment reaches its high points when he dared let flamboyance or emotion in by stealth.

The Art Gallery of Ontario has a long connection with Gerhard Richter, organizing his first North American retrospective in 1988, and, upon reopening in 2008, creating a room focussed on his art in the David and Vivian Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art.

Dietmar Elger will speak in Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario on Wednesday March 24th at 7pm (Doors Open @ 6:30pm).  This event is co-presented by the Goethe-Institut Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario and University of Chicago Press.

Roberta Shaw: Glamour and Vogue in Ancient Egypt (Audio)

March 15th, 2010

Roberta Shaw

The people who lived in ancient Egypt were as absorbed in personal adornment as the fashionistas of today. A remarkable archaeological record of their clothing, cosmetics and, above all, their fabulous jewelry allows us to recreate their high fashion “looks” over some three millennia. Roberta Shaw discusses all the accoutrements that went into producing their idea of perfect personal beauty.

Recorded: March 3, 2010 @ Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 1:19:46

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Sunday Concert: Pianist Hyoseon Sunny Kim

March 12th, 2010

Hyoseon Sunny Kim

The AGO is partnering with the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) to host Sunday afternoon concerts in Walker Court, where talented RCM students present weekly performances.

This week's concert features pianist Hyoseon Sunny Kim.

Born in Korea, Hyoseon Sunny Kim began her musical education at the age of 5, and moved to Canada when she was 12 years old. She enrolled in the RCM’s Young Artists’ Performance Academy program, performing at the master classes. She was awarded first prize in York Region’s Celebration of the Arts in 2006, and in Kiwanis Music Festival’s Trophy and Silver Tray classes, and many others. Previously attending the University of Western Ontario as a continuing admission scholarship recepient, she is currently studying at the RCM’s Glenn Gould School as a scholarship student.

Sunday concerts are held in Walker Court from 1:30 to 2:15 pm, and are free with admission.

On Rembrandt and Freud

March 11th, 2010

by Richard Rhodes, Editor of Canadian Art

The following text is from a talk given to the AGO Curators’ Circle
Art Gallery of Ontario, Monday February 22, 2010

Rembrandt van Rijn,	Self Portrait in a Velvet Cap with Plume

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Self Portrait in a Velvet Cap with Plume 1638 etching on laid paper 2006/229 Gift of Esther and Sam Sarick, 2006 © Art Gallery of Ontario

Rembrandt gave us the modern face, the face in performance, alive with natural movement, like the furrowed crease of a brow in this image. In his etchings he gave us faces that erase the time gap between now and the 17th century. We connect on direct recognizable terms. Perhaps he is practicing a character in a painting. Or perhaps the process of looking in the mirror and scratching the image onto a plate is part of a dialogue with himself. The eyes look for resolution, a release from anger, or maybe it’s an answer they expect to find in the mirror.

Now jump ahead 18 years. This is Rembrandt’s last etched self-portrait; he is in his mid 40s, halfway between the curly-haired dramatic youth of the first portrait and the rumpled ruin that looks out from the last great self-portrait painting. He’s seen his wife die and two of his three children in infancy. His private life is a wreck and he is about to have his lover, the wet nurse of his surviving son, committed to a madhouse to make room for a younger woman. Bankruptcy is soon upon him. It’s a waiting face. There’s added weight around the shoulders and the point of view is pushed back so that there is space between him and the mirror. It’s a scrutinizing space that he closes with an edge of level defiance in his gaze, a tired defiance of himself.

Rembrandt van Rijn,	Naked Woman Seated on a Mound

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) Naked Woman Seated on a Mound 1631 c etching on laid paper 2006/257 Gift of Esther and Sam Sarick, 2006 © Art Gallery of Ontario

We could go on and on here but the point is that Rembrandt’s etchings are available to our projections into them in ways that other 17th century art isn’t. This is his gift and it why we still look at him. We feel a human continuity, a recognition of subjects that were once alive the way we are alive. His paintings can get in the way of that immediacy. So much brown soup and staginess—and bible stories we don’t remember anymore or never knew in the first place. But the etchings escape this datedness. They have a freshness that never seems to abate.

I’m sure the AGO didn’t know when they asked me here tonight, but Rembrandt’s etchings played a big part in sealing my fate. For an eleven year-old in Winnipeg in the early 1960s an exhibition of Rembrandt etchings would not have been a big lure except for the fact that it was an excuse to go to the new mall at the other end of town and that it was attached to a personal appearance by the Hollywood horror movie actor Vincent Price, a three in one deal. Four in one if you counted the new bed for my younger brother. In any event, Vincent Price came to Winnipeg to show his art collection at Sears. In those progressive times Sears Roebuck had hired Price, who was a collector and an art student before he was an actor, to tour North America and pitch Sears’s new in-store art gallery which sold art selected by Price. If you type Vincent Price and Sears into Google Videos you can actually watch a sales staff promotional film, hosted by Price, for Sear’s Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art. I knew none of this at the time. It was just a Saturday, we were at the Mall, my parents were buying a bed and I got to see Vincent Price, who seemed very tall even though he was far away. He said a few words in a crowded room and shook a few hands.

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Artist Drawing from the Model

Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch 1606-1669, The Artist Drawing from the Model, c.1639, Etching, drypoint and burin on laid paper, Gift of Esther and Samuel Sarick, 2006, 2006/256, © Art Gallery of Ontario

I got in line with the people who moved along the walls in front of the pictures. Eventually I arrived at some black and white drawings that were about a story I knew. They weren’t drawings of course, they were etchings, variations on a crucifixion scene, with figure outlines better than any I had seen in a comic book and scratchy, angled, criss-cross lines that were capable of pulling light out of shadows. Eventually my mother came and found me. I went home and started on a cross-hatch mania that lasted the eight years between leaving Winnipeg to go back to Montreal for high school and then to Toronto for art school, where I spent much of my first two years in and out of the print shop with etching plates.

A few years ago I saw the same images again in a bigger show of Rembrandt’s etchings at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. It felt like coming home. This time though I was taken with how crowded they are. With how Rembrandt takes a bible story and turns it into a people story, a social story, a story about how the many are gathered and implicated in the changing grey tones of a falling spotlight. At the Morgan you could track this out in other images, like the way the dark shroud spreader here has a dominant role in the foreground along with the reaching hand that acts out the business of being alive in the near presence of the dead face of Christ. It’s a burial scene that speaks its religious content in a vernacular voice. It’s the same here with the interactive crowd and the distracted dog. It could almost be an illustration for a Dickens story—Or here—with the window gawkers and the democratized crowd of equally scaled figures, the bound Christ among them. This is a people’s bible with Piero della Francesca and Caravaggio in the background with precursor editions.

Lucian Freud,	Girl with Fuzzy Hair

Lucian Freud (British, b. 1922) Girl with Fuzzy Hair 2004 etching on paper, signed, edition of 46 n/a Courtesy of Mira Godard Gallery © Lucian Freud

But let’s get back to those Rembrandt shadows and the life within, and how they are part of the nature of etching. Is there a medium that delivers better blacks? Seurat made a pretty good case for conte crayon on textured paper in his amazing silhouette drawings but the inked etching plate offers a special kind of constructed black, a black with history and time and duration built in. Here is a nativity scene made all the more potent with its engulfing black. Or this picture of an old man reading. The built shadows of a dark etching are alive. They are their own memento mori which is one the reasons why a number of artists with serious humanist intent have found their way to etching—like Goya, like Hopper, like Freud. Its blacks are an existential partner in their work, a tonal touchstone. I think one of the main reasons for this gravitation is that etching uniquely allows for the possibility to work with dark themes without being consumed by them. Rothko should have found etching. His paintings ended up eating him alive, which is one of their attractions for us.

What we forget in looking is that the darkest of etchings is paradoxically the lightest of drawings. The tones happen in reverse like a photographic negative. As the needle carves into the dark ground, the brightness of the metal plate shines through. The more lines, the more shine. The artist may be working towards the pitch black of night in a lowly stable but the drawing itself begins to possess the brightness of a star, the one that’s nowhere to be seen in Rembrandt’s etching. In its preparation, the etching arrives at light, which is a gloriously lovely metaphor for the criticality and contrariness that is part of the humanist paradigm.

Even light-toned etchings have a special whiteness, due partly to the spaciousness that resides in the needlepoint greys and partly to the imprint of the plate that gives the surface dimensionality and a doubled sense of touch—hand touched with the thickening and thinning lines of the drawing, plate touched with a precisely defined surface that carries an imprint at its edge. Just look at a corner of this small etching. Compare the white of the paper to the stained white of the surface area. These are whites of different kinds, the inner one invites the imagination; the outer one belongs in the practical realm of size, care and value. The inner white communicates with semantic value, symbolic value. It is not just paper. In another remarkable print in the gallery Rembrandt runs through a full gamut of darks and lights in a single, unfinished print. Brenda Rix tells me that these unfinished exercises were prized by collectors and served as calling cards of the artist’s expertise.

Lucian Freud,	Susanna

Lucian Freud (British, b. 1922) Susanna 1996 etching on paper, signed, edition of 40 2006/367 Gift of Dr. A.D. Taliano, 2006 © Lucian Freud

What’s arresting now though is the proximity we see to Picasso’s Minotaur etchings from the 1930s that link to the style of his neoclassical drawings of the late teens and 1920s. The lines are heavier, the cross-hatching looser, but in both prints the white unfinished space communicates a kind of innocence, a detachment in character from the greys of naturally rendered light—it is a detachment or separation from the norms of passing time, in other words, from history. The result is that Rembrandt’s white female figure belongs to a different world, She seems like a visitation, a night ghost. In the Picasso there is the same disjunction. The two figures—one and half actually—are cocooned inside the contours of sex, a world that is on the cusp, when the woman awakes, of turning into a confrontation with brute power, horror and myth.

One of the interesting aspects of the show downstairs in the gallery is to watch Lucian Freud turns this whiteness around. There are all kinds of affinities in the themes that Rembrandt and Freud address and the show is laid out in terms of these connections. But what I come away with are the differences between them, the shifts in attitude and sensibility that make Freud so clearly contemporary in way the Rembrandt can never be.

In fact, in a way that even Freud’s compatriots are not. Here is a Frank Auerbach etching. There are times when I think that Auerbach, a fellow London School artist, is a more significant painter than Freud but in his etching his nervous, unstopping, finding line circles a point of view that gives us a heroic subject and a spirit of sympathetic altruism. Not Freud. His own self-portrait revels in wreckage—look at the mouth—and hides the eyes to deny us the direct contact that Rembrandt was so insistent on. We are left, in this case, with dirty whites and blocked interiority. Let’s remember that this is Sigmund Freud’s grandson, and his work has an aspect of family rebellion that downgrades notions of psyche in favour of sociology.

Lucian Freud, Self-Portrait: Reflection

Lucian Freud (British, b. 1922) Self-Portrait: Reflection 1996 etching on paper, signed, edition of 46 n/a Courtesy of Mira Godard Gallery © Lucian Freud

There’s a whole series of portraits in the show that are tight-fisted with individuality. The portraits carry names but Freud’s patchy drawing style wins out every time to subsume the person into a broken look. A mood of off-hours casualness gets us beyond a passport photo into a studied nearness where the perception of flesh takes precedence over personal narrative. His subjects are all immediacy. They have no story to tell. They are just aging within conventional appearances, bearing their bone structure and style adoptions under a hard contrasty light that seems to bounce off their skin with the forensic clarity of camera flash. This rendering adds a level of duress to all of the faces and raises an interesting tension where normality comes with a blanket of anxiety. He must have been a familiar with Diane Arbus.

In other faces, Freud exercises subtle domination with points of view aimed down onto his subjects. Sometimes they are actually reclining, other times just subtly lowered within the picture frame. But the result is a slightly slack air of an entropic decline. When he switches to landscape it’s the same. Here he is having fun with reference to a mighty Constable English Oak; here it’s an impressionist view, only angled down into a maze of garden foliage; here the spiky coarseness of a thistle turns monumental.

One of the most compelling contrasts in the exhibition comes with these two etchings, which are near reversals of one another: a front view, a back view, a Freud, a Rembrandt. Here’s where you see the turn around in the white. Freud’s white reads as glare. It bounces back, it’s isolating, it adds enough uneasiness to wonder about the woman’s comfort with her pregnancy, or the human warmth of the world she finds herself in. In the Rembrandt the white sheet is an invitation to the woman. It is a draw to soft light and a gentle sleep; it’s a magnet that pulls us in, not Freud’s push away.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Negress Lying Down

Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch 1606-1669, Negress Lying Down, 1658, Etching, drypoint and burin on laid paper, Gift of Esther and Samuel Sarick, 2006, 2006/258, © Art Gallery of Ontario

Lucian Freud, Before the Fourth

Lucian Freud (British, b. 1922) Before the Fourth 2004 etching on paper, signed, edition of 46 Courtesy of Mira Godard Gallery © Lucian Freud

The difference between the etchings represents a change in vision, a change in subjectivity. It charts the passage from a confident humanist vision in the 17th century to a skeptical, ruined humanism at the end of the 20th. Freud is a poet of lostness and isolation, and of a dark shift in imaginative light. His etched whites entertain a prospect of obliteration. In symbolic terms they might as well be black and he makes us carry that contradiction in our heads as we look. This is the interiority that’s otherwise missing in his work. He makes images that have a dead-endedness to them. This opaqueness, arrives and ends at flesh and its glare registers as a harsh wisdom. It’s a light and a world that Rembrandt never knew.

The images downstairs are richly engaging on these terms. We see two artists, far apart, brought close by a show that concentrates on what they share in their attachment to the human story.

Tutankhamun in context: the political and religious landscapes of Amarna and Thebes (Audio)

March 10th, 2010

Dr. Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner

Tutankhamun lived in “interesting times.” He grew up in the royal court at Amarna, and was ultimately buried in western Thebes. Archaeological evidence from these sites provides crucial insights into the dynamic religious and political changes that took place during Tutankhamun’s rule.

With Dr. Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner, Associate Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at the University of Toronto.

Recorded: January 27 @ Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 1:19:46

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David Silverman: The Unity of Art and Writing in Ancient Egypt (Audio)

March 10th, 2010

David Silverman

While writing and art often interrelate in many cultures, the unity of the two is perhaps most integrated and apparent in ancient Egypt. It may well have something to do with the fact that the two-dimensional representations so characteristic of Egyptian art, begin to appear around 3100 BCE- at almost precisely the same time that hieroglyphic writing makes its first appearance – more than 5000 years ago. Born together, these two means of expression continued in complimentary use for more than 3000 years, well into our own era, and produced a uniquely beautiful and intensely meaningful means of communication.

Dr. David Silverman is the National Curator, Advisor and Academic Content Creator for Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs.

Recorded: Wednesday February 3 @ Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 1:20:34

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Keep On Tutting

March 5th, 2010

Tutting at the AGO

Tutting at the AGO
Tutting at the AGO

Early last Sunday morning, February 28, more than 100 eager "Tutters" came to the AGO to try setting a new Guinness World Record for the most people Tutting continuously for five minutes.

Professional dance artist Mark Cabuena from the Toronto dance crews Grand Illusion and For the Funk of It led 107 participants of all ages in a choreographed routine. All participants received a free ticket to the AGO and to see the King Tut exhibition. They were also entered in a draw to win a King Tut weekend in Toronto! Karen C. from Toronto was the lucky winner of a night for two at the Westin Harbour Castle, two VIP tickets to see King Tut, and $500 in shopping certificates courtesy of Scarborough Town Centre.

"The success of this event was measured by the overwhelming support of the hip hop community and their enthusiastic response," said Sue Boyle, coordinator, promotions and tourism, and organizer of the event. "It was a huge hit and one step closer to creating a positive relationship with a new audience."

Over 13,600 people have watched our Tutting video on YouTube, and the AGO has received numerous emails from local youth voicing their positive response to this initiative.

We are waiting to see if we set a record. Stay tuned and keep Tutting.

Sunday Concert: Tenor Michael Ciufo

March 5th, 2010

The AGO is partnering with the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) to host Sunday afternoon concerts in Walker Court. Talented RCM students present weekly performances right through spring 2010.

This week's concert features tenor Michael Ciufo, with pianist David Eliakis.

Canadian tenor Michael Ciufo is quickly becoming known for his stage presence, charisma, and gorgeous voice. His opera experience includes Mozart’s "The Marriage of Figaro", the Canadian premiere of Respighi’s "The Sleeping Beauty", and Handel’s "Joshua" with the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, and much more. Michael is a third year Sidgwick Scholar with the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, and is currently enrolled in the Artist Diploma Program at the Glenn Gould School studying voice.

Sunday concerts are held in Walker Court from 1:30 to 2:15 pm, and are free with admission.