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Archive: September, 2013

David Bowie is: open!

September 26th, 2013

David Bowie is opening night. Photo by Dean Tomlinson/Art Gallery of Ontario.

Last night we had a little celebration outside the gallery to welcome the arrival of David Bowie is, running here until Nov. 27, 2013. Energized by tunes from DJ Brittney Townson (of duo Bangs & Blush), we welcomed visitors dressed in Bowie-inspired attire, who enjoyed free admission to the exhibition, as well as media cameras and lots of onlookers who had fun with our Bowie cutouts. Thanks to all who joined us! Read the rest of this entry »

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2013 at the AGO

September 20th, 2013

Your Temper, My Weather. © Diane Borsato, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

Your Temper, My Weather. © Diane Borsato, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

Click to expand

For Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2013, our current artist-in-residence, Diane Borsato, presented a major new performance with 100 regional beekeepers in Walker Court. While exploring the tangible effect of collective meditation, Your Temper, My Weather asked viewers to reflect upon the health and temper of bees and their keepers and on the policies and environmental conditions that affect our shared future. The night’s choreographed performance featured periods of guided, silent meditation, plus synchronized stretching and musical accompaniment.

Beekeeper © Diane Borsato, 2013. In collaboration with Winnie Truong. Courtesy of the artist.

Beekeeper © Diane Borsato, 2013. In collaboration with Winnie Truong. Courtesy of the artist.


The live performance ran from 6:51 p.m. until midnight with short, periodic breaks, and a video of the performance was screened in Walker Court from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m.

An accompanying piece by Toronto artist Winnie Truong, Beekeeper, was on display in the Elizabeth & Tony Comper Gallery. Borsato commissioned Truong to create this large illustration of a beekeeper stung in the eyes by bees.


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About Diane Borsato

Diane Borsato is a visual artist working in various media. Recently, she has worked with amateur naturalists including mycologists (botanists specializing in fungi), astronomers and beekeepers in projects that explore social, mobile and multisensory ways of exploring natural phenomena. Borsato will be in residency at the AGO until Nov. 8, 2013.

Ask a Curator Day is September 18: join the conversation on Twitter!

September 17th, 2013

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Curious about curation? Sept. 18, 2013, is your chance to ask an AGO curator your burning questions about their roles in the Gallery. Last year’s Ask a Curator Day was a lot of fun, and we hope this year’s event on Twitter will be just as good! These are the members of the AGO’s curatorial staff participating this year:

  • Andrew Hunter, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art
  • Greg Humeniuk, Canadian Art Curatorial Assistant
  • Georgiana Uhlyarik, Associate Curator of Canadian Art
  • Sasha Suda, Associate Curator of European Art

Learn more about the event here, and on Sept. 18 follow the #AskACurator hashtag on Twitter to gain insight into curatorial staff and curators from other galleries and museums around the world!

Conservation Notes: Don’t spill the Beans

September 16th, 2013

Beans, 2000. Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg. Overall: 43 x 33 x 35 cm (16 15/16 x 13 x 13 3/4 in.), polymer clay, wax, kraft paper, plastic. Purchased with financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program and with the assistance of the E. Wallace Fund, 2001

Beans, 2000. Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg. Overall: 43 x 33 x 35 cm (16 15/16 x 13 x 13 3/4 in.), polymer clay, wax, kraft paper, plastic. Purchased with financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program and with the assistance of the E. Wallace Fund, 2001

An example of packing and crating at the AGO

By Sherry Phillips, conservator of Contemporary and Inuit Art

Hendrika Sonnenberg and Chris Hanson’s artwork Beans is a large quantity of double-bagged, handmade kidney beans crafted of polymer clay, an artwork that sits quietly on a gallery floor when installed. The piece is fairly heavy but well balanced if installed correctly. However, the paper bag and handles of the plastic bag are not strong enough to be used to lift the artwork. Fortunately, the materials used to make the bags are still robust enough to contain the loose beans.

We received a loan request from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia about a year ago to include Beans in the upcoming exhibition Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg: The Way Things Are, running Oct. 25, 2013, to Jan. 26, 2014.

The assessment-for-loan process began with a conservation report on condition, to determine if it’s fit to travel, and a consideration of installation plans and schedules here at the Gallery, to make sure we don’t have plans to install the artwork over the course of the loan request. After we confirmed our support of the loan, we needed to determine how best to transport, handle and install the artwork. Knowing that the paper and plastic bags should not and could not be expected to support the weight of the piece during a lift, I devised yet another bag to contain the artwork and chose materials that would not damage the artwork now or into the future. It can be used to handle, transport and store the artwork, and it’s modelled on the familiar, reusable canvas shopping bag. Read the rest of this entry »

David Bowie is almost here (and free). Celebrate with us!

September 12th, 2013

Pierrot (or "Blue Clown") costume, 1980. Designed by Natasha Korniloff for the "Ashes to Ashes" video and Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album cover. Photograph by Brian Duffy. Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive. Courtesy of the David Bowie Archive Image © Victoria and Albert Museum.

Pierrot (or “Blue Clown”) costume, 1980. Designed by Natasha Korniloff for the “Ashes to Ashes” video and Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album
cover. Photograph by Brian Duffy. Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive. Courtesy of the David Bowie Archive
Image © Victoria and Albert Museum.

On the opening day of the exhibition David Bowie is, Sept. 25, 2013, admission to the exhibition is free for the first 200 people who come dressed up as Bowie between the hours of 6 to 8:30 p.m. We’re looking for Bowie-inspired makeup, costumes, fan gear — whatever says “Bowie” loud and clear. Show up decked out, mingle with Bowie impersonators and enjoy music by DJ Brittney Townson (of Bangs and Blush) and other surprises.*

Bowie is a style chameleon and has assumed so many personas — which one inspires you?
(click to enlarge and for more info)

*Please note: public tickets for David Bowie is for the evening of Sept. 25 have sold out, so we cannot guarantee entry to the exhibition that night for everyone who dresses up (beyond the first 200).

Conservation Notes: Magic numbers and dongles

September 9th, 2013

Part four of a series on the conservation of Max Dean’s As Yet Untitled. Get up to speed on the project.

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By Sherry Phillips, conservator of Contemporary and Inuit Art

This week, we sent off As Yet Untitled to VOX, Centre de l’image contemporaine, where it will be included in Le Mois de la Photo à Montreal, running Sept. 5 to Oct. 5, 2013. It was a hectic week leading up to packing the installation, and every day that we ran the robot program we learned something new: usually something quirky, possibly undesirable, but something that had to be addressed nevertheless.

There is a certain amount of imprecision in programming and teaching the robot. Much of the process is trial and error and repetition and running out to the local electronics store for supplies (see below). We spent long hours simply turning the control unit off and on, repeating robot actions by manually moving the arm back to its zero point, testing alignment marks, and watching and waiting for discrepancies, anomalies and tics. Once those arose, we began the long process of looking for and correcting the potential source of the problem, which could be as simple as a misplaced period within a line of code.

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As Yet Untitled is time-based media and performance art. We needed to patiently teach it how to move through its performance by establishing the coordinates for each of its five joints: the shoulder, arm, elbow and two wrists. To get a sense of how it moves, check out another famous Canadian robot, the Canadarm 2, which has an impressive seven joints in all.

I eavesdropped with interest and admiration to the telephone chats between Marcel and Richard, and although they were speaking English, I really never fully understood what they were saying. One conversation was particularly engaging for me as an outsider: this is where I learned about the concept of a “magic number.” It’s kind of a calibration number; it could be zero but may not be, it can show up out of the blue and may have no real meaning, it might be specific to only this robot and can be critical to know in order to calibrate the robot.

On another occasion I accused Marcel and Max of making up the term “dongle” to describe a piece of hardware on the back of the control unit. But it really is a word, probably arbitrary in its coinage (did someone think it was more descriptive than “thingy”?). As it turns out, it refers to a piece of hardware in the computer industry that acts like a key. Without the dongle the program/robot will not run; in this robot’s case, the dongle is attached to the auxiliary emergency-stop switch.

as yet untitled connections (13)

At the conclusion of the loan in Montreal, the robot will return to the AGO. I’ll need to establish a maintenance program and schedule for the robot and the installation’s various components; the arm should be occasionally manipulated, the compressor operated and the conveyor motor occasionally turned to prevent seals from desiccating and leaking. I’ve also requested that some space be found at the Gallery in order to install at least the robot and control unit so we can continue refinements of the program while the process is still fresh in our minds.

One of the most challenging aspects of the project was the identification and, in this case, numerical qualification of the movement in part and in whole — in other words the “performance” of the piece. The robot is capable of subtlety, and its actions should be precisely replicated each cycle, unlike a human performance, when there will be variations between each cycle. We spent many hours discussing and adjusting each joint, especially the wrist joints, where the movement could be most fluid and very delicate. In the end, however, the robot’s performance is still only as good as the information its human programmers can give it.


Curious about Conservation?
If you have a burning question about Conservation, leave a comment below. We’ll do our best to give you an answer in an upcoming Conservation Notes post.


Signature Partner of the AGO’s Conservation Program


Date with Jane Avril: Toulouse-Lautrec’s Muse

September 3rd, 2013

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril, 1899, brush lithograph, printed in four colours from three stones on paper, 56 x 38 cm. Gift of the Donald R. Muller/Ross R. Scott Collection, 2010. 2010/103.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril, 1899, brush lithograph, printed in four colours from three stones on paper, 56 x 38 cm. Gift of the Donald R. Muller/Ross R. Scott Collection, 2010. 2010/103.

This September our Prints & Drawings department invites you to join them for a Date with Jane Avril: Toulouse-Lautrec’s Muse, the newest edition of its Date with [Art] monthly programming series.

Starting Sept. 4 and each Wednesday throughout the month, stop by the Marvin Gelber Print & Drawing Study Centre for the Open Door program, running from 1 to 8 p.m. Enjoy tours of the Study Centre and see original prints by Toulouse-Lautrec. Before 5 p.m., you can even ask staff members to bring specific works out out from storage for viewing.

“Date with Jane Avril: Toulouse-Lautrec’s Muse” is also the title of this month’s Second Friday Talk, happening Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. (Study Centre doors open at 10:30 a.m. for viewing works). This is a free talk by one of our wonderful Prints and Drawings volunteers, centred around six original prints by Toulouse-Lautrec, all depicting cabaret performer Jane Avril.

Have questions about Prints and Drawings at the AGO? Leave them in the comments below.