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A monument to the dispossessed

July 13th, 2018

Two sculpture works by Rebecca Belmore - Tower and tarpaulin

Rebecca Belmore, Tower, 2018 (detail) and tarpaulin (2018). Installed at the Art Gallery of Ontario © Rebecca Belmore

Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental opened just last week at the AGO and the exhibition is getting rave reviews from visitors and the press. Heralded as “striking and provocative” by The New York Times, Canadian Art says, “To call Rebecca Belmore’s work ‘powerful,’ as it often is, is to make the understatement of this century.” The Toronto Star says, “Rebecca Belmore’s work is monumental, yes, but poetic too.”

A highlight of the exhibition is a pair of new works, Tower and tarpaulin, installed side by side. The works stem, Belmore writes in the exhibition catalogue, from recent experiences in Vancouver, where she was struck by the opposing forces of rapid condo development and homelessness.

“I understood the severity of land as real estate – everything owned, everywhere for sale, and how, in our so-called great cities, the reality of owning anything is out of reach for most of us, with no solution in sight,” Belmore writes. Staring into the construction site of yet another condominium, she recounts, “all I could think about was landlessness and those who are without a home.”

On the AGO’s Level 5, a slender spire, constructed of shopping carts and clay, Tower stands over 15 feet tall. Shopping carts, the makeshift home of the homeless, are here re-imagined as a shiny metal condominium. The clay, which runs down the centre of the structure before pooling out at the bottom, reminds us that these carts represent, for the homeless, their own piece of earth, however transitory. To the right and down sits tarpaulin, cast from clay sourced from beneath the city of Winnipeg; a sculpture of a tarp-like blanket, bunched on the floor, is a meager shelter for an absent person.

Belmore is the recipient of the 2016 Gershon Iskowitz Prize, and for over three decades her poetic and compelling works – in video, performance, sculpture and photography – have tackled topics such as land rights, violence against Indigenous people, water issues, climate change and homelessness. The AGO’s exhibition is a powerful presentation of Belmore’s work. Be among the first to see it.

Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental fills Level 5 of the AGO’s Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art, and there’s more in the AGO’s Galleria Italia, Joey & Toby Tanenbaum Atrium and newly reopened J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous & Canadian Art. A large video projection by Belmore can also be seen at the intersection of Queen and Bay Streets in downtown Toronto on the TD Bank media art wall.

Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario. Included in General Admission, the exhibition runs until October 21.

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