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Mining the AGO’s collections for an artist book

August 5th, 2015

By Meera Margaret Singh

Photos by Meera Margaret Singh (far right and far left) installed in the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery.

Photos by Meera Margaret Singh (far right and far left) installed in the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery.

The experience of working at the AGO as the artist-in–residence for summer 2015 has been an extremely productive and rewarding venture. After having organized several interventions in the form of free participatory Laughter Yoga workshops in both Walker Court and Galleria Italia (filling space typically reserved for quiet contemplation with the powerful sound of a collective laughing) and then installing two photographs from my series of female body builders into the European Collection (located in the Fudger Gallery, pictured above), I’ve decided to add a third element to the residency: creating a small-edition artist book.

Being in the AGO, surrounded by an incredible collection of art, along with the insertion of my work into the gallery space has allowed me to think about the various forms of dialogue that can take shape between historic and the contemporary artists/artworks. I began several weeks ago to mine various collections (European, Canadian, African, Modern and Contemporary, Photography and Prints and Drawing) focusing on three main themes that echo my own life/work at present:

Women and strength (relating to my work with female body builders)…

Unknown, Reclining woman with floral motif design, date unknown. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Carol and Morton Rapp, 1997.

Unknown, Reclining woman with floral motif design, date unknown. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Carol and Morton Rapp, 1997.


Meera Margaret Singh, Gillia, 2015, chromogenic print.

Meera Margaret Singh, Gillia, 2015, chromogenic print.

…people being overcome by emotion (relating to my work with laughter yoga/yogis)…

Paul Peel, The Model (after Chaplin),  1890, oil on canvas. Art Gallery of Ontario. Bequest of John Paris Bickell, Toronto, 1952.

Paul Peel, The Model (after Chaplin), 1890, oil on canvas. Art Gallery of Ontario. Bequest of John Paris Bickell, Toronto, 1952.


Meera Margaret Singh, Gaby Laughing, c-print, 2008.

Meera Margaret Singh, Gaby Laughing, c-print, 2008.

…and mothers and children (relating to an ongoing series of work I’ve done with my own mother as well as my new role as mother)

American artist (unknown), Decorative plate with portrait of mother and daughter, c. 1902, collodion print., 24 x 25 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Anonymous gift, 2004.

American artist (unknown), Decorative plate with portrait of mother and daughter, c. 1902, collodion print., 24 x 25 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Anonymous gift, 2004.


Meera Margaret Singh, Mitosis, 2004, c-print.

Meera Margaret Singh, Mitosis, 2004, c-print.

Thanks to the invaluable help of Barbora Racevicuite, interning at the AGO for the summer, we have mined the AGO’s collection finding works that speak to these themes and further speak to me. Having selected numerous images, my goal is to create a small accordion style publication with my photographic works on one side and works from the AGO collection on the other side. The intention is to allow my contemporary works to create new, altered meaning when situated with historic works and vice versa. The culmination of this will echo the intent of the artist-in-residence program itself: To engage with the gallery itself along with its unique collection while “leading the way for experimentation and growth in the field of contemporary art practice.”

I’m very grateful for all of the help that the AGO and the artist-in-residence program have offered me in creating work and re-contextualizing work throughout my residency. Thank you so much!


Learn more about Singh’s AGO residency

Turner Prize nominee Janice Kerbel is Elevated at the AGO

July 21st, 2015

Installation view: Janice Kerbel, Is Iggy Fatuse, The Human Firefly, from the series Remarkable, 2007

Installation view: Janice Kerbel, Is Iggy Fatuse, The Human Firefly, from the series Remarkable, 2007

In our exhibition Elevated, Janic Kerbel’s poster work Is Iggy Fatuse, The Human Firefly is impossible to miss: its large scale and bold typography draw visitors and, we’ve noticed, it makes frequent appearances in visitor photos (and the odd #museumselfie).

What visitors may not realize is that they’re standing in front of the work of an artist in the running for one of the world’s most prestigious art prizes: Kerbel is a nominee for the 2015 Turner Prize for her work DOUG (2014), an operatic performance commissioned by The Common Guild at Mitchell Library, Glasgow. We asked Kitty Scott, our curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, to comment on her relationship with Kerbel and her work. Read the rest of this entry »

This summer, it’s all in the #AGOdetails

July 15th, 2015

By Raechel Bonomo, AGO communications assistant

The AGO collection contains artworks that can fill entire gallery walls, and this summer they’re joined by works on loan for our current exhibition Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic, featuring dozens of panoramic landscapes. At first glance, details in these vast paintings are overshadowed by gargantuan falls and mountains. These hidden treasures are waiting to be discovered, and so we’ve been exploring works from our collection and the landscapes in Picturing the Americas, in search of some gems. We got up close and personal by zooming in on some works, and below you’ll find cropped images of their small-but-mighty details. In this post, it’s the little things that count. Read the rest of this entry »

#BasquiatAGO: Now’s the time to say thank you and farewell

May 15th, 2015

Something very special happened in our building over the past few months: starting Feb. 7, we had the honour of showing incredible artwork in Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time. Through its run to May 10, 155,755 visitors experienced that exhibition, and thousands of Basquiat fans joined us for events that welcomed, feted, discussed, drew inspiration from and sent off the exhibition. The resulting important discussions, impressive artwork and unforgettable fun wouldn’t have been possible without the involvement of our community partners and dedicated individuals inside and outside the AGO.

Bringing exhibitions of this calibre to the AGO requires a lot of support, and we would like to recognize the exhibition’s Lead Supporter, the Hal Jackman Foundation, as well as the generous support of TD Bank Group and Robert Harding, the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada, Official Hotel Partner Eaton Chelsea Hotel Toronto and the Canada Council for the Arts, which supports contemporary programming at the AGO. Thanks to each and all for making Now’s the Time and its accompanying programming at the AGO possible and a big success.

Seeing visitors engage with Basquiat’s powerful paintings and share their thoughts has been very rewarding for Gallery staff who worked to bring the exhibition together. To everyone who joined us in declaring “now’s the time” for Jean-Michel Basquiat in Toronto, thank you.

#BasquiatAGO: An update on #crowningheroes

April 20th, 2015

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s groundbreaking and provocative artistic approach translated 1980s New York City into a radical visual language, one that confronted issues of racism, class struggle, social hypocrisy and black history. Inspired as much by high art — abstract expressionism and conceptualism — as by hip hop, jazz, sports, comics and graffiti, Basquiat used recurring motifs to explore issues that he continuously grappled with in his life and art.

The crown was one of these motifs. It appears on a variety of figures in his paintings, including renowned jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie; celebrated athletes, including Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and Hank Aaron; and sometimes the artist’s friends, like Michael Stewart. Basquiat used crowns — as well as halos — to honour his icons.

Inspired by Basquiat’s use of this symbol, we launched a city-wide Instagram program in March 2015 soliciting the public to “crown” their heroes using our pop-up neon crowns and to share stories with #crowningheroes and #BasquiatAGO. Above are just a couple of the many powerful narratives shared. Check out #crowningheroes on Instagram to see many more.

There are only a few shorts weeks left to experience this once in a lifetime exhibition – Now’s the Time to experience Basquiat at the AGO!

Tickets

#BasquiatAGO: Thelma Golden on artists as catalysts of cultural change

March 4th, 2015

My interest is in artists who understand and re-write history, who think about themselves within the narrative of the larger world of art but who have created new places for us to see and understand.
— Thelma Golden

Watch Thelma Golden’s February 2013 TED-Ed talk on her mission to use her position as director and chief curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem to create a new art history narrative. To accomplish this, she says, she had to “see the way in which artists work, understand the artist studio as laboratory, imagine then reinventing the museum as a think tank and [look] at the exhibition as the ultimate white paper.”

Golden will be speaking at the AGO on March 28 as part of the Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time Symposium. Learn more and book tickets here.

Reflections on Spiegelman: Nina Bunjevac

March 3rd, 2015

Art Spiegelman’s work has had a profound impact on artists around the world. We asked Canadian cartoonists, graphic novelists and comics experts how Spiegelman has influenced their own work and the creation and dissemination of comics and graphic novels.

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Any cartoonist who doesn’t realize that Spiegelman had paved our way, twice, is a fool. He first did it with Raw, and then again with Maus.

I would not be doing what I am doing now were it not for having been exposed to both. It’s that simple.

—Nina Bunjevac, cartoonist

See Bunjevac’s original drawings from her graphic novel Fatherland in Out of the Fatherland until summer 2015 in the Canadian galleries (Level 2). Visit her website to learn more about Bunjevac and her work.


Art Spiegelman’s CO-MIX: A Retrospective runs to March 15, 2015.


#BasquiatAGO: Get involved by #crowningheroes on Instagram

March 2nd, 2015

We’re excited to announce a city-wide Instagram program celebrating the exhibition Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time.

Basquiat’s groundbreaking and provocative artistic approach translated 1980s New York into a radical visual language, one that gave voice to issues of racism, class struggle, social hypocrisy and black history. Inspired as much by high art as by hip hop, jazz, sports, comics and graffiti, Basquiat used recurring motifs to explore issues that he grappled with in his own life and witnessed in the world around him.

The crown was one of these motifs. It appears on a variety of figures including renowned jazz musicians, such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie; celebrated athletes, including Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and Hank Aaron; and even his contemporaries, such as graffiti artist Michael Stewart. Basquiat used crowns, as well as halos, to recognize and celebrate his icons.

We’ve gathered together some of Toronto’s most influential and artistic Instagrammers to provide some #crowningheroes inspiration, and we hope you’ll join them. Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections on Spiegelman: Peter Birkemoe

February 26th, 2015

Art Spiegelman’s work has had a profound impact on artists around the world. We asked Canadian cartoonists, graphic novelists and comics experts how Spiegelman has influenced their own work and the creation and dissemination of comics and graphic novels.

Image courtesy of Peter Birkemoe.

Image courtesy of Peter Birkemoe.

Since the Beguiling opened in 1987, Art’s work has introduced more readers to the medium than any other author — from the adult non-comics readers converted by Maus, to more recently the children who started with Little Lit and Toon books as their first comics.

Even now with a market crowded with books that followed his successes his books are still the books people cite as sparking their love of comics.

—Peter Birkemoe, co-founder of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival and owner of The Beguiling


Art Spiegelman’s CO-MIX: A Retrospective runs to March 15, 2015.