Paul Chan, 2nd Light, 2006, digital video projection, 14 minutes. Purchased with the assistance of the Eleanor & Francis Shen Family Foundation, the David Yuile & Mary Elizabeth Hodgson Fund and the Janet & Michael Scott Fund, 2015.
A closer look at one of the gallery’s visitor favourites, an immersive light-filled installation on Floor 5 by Paul Chan.
By Jon Davies, Assistant Curator, Contemporary Art
In 2007, American artist and activist Paul Chan premiered his ambitious series of floor projections entitled The 7 Lights at the Serpentine Gallery in London. While Chan works fluidly between many different forms and platforms, this series’ title refers to its distinctive medium: video projections of coloured light and black silhouettes, or, as the artist puts it, “light and light that has been struck out.”
The series consists of haunting shadow-plays that draw their power from a sight that marked many people during the September 11, 2011 attacks on the World Trade Center: people falling from buildings. Evoking a state of seemingly perpetual crisis, bodies here fall but also float upwards, levitating alongside consumer products and junk. With its pared down visuals and powerful use of silence, The 7 Lights series vividly imagines a Rapture that is firmly rooted in everyday life, rather than something transcendent.
2nd Light (seen above) is grounded by a tree, which endures a day’s unfolding from sunrise to sunset before looping and starting over again. We are delighted to have recently acquired this key work from Chan’s series, which is installed here for the first time with other recent contemporary acquisitions in Many things brought from one climate to another, currently on display on level 5.
This winter, you can take a series of instructor-led life drawing classes inside the exhibition Drawing, Je t’aime: Selections from the AGO Vaults. Course instructor and artist Bogdan Luca gave the AGO’s Online Media officer, Amanda Hadi, the low-down on why anyone can and should want to draw, and why the pencil always trumps the camera as a travelling tool.
What does the word “drawing” mean for most people?
I think it can be intimidating… Some people find it mystical and incomprehensible. It goes along with this idea of genius — that only certain special people can and know how to draw. “You’re born with a pencil in your hand.” When in fact, I believe anyone and everyone can draw. If you can write by hand, you also have the ability to draw. It’s just a matter of rearranging those scribbles in other configurations.
Beijing-based artist Song Dong is transforming the AGO’s Signy Eaton Gallery into a series of snaking walkways and small rooms that recall the communal courtyards of his childhood — courtyards that have all but disappeared from the city. Take a one-minute tour of the changing landscape that inspired Song Dong’s Communal Courtyard, opening January 30.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 »
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 »
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.
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!
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.”