Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Art Matters Blog

In memoriam: A tribute to the memory of Lynne Cohen

May 15th, 2014

The Art Gallery of Ontario shares in the loss of Lynne Cohen, one of Canada’s finest visual artists. Lynne’s remarkable body of work took us to extraordinary, often-foreboding places — places we would be unlikely to encounter in our daily lives, except through her compelling photographs. Her enigmatic, real-world photographs of interior environments, uninhabited by humans, alluded to her sense of wit and irony.

Lynne Cohen, Untitled (Column), 2009. © Lynne Cohen, 2010.

Lynne Cohen, Untitled (Column), 2009. © Lynne Cohen, 2010.

An internationally collected artist, Lynne was nominated for the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize (then called the Grange Prize) in 2009, and the AGO is proud to have exhibited her work alongside the nominees from Canada and Mexico. Lynne spent her Prize-sponsored residency in Mexico, inspired by interior spaces that became new installations of extraordinary photographs.

Lynne’s legacy will be remembered by all who admired her vision, dedication to students, loyalty to those who knew her and her incredible strength the past three years. Our deepest condolences to Andrews Lugg, her partner of 50 years, who was closest to Lynne in every way.

— Maia Sutnik, Curator, Special Photography Projects at the AGO

“Inspiring, fearsome, transcendent”: Visitors respond to Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty

May 12th, 2014

By Gillian McIntyre, Interpretive Planner, AGO

“If I go to the National Gallery and I look at one of the great paintings that excite me there, it’s not so much the painting that excites me as that the painting unlocks all kinds of valves of sensation in me which return me to life more violently”
—Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon and Henry Moore both used the human form to express violence and trauma in their art as well as the resilience of the human spirit. When we were planning Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty we knew visitors would probably have a strong reaction to the work, one way or another, and we wanted to gather and share these responses. Bacon particularly wanted people to feel something when they saw his art.

In the last room of the exhibition we set up iPads with digital pens and invited people to express their thoughts by drawing and writing, the results of which we are projecting on the wall of the room. The questions were intentionally quite general: “What is your response?” and “What role do the arts play in your life?”

The results have been staggering. So far we have received more than 3,500 responses, many of them, as predicted, very strong (see a selection below). It is obvious from them that people have understood what is hard to put into words. Quoting Bacon again: “If you can say it, why paint it?” Writing about art — essentially a visual communication — can be reductive, so it is interesting to see that visitors are able to read the art so well. One of the surprises is how closely people have looked at the Bacon paintings — his compositional space construct appears often in their drawings. Read the rest of this entry »

Drawn to comics? Join the AGO at TCAF for a special panel this Saturday

May 9th, 2014

Comics Curation
Saturday, May 10, 2014
1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel, 90 Bloor St. E., Toronto (map)

Comics are having a moment here at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Together with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, we invite you to join Andrew Hunter, the AGO’s Frederik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art, as he discusses the AGO’s inclusion of cartoonists and their work in programming and exhibitions. Joining him will be two lauded Canadian cartoonists who have recently collaborated with the Gallery: Chester Brown, currently featured in Chester Brown and Louis Riel, and David Collier, who has produced an eight-page comic that will accompany our upcoming exhibition Alex Colville. Finally, the panel will touch on our just-announced Art Spiegelman’s CO-MIX: A Retrospective.


Art Spiegelman, Self-Portrait with Maus Mask, The Village Voice, cover, June 6, 1989. Ink and correction fluid on paper. Copyright © 1989 by Art Spiegelman. Used by permission of the artist and The Wylie Agency LLC.  Courtesy Drawn + Quarterly.

Art Spiegelman, Self-Portrait with Maus Mask, The Village Voice, cover, June 6, 1989. Ink and correction fluid on paper. Copyright © 1989 by Art Spiegelman. Used by permission of the artist and The Wylie Agency LLC.
Courtesy Drawn + Quarterly.


About Art Spiegelman’s CO-MIX: A Retrospective
Art Spiegelman’s comics have been redefining a genre for more than 50 years, and this December the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) will pay homage to the Pulitzer Prize–winning artist with an exhibition highlighting the breadth of his career. Art Spiegelman’s CO-MIX: A Retrospective opens on Dec. 20, 2014, and runs to March 14, 2015. A tireless innovator who is unafraid to tackle difficult subject matter, Spiegelman has drawn inspiration from a wide range of sources in his work including politics, the Holocaust, Cubism and hard-boiled detective fiction. Maus, a two-volume graphic novel that recounts his parents’ life in Nazi-occupied Poland and later at Auschwitz, was the first and only work of its genre to win the Pulitzer Prize, in 1992. The exhibition also features 300 works on paper ranging from trading cards to magazine covers.

Chester Brown, Portrait of Louis Riel (2003), ink on paper, collection of the artist.

Chester Brown, Portrait of Louis Riel (2003), ink on paper, collection of the artist.


About Chester Brown and Louis Riel
For more than two decades, Chester Brown has been one of Canada’s leading cartoonists. His innovative and influential Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography, which expanded the audience for Canadian cartooning, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013. A selection of original drawings from the publication is now on view at the AGO. The works feature the Manitoba politician and Métis leader Louis David Riel fleeing from Fort Garry (now Winnipeg), and his subsequent hanging for treason. Brown’s work combines bold imagery, stark compositions and simple texts to convey a complex Canadian tragedy that remains, for many, controversial and unresolved.

About Alex Colville
More than 100 works by Canadian icon Alex Colville (1920-2013) will be presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario starting in summer 2014, marking the largest exhibition of the late artist’s work to date. Curated by Andrew Hunter, the AGO’s curator of Canadian art, the exhibition will honour Colville’s legacy and explore the continuing impact of his work from the perspectives of several prominent popular culture figures from film, literature and music.

Friday with Francis Bacon, Henry Moore and friends

May 6th, 2014

bacon-moore-header-660


UPDATED May 23, 2014: Responding to visitor feedback, extended Friday night hours at the AGO on June 6 and July 11 will not go ahead as planned. Visitors continue to take advantage of the AGO’s Wednesday evenings, when the AGO is open till 8:30 p.m., and weekends hours. Tickets for Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty can be booked online now for both Wednesday evenings and weekend hours.


This Friday, May 9, after work, we’re extending Gallery hours until 8:30 p.m. The full Gallery plus special exhibitionFrancis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty will be open, and visitors are invited to relax in Galleria Italia and start the weekend off right with friends, food and tunes. We’re offering the same extended hours on two additional Fridays, June 6 and July 11. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrate moms with us this May

April 24th, 2014

This year the AGO celebrates moms with special programming all over the Gallery. Here’s what’s on:

Maternité au lit jaune, or Madame Fontaine et le petit Noël, 1896. Denis, Maurice. Oil and graphite on canvas. 44.6 x 50.9 cm. Framed: 64.8 x 70 cm. Gift of Mrs. Judy Simmonds, 2008. © 2014 Art Gallery of Ontario.

Maternité au lit jaune, or Madame Fontaine et le petit Noël, 1896. Denis, Maurice. Oil and graphite on canvas. 44.6 x 50.9 cm. Framed: 64.8 x 70 cm. Gift of Mrs. Judy Simmonds, 2008. © 2014 Art Gallery of Ontario.

Mother’s Day brunch
Edit, May 9, 4 p.m. SOLD OUT
On Sunday, May 11, FRANK restaurant celebrates moms with a special Mother’s Day brunch buffet. The menu features an enormous selection of offerings including traditional breakfast fare, a seafood station, a carving station featuring roasted AAA tenderloin, a la carte [check accents] menus, kid-friendly options and more. Brunch will be served from 11 a.m to 3:30 p.m. at a cost of $75 per adult. Children ages 6-10 can dine for $20 and children under 5 eat for $12. Reservations are encouraged as space is limited. Please call 416-979-6688 or visit FRANK online for more information.

Mother’s Day tea at The Grange (members only)
Enjoy Mother’s Day with a deliciously modern version of a Victorian tea on May 11 (seatings at 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 and 3:15 p.m.). Members are invited to enjoy a wide variety of tea along with delicious scones, croissants, sandwiches, assorted desserts and a few surprises. Book tickets for this exclusive Mother’s Day event and spend the rest of the day exploring the Collection at the Gallery.

Mother’s Day card-making at AGO Family Sundays
Part of our Family Sunday programming on Sunday, May 4, includes card-making! Get ready to cut, paste and draw something special for Mom.

Mother’s Day gift ideas

Our shopAGO team has selected a range of items perfect for Mom. See some of them below and visit the shop’s special Mother’s Day display for more options.

Mark your calendar: Five AGO public openings in 2014

April 23rd, 2014

We’re pleased to announce a series of public openings to celebrate the exhibitions of Canadian and international contemporary artists taking place at the Gallery this year.

Please join us for the following public openings:

The events will take place in Walker Court from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday evenings, when general admission to the Gallery is free; a cash bar will be open from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Remarks start at 7:30 pm, and the artists will be in attendance. Feel free share this invitation with your friends and networks — everyone is welcome!

Conservation Notes: Simon Starling’s Infestation Piece: Musseled Moore

April 22nd, 2014

In this video AGO conservator of Contemporary and Inuit Art Sherry Phillips explains the work she’s doing with U.K. artist Simon Starling’s Infestation Piece: Musseled Moore, part of the AGO’s collection of contemporary art, and the artist discusses how it is aging. For background on Musseled Moore, watch the video below as Starling discusses the creation of this aquacultural work.


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


Scene and herd: Tracking bison with photographer Edgardo Aragón

April 9th, 2014

The latest video project by Edgardo Aragón – a finalist in the 2013 AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize – tracks bison across North American, in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories, in Yellowstone National Park and near Chihuahua in Mexico, his home country. We talked to him about the project, made possible by his AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize residency.

AGO: Of the three places you visited for your project, which was the most surprising, in terms of defying your expectations? Why?
Edgardo Aragón: I was very surprised and still I am about Fort Smith. Given the conditions under which people live in this place, it could seem impossible that there’s life there, but life exists, along with one of the strangest lights that I will ever see in my life.

Since going to these places, has your plan for the project changed?
Whenever I plan a new project, I always expect that the circumstances change the nature of the project itself. In this case the change happened, without a doubt. Natural conditions modify the project a great deal, complementing and giving body to it in a way that a sketch could not. I’m satisfied.

Many animal species migrate – why did you choose to focus on bison?
I chose the bison for two reasons. The first is that it had a natural frontier that would shift according to the climate conditions, modifying substantially the life of the First Nations people who depended on the bison to survive. They would conform to the bison’s behaviour. That’s why the project is not, in fact, trying to create a portrait of bison so much as one of the invisible men that has ceased to live in harmony with it.

The second reason is that this animal species does’t migrate. After nearly becoming extinct at the hands of the white man, it has endured some sort of domestication. Today it is a species in the process of recuperation in Mexico and Canada. It is curious to note that in the U.S., where there are more reserves, the bison is not a protected species and is limited to its territories. This domestication is an aspect of extermination as well, of the animal and its animal nature and, of course, of what little spirit of the First Nations people remains.

Why did you decide to use video for this project instead of still images?
Video is a more organic tool, more malleable. You can move it in many directions to generate a specific discourse or an open one. I think I choose video because I like having elements that are closer to a sense of physical presence, closer to the movement of the apparatus, to the presence of a witness and specifically to the manipulation of time. Duration plays a fundamental role in establishing the dimensions of the theme. The sounds of the places or the absence of such sounds plays a fundamental role in the atmospheres that I’m trying to convey and generate in the project.

When you gave an interview to the Northern Journal, you said, “In a way, the real subject of the video project does not exist…It’s an invisible phantom.” Can you elaborate on that? What is the real subject?
The subject I am portraying is the human who lived with the presence of the bison. That way of life is poorly understood by Eurocentric cultures. That was what I was interested in discovering or portraying. I followed the path of the bison because it represents the way First Nations people lived. All the vacant spaces left around the bison are the spaces left by earlier lives – lives lived within the cultural shock generated by contact with Europe – and the near-extermination of the bison. The creation of reserves for the native people of the Americas were really the extermination of a spirit that generated a sense of life.

With the westernisation of North America a philosophy of life was destroyed – a loss which we have not been able to fully understand yet. This is why I like to think about this video as a portrait of an invisible human being, a portrait of a philosophy of life inherent to the creative and cultural spirit of a human being that disappeared many years ago. The presence of reserves for human and animal species is only one of its forms of annihilation. This is the central objective of the project.

All photos courtesy of the artist. Keep up with this year’s Aimia | AGO Photography Prize on Twitter and Facebook.

Coming soon: Matthew Barney’s DRAWING RESTRAINT 2, 6 and 17

April 8th, 2014

We’re excited to announce that Matthew Barney’s DRAWING RESTRAINT 2, 6 and 17 from his acclaimed DRAWING RESTRAINT series will be on view at the AGO from May 31 to Sept. 28, 2014. Taking place on the fourth floor of the AGO’s contemporary tower, the exhibition of these videos is organized in conjunction with the Luminato Festival 2014. Barney is renowned internationally for his provocative and richly visual sequences of sculpture, video and performance. Elaborate and mysterious, projects such as The CREMASTER Cycle (1994-2001) – a series of five feature-length films – weave mythological narratives and art-historical references.

DRAWING RESTRAINT (1987-present) is a significant and long-term project for Barney in which he proposes art-making as parallel to athletic training: the development of form occurs through resistance. Begun while still a student at Yale, DRAWING RESTRAINT shows the influence of Barney’s background as an athlete and his intent to foreground the physical body and its tensions in a studio practice. The ongoing series DRAWING RESTRAINT comprises drawings, sculpture, photographs and video works emerging from his self-imposed and increasingly complex obstacles and scenarios. Considered together, DRAWING RESTRAINT forms an ongoing proposition for the harnessing of human impulses and drives into a desired output, artistic or otherwise. It demonstrates the underpinnings of Barney’s work, in which the body plays a central role and ritualistic processes of creation are explored through manifold materials, settings and personas.

The earliest work in the series, DRAWING RESTRAINT 1-6 (1987-1989), shows simple studio experiments, where Barney attempts to mark the ceiling and the walls while bouncing on a tilted trampoline or tethered at the thighs with bungee cords. From the 1990s onwards, he began to introduce the spectacular cinematic narratives for which he is best known. DRAWING RESTRAINT 17 (2010), filmed in Switzerland, is a two-channel video bearing Barney’s signature high production value and allegorical storytelling. Usually, in this series, Barney subjects his own body to physical tests; here for the first time, the protagonist is an athletic young Swiss woman, while Barney now plays the removed role of the established artist.

About the artist
Matthew Barney was born in 1967 in San Francisco. Since 1991, his work has been presented worldwide. His most recent project, River of Fundament, is featured in a major new exhibition at Haus der Kunst, Munich, opening March 2014. Barney’s many notable solo exhibitions include: Prayer Sheet with the Wound and the Nail at Schaulager, Basel (2010); DRAWING RESTRAINT at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2008) and Serpentine Gallery, London (2007); and The CREMASTER Cycle at the Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris; and Artangel, London (2002). Barney was the recipient of the Europa 2000 Prize at the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993 and the Hugo Boss Prize in 1996. He lives and works in New York.


On June 7, 2014, join us for Meet the Artist: Matthew Barney, when he will be in conversation with Luminato Festival Artist Director Jorn Weisbrodt and our curator of modern and contemporary art, Kitty Scott.

The 2014 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize: Meet the jury

March 31st, 2014

Voting won’t begin until late summer, but the 2014 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize is well underway. Over the past few months, individuals around the world have been researching and discussing exciting new ideas and directions in fine art photography and putting forward the names of artists whose recent work has shown extraordinary potential. The nominators — a group of 13 curators, critics and artists — submit two artists each for inclusion on the long list, and then a three-person jury selects a short list of four. Later this year, the shortlisted artists’ work will be exhibited at the AGO and online, and the public vote will decide who wins the $50,000 CAD prize.

We’re happy to introduce you to this year’s jury, led by the AGO’s associate curator of photography, Sophie Hackett, and we hope you’ll follow along as the Prize develops in 2014. Keep an eye out for long-list and short-list announcements in the coming months, and follow the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize on Facebook and Twitter for more news.

This year’s jury:

jurorSophie

Sophie Hackett is the Associate Curator, Photography, at the Art Gallery of Ontario and adjunct faculty in Ryerson University’s master’s program in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management. She has contributed to several Canadian art magazines, international journals and monographs, and she has curated or co-curated several exhibitions and public projects at the AGO, including Suzy Lake: Rhythm of a True Space (2008); Barbara Kruger: Untitled (It) (2010); “Where I was born…”: A Photograph, a Clue and the Discovery of Abel Boulineau (2011); Songs of the Future: Canadian Industrial Photographs, 1858 to Today (2011); Album: A Public Project (2012) and Light My Fire: Some Propositions about Portraits and Photography (2013-2014), a wide-ranging consideration of the photographic portrait, drawn from the AGO’s permanent collection. Upcoming projects include What It Means To be Seen: Photography and Queer Visibility and Fan the Flames: Queer Positions in Photography — both opening in June 2014. She is the lead juror for the 2014 AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize, a role she also held in 2010 and 2012.


Laurie Simmons

Laurie Simmons (b.1949, USA) stages photographs and films with paper dolls, finger puppets, ventriloquist dummies and costumed dancers as “living objects,” animating a dollhouse world suffused with nostalgia and colored by an adult’s memories, longings, and regrets. Simmons’ work blends psychological, political, and conceptual approaches to art-making, transforming photography’s propensity to objectify people, especially women, into a sustained critique of the medium. She has received many awards, including the Roy Lichtenstein Residency in the Visual Arts at the American Academy in Rome (2005), and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1997) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1984). She has had major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Baltimore Museum of Art; San Jose Museum of Art, California; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and she has participated in two Whitney Biennial exhibitions (1985, 1991) and was included in the 2013 Venice Biennial. Her work is represented in many noted collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.


HDK-Enwezor-Photo-Jeff-Weiner

Okwui Enwezor is a Nigerian-born, German-based scholar, curator, and writer and has been director of Haus der Kunst since October 2011. He was adjunct curator at International Center of Photography, New York, and previously adjunct curator of Contemporary Art, at the Art Institute of Chicago. Enwezor has served as the artistic director of several leading biennials and international exhibitions and in December 2013 he was appointed as director of the Visual Arts Sector of the 56th Biennale di Venezia. Enwezor’s curatorial credits include exhibitions presented in museums and venues across the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, including Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, PS1 / MoMA, New York and the National Gallery of Canada. Enwezor has received numerous awards and honors for his work including an honourary fellowship from the Royal College of Art, London (2010) and an award for Curatorial Excellence from Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture, Bard College (2009). He lives in Munich and New York.


This year’s nominators were:

  • Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver
  • Veronica Cordeiro, curator, Centro de Fotografía de Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Moyra Davey, artist and nominee for the 2010 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize (then called the Grange Prize)
  • Jon Davies, associate curator, Oakville Galleries
  • Gary Dufour, adjunct associate professor, University of Western Australia and former chief curator/deputy director, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
  • Tamar Garb, Durning Lawrence Professor in the History of Art, University College, London, U.K.
  • Gauri Gill, artist and winner of the 2011 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize (then called the Grange Prize)
  • Marie-Josée Jean, head of the VOX Contemporary Image Centre, Montreal
  • Mami Kataoka, chief curator, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
  • Beatrix Ruf, director/curator, Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich
  • Jonathan Shaughnessy, associate curator, Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
  • Brian Sholis, associate curator of Photography at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati
  • Kim Simon, curator, Gallery TPW, Toronto