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#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.


Conservation Notes: Print on this

February 18th, 2015

carbon transfer 2001.169

P

By Katharine Whitman, Conservator, Photographs

Suzy Lake, The Natural Way to Draw, 1975. Colour emulsion transfer on uncoated canvas, 102.5 x 134 cm. Gift of nancy Hushion, 2009. 2009/107. © 2015 Suzy Lake.

Suzy Lake, The Natural Way to Draw, 1975. Colour emulsion transfer on uncoated canvas, 102.5 x 134 cm. Gift of nancy Hushion, 2009. 2009/107. © 2015 Suzy Lake.

Suzy Lake’s The Natural Way to Draw and other interesting photograph supports

Until the relatively recent advent of digital photography, in which many photographs exist solely as pixels on a screen, every photograph was printed. By far, the most common support on which to print has been paper. However, even since the early days of photography, they have also been printed on paper, fabric, metal, glass, ceramic and a host of other surfaces.

And now, with the advent of digital printing technologies, we can print photographs on almost any substrate. They can be ink-jet printed on to canvas, plastic, vinyl or paper: the possibilities are endless. As photograph conservator at the Art Gallery of Ontario, I’m fascinated by the wide array of other materials on which photographers and artists have printed their images. Read the rest of this entry »

Conservation Notes: Plastering The Grange

February 18th, 2015

By Claire Molgat-Laurin, AGO Conservation intern

Conserving the AGO’s largest artifact

The AGO’s largest artifact isn’t a monumental painting, or even a sculpture. Think even bigger.

Built in 1817, The Grange was the first building to serve as the home of the AGO, then known as the Art Museum of Toronto, and it is the oldest remaining brick house in Toronto — an important piece of history both for Toronto and for the AGO.

But over the course of the past few years, Jennifer Rieger, the historic site coordinator for The Grange, noticed that paint on one of the basement scullery walls was becoming powdery and blistered. This was a worrying symptom, one that indicated water was trapped in the walls and was damaging the plaster underneath the paint.

Henry Bowyer Lane British, 1817 - 1878, The Grange, c. 1840, overall: 28.6 x 44.1 cm (11 1/4 x 17 3/8 in.), watercolour on paper, Gift of Mrs. Seawell Emerson, Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1972, transferred from the Grange, 2008. © Art Gallery of Ontario

Henry Bowyer Lane
British, 1817 – 1878, The Grange, c. 1840, overall: 28.6 x 44.1 cm (11 1/4 x 17 3/8 in.), watercolour on paper,
Gift of Mrs. Seawell Emerson, Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1972, transferred from the Grange, 2008. © Art Gallery of Ontario.

A house like The Grange is like a living organism, with each part of its construction supported by another. If one component of the house is out of balance, it can affect the rest of the building too. The plaster covering the walls of The Grange should function as its skin, protecting the walls of the house and wicking dampness away from them.

Finding the root of this problem took some serious digging through the archives of the AGO to find records of previous repairs, sending samples of the materials in the wall to be analyzed by conservation scientists and consulting with a preservation architect to assess the exterior of the house. As we learned more about older repairs and the materials used, the situation started becoming clear: one of the problems with this wall originated during a restoration treatment that undertaken in the 1970s.

One of the most important principles in conserving artifacts and art is to use compatible materials that will react to the surrounding environment in the same way as the original components. The old restoration of the plaster in The Grange had been executed with materials that were thought to be compatible at the time. However, in more recent years, it has now been found that these newer, more mainstream materials definitely don’t combine well with traditional materials like those used in the original construction of the house.

Exposed structural wall in The Grange.

Exposed structural wall in The Grange.

The Portland cement and bonding agent used underneath the repaired plaster didn’t react to moisture in the same way as the original lime plaster layers. Instead of allowing moisture to dissipate through its surface, the bonding agent blocked the movement of moisture, causing the plaster to deteriorate and any attempted repairs to fail. The analysis of the materials also suggested that the wall was retaining moisture because the plaster hadn’t been left to cure long enough before the paint was applied, which didn’t allow the plaster to breathe.

To repair the plaster, we called in the services of specialists in heritage plastering — Ben Scott and James Sloan from the Lime Plaster Company. Both have a lot of experience working with historic buildings and know lime plaster inside and out.

According to Scott, working with historic houses like The Grange is complicated, but there’s one simple approach: every historic building is going to be different, and you can’t treat them all the same way.

Most of the time, going back to tried-and-true traditional methods is best. This is a new repair, but the materials have been used in construction all over the world for thousands of years: slaked limes, non-hydraulic or hydraulic limes, animal hair and assorted natural aggregates. The plaster used by Scott and Sloan is their own mix of aged lime putty plaster, unadulterated by any other materials that could be in ready-made mixes.

A closer look: Exposed structural wall in The Grange.

A closer look: Exposed structural wall in The Grange.


It’s a process that takes skill and experience and, most of all, time. Before starting the new treatment, they completely removed the old repairs, paring the wall down to its granite rocks to get a good surface for the plaster. They then applied several layers of plaster over the course of several weeks, starting with a strong “pricking-up” coat that prepared the surface for other layers, then gradually building up to the smooth outer finishing coat. Finally, the plaster needed time to cure as the lime react with carbon dioxide in the air and hardens, forming a strong bond.

The new lime plaster will allow The Grange’s wall to breathe again by effectively drawing moisture away from the walls to help protect the house. A well-executed plastering job like this will last a lifetime, like the original walls of The Grange.

“They don’t make them like this anymore,” Scott said, patting the wall of The Grange.

All the more reason to keep it breathing.


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


Watch “It Could Have Been Me”: Perspectives on the Fight for Racial Justice and the Legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat

February 9th, 2015


Recorded Feb. 5, 2015, from 7:30 to 9 pm in Baillie Court at the AGO

Jean-Michel Basquiat boldly and directly confronted issues of race, class, police brutality and social justice in his work. These issues are at the forefront of today’s cultural discourse and they were the focus of a panel discussion of Toronto-based young black artists, artists, thinkers and cultural figures at AGO First Thursdays on Feb. 5, 2015. The panelists shared their insights on the realities of anti-black racism, state-sanctioned violence and other issues, using Basquiat’s work and legacy as a jumping-off point. Presented in partnership with the Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition, “It Could Have Been Me”: Perspectives on the Fight for Racial Justice and the Legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat was moderated by Kim Katrin Milan and featured artist and educator Randell Adjei, social justice educator janaya (j) khan, Mustafa Ahmed (a.k.a. Mustafa the Poet) and artist/activist Syrus Marcus Ware. The panel was introduced by Alexandria Williams of the Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition and Stephanie Smith, the AGO’s chief curator.


Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Timeruns from Feb. 7 to May 10, 2015, at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Reflections on Spiegelman: Michael Deforge

January 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.

MichaelDeForge

Art Spiegelman pushed the edges of what the medium could be, both in the formal experiments in his own comics and in his work as an editor. In Raw especially, Françoise Mouly and Spiegelman provoked such wild and ambitious contributions from their artists. I wish I was reading comics at a time when books like that were dropping on everyone’s heads on a regular basis. It’s hard to think of many editors taking comparable risks anymore.”
—Toronto-based comic artist Michael DeForge

See DeForge’s recent work here, and follow him on Twitter.


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


Jeet Heer on Spiegelman, Mouly, Crumb, Charlie Hebdo and the underground tradition

January 19th, 2015

With the presentation of Art Spiegelman’s CO-MIX: A Retrospective at the AGO, we’re aiming to highlight not just the significance of Spiegelman’s career, but also growing importance of comics as a defining cultural form in Toronto. Leading up to and during the exhibition’s run ― Dec. 20, 2014, to March 15, 2015 ― we’re using ArtMatters.ca to share voices from the comics scene in Toronto and beyond, as they discuss Spiegelman’s influence and the connections between his work and a wide variety of genres and art forms. Below, Canadian journalist/historian and Twitter essayist Jeet Heer shares his and Spiegelman’s thoughts on criticism and censorship in relation to the recent tragic events in Paris, arguing that “bad speech has to be answered by more speech.” Read the rest of this entry »

A fond farewell to Alex Colville, and thanks to our visitors

January 16th, 2015

Alex Colville Living  Room, 1999-2000, acrylic on Masonite. 41.8 x 58.5 cm. Purchased 2000. National Gallery of Canada (no. 40408). © A.C.Fine Art Inc

Alex Colville Living Room, 1999-2000, acrylic on Masonite.
41.8 x 58.5 cm. Purchased 2000. National Gallery of Canada (no. 40408). © A.C.Fine Art Inc

When Alex Colville closed on Jan. 4, it had attracted 166,406 visitors, making it the 10th–best attended exhibition in our history. Notably, it is the only exhibition in the top 10 that focused on Canadian art. The Gallery’s last Colville exhibition, which ran from July 22 to September 18, 1983, welcomed 49,984 visitors.

What made this presentation different? Our director and CEO, Matthew Teitelbaum, ascribes the recent exhibition’s success to timing and the universality of Colville’s work: “At the moment of Alex Colville’s passing there was an acknowledgement of what he meant to so many people around the country. He was understood as a truly national figure in a new way. When we made the decision to mount the exhibition, we had confidence that people would respond, because Colville’s story is everybody’s story, which is: there is mystery in life. Life is born of relationships and of the place where you are from, and Colville’s work captures that complex sense of place that lies deep in our psyche.” Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections on Spiegelman: Seth

January 13th, 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.

Seth. Image courtesy of the artist.

Seth. Image courtesy of the artist.


Art Spiegelman’s great contribution to the medium of comics was to prove that comics could be ‘real’ art. Before him, it was a debatable notion. After Maus, it was an undeniable fact. I’ve learned more from Spiegelman’s work than can be boiled down into a few sentences or paragraphs, but I think the essential thing I gleaned from Art was ambition. He aims high and ponders deeply on how to fulfill those ambitions. I aimed higher myself after reading his work and I discovered that good work only comes from hard work.

—Guelph, Ont.–based cartoonist Seth


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