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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 »

Picturing the Americas, by the numbers

June 19th, 2015

By Raechel Bonomo, AGO Communications Assistant

This summer at the AGO, we’re taking visitors on a landscapist’s journey through portrayals of 14 different countries that illustrate the discovery, succession and expansion of the Americas. The exhibition Picturing the Americas: Landscapes from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic spans from tropical settings such as Rio de Janeiro to the icy waters of the North. Your summer vacation just got a whole lot cooler.

With the vast size of these landscape paintings — the largest (Niagara Falls, painted in 1878 by William Morris Hunt) measures approximately seven by 10 feet framed — it’s easy to get a bit lost and miss the works’ finer points. So we sifted through the exhibition’s 118 pieces to pick out those tiny details hidden within the expanses of the landscapes. Find your way through the bushes, forests and mountains with our Picturing the Americas By the Numbers guide below. 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 »

Artist’s statement: Christi Belcourt on The Wisdom of the Universe

August 7th, 2014

Christi Belcourt, The  Wisdom of the Universe, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 171 × 282 cm, purchased with funds donated by Greg Latremoille, 2014 ©  2014 Christi Belcourt.

Christi Belcourt, The Wisdom of the Universe, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 171 × 282 cm, purchased with funds donated by Greg Latremoille, 2014 © 2014 Christi Belcourt.

The AGO has commissioned and acquired an extraordinary painting entitled The Wisdom of the Universe by Christi Belcourt, a Métis visual artist and author who received the 2014 Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award at a ceremony held here on July 30, 2014. Below, Belcourt discusses the ecological concerns that inspired the work.

In Ontario, over 200 species of plants and animals are listed as threatened, endangered or extinct. Of those, included in this painting are the Dwarf Lake Iris, the Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid, the Karner Blue butterfly, the West Virginia White butterfly, the Spring Blue-eyed Mary, the Cerulean Warbler and Acadian Flycatcher.

Globally, we live in a time of great upheaval. The state of the world is in crisis. We are witness to the unbearable suffering of species, including humans. Much of this we do to ourselves. It is possible for the planet to return to a state of well-being, but it requires a radical change in our thinking. It requires a willingness to be open to the idea that perhaps human beings have got it all wrong.

All species, the lands, the waters are one beating organism that pulses like a heart. We are all a part of a whole. The animals and plants, lands and waters, are our relatives each with as much right to exist as we have. When we see ourselves as separate from each other and think of other species, the waters and the planet itself as objects that can be owned, dominated or subjugated, we lose connection with our humanity and we create imbalance on the earth. This is what we are witnessing around us.

The planet already contains all the wisdom of the universe, as do you and I. It has the ability to recover built into its DNA and we have the ability to change what we are doing so this can happen.

Perhaps it’s time to place the rights of Mother Earth ahead of the rights to Mother Earth.

– Christi Belcourt

This work is one of two paintings by Belcourt currently on display in the Gallery. In the video below, Belcourt discusses the other, entitled So Much Depends Upon Who Holds the Shovel (2008), which appears in our exhibition Before and after the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes.

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

Remembering Itee Pootoogook

March 21st, 2014

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of leading contemporary Inuit artist Itee Pootoogook (born 1951) following a battle with cancer. Itee created distinct and powerful images of life in the north and was best known in recent years for his large format drawings. His works have the haunting simplicity of Alex Colville’s paintings, while bringing a scale and monumentality to the details and daily rituals of contemporary Inuit life. Along with fellow Inuit artists Shuvinai Ashoona, Tim Pitsiuolak and Jutai Toonoo, Itee brought international and critical attention to an important and bold new approach to art in the north and inspired an emerging generation of artists. He will be missed and has left us too soon.

The AGO has been committed to Itee Pootoogook through the acquisition of a dozen works including Fuel Tank (above), acquired in 2012.

—Andrew Hunter, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art

Listen: Art & Ideas, A Bird’s Eye View on Art & Extinction

March 3rd, 2014

Sara Angelucci, Aviary (Male Passenger Pigeon/extinct), 2013
Sara Angelucci,
Aviary (Male Passenger Pigeon/extinct),
© 2013 Sara Angelucci.
Courtesy of the artist.
Sara Angelucci, Aviary (Female Passenger Pigeon/extinct), 2013
Sara Angelucci,
Aviary (Female Passenger Pigeon/extinct),
© 2013 Sara Angelucci.
Courtesy of the artist.

Click to play:

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Download 125.3MB MP3

Recorded: Jan. 15, 2014, at Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 01:31:16

Artist-in-residence Sara Angelucci; writer and historian Matthew Brower, Mark Peck, Royal Ontario Museum Ornithology Technician; and Bridget Stutchbury, author and Professor of Ornithology at York University, gathered to discuss the extinction and endangerment of North American birds as well as art and society’s relationship with the natural environment. The talk was moderated by the AGO’s curator of Canadian Art, Andrew Hunter.

Pigeon-less Pie, Sara Angelucci

The discussion was followed by a three-course meal served in FRANK restaurant, specially prepared by executive chef Jeff Dueck in consultation with Sara Angelucci. The main dish featured a vegetarian “pigeon-less” pie to mark the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon. The passenger pigeon, formerly one of the most abundant birds in North America, was pushed to extinction in 1914 due to habitat destruction and over hunting. Dinner and dessert were each paired with a choice of white or red Ontario wine.


Speaker Bios

Sara Angelucci is a Toronto-based visual artist who works primarily with photography, video and audio, exploring vernacular archival materials such as home movies, snap-shots and vintage portraits and their limited ability to convey the exact sense of a lived experience. Working with these images Angelucci seeks to reposition them in the present, shedding light on their broader context and histories outside of the frame.

Matthew Brower is a lecturer in Museum Studies in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. He writes on issues in animal studies, the history and theory of photography and contemporary art. He is the Author of Developing Animals: Wildlife and Early American Photography (University of Minnesota Press 2010). He has curated exhibitions in historical and contemporary art including Mieke Bal: Nothing is Missing, Gord Peteran: Recent Works, The Brothel Without Walls, Suzy Lake: Political Poetics, and Collective Identity │Occupied Spaces.

Mark Peck is the Collection Manager in Ornithology, Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto. He is also involved in museum exhibits and programs and field research in South America, New Jersey and the Hudson Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario. In addition, he is the coordinator of the Ontario Nest Records Scheme, the ROM liaison for the Ontario Bird Records Committee and the program director for the Toronto Ornithological Club. In his off hours he is an avid bird photographer, traveling extensively for both his profession and his hobby. He has authored or coauthored numerous scientific and popular articles on birds and hundreds of his images have been published in books, magazines and on websites. Mark has been with the ROM since 1983.

Bridget Stutchbury is a professor in the Department of Biology at York University, Toronto. She completed her M.Sc. at Queen’s University and her PhD at Yale and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution. Since the 1980s, she has studied migratory songbirds to understand their behaviour, ecology and conservation. Her current research focuses on studying the incredible migration journeys of songbirds to help halt the severe declines in many species. She serves on the board of Wildlife Preservation Canada and is the author of Silence of the Songbirds (2007) and The Bird Detective (2010).

Remembering Sorel Etrog

February 27th, 2014

Courtesy of Eva Varga.

Courtesy of Eva Varga.

In 2013, the Art Gallery of Ontario proudly presented a career-spanning exhibition of artist Sorel Etrog’s work, featuring his archetypal sculptures and his rarely seen film, Spiral, plus drawings, paintings, book illustrations and prints from both the Gallery’s and private collections. Born in Romania, Etrog came to Toronto in 1963 and his career here left an undeniable mark, both on our cityscape and the many people in Toronto’s art community who knew and admired him.

Below AGO CEO and director Matthew Teitelbaum reflects on Etrog’s passing: Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: AGO artist-in-residence Sara Angelucci

December 2nd, 2013

Toronto-based artist Sara Angelucci is the AGO artist-in-residence from November 20, 2013, to January 20, 2014, and we’re so happy to share her work with you. Working primarily with photography, video and audio, Angelucci incorporates archival materials such as home movies, snapshots, and vintage portraits into her work and recently has turned her focus to research on endangered and extinct North American bird species.

Sara Angelucci, Aviary (Male Passenger Pigeon/extinct), 2013. C-print, 26 x 38 inches. © Sara Angelucci. Courtesy of the artist.

Sara Angelucci, Aviary (Male Passenger Pigeon/extinct), 2013. C-print, 26 x 38 inches. © Sara Angelucci. Courtesy of the artist.

During her time at the AGO, Angelucci will explore works from our Canadian collection, particularly those with Canadian nature, aviary and forestry subjects. She’s planned a number of initiatives that will activate this research and provide points of engagement for AGO visitors and for staff, including:

  • a performance in February entitled A Mourning Chorus and featuring a cappella singing that will explore the sounds of disappearing North American song-birds through the historic framework of women’s public mourning rituals;
  • the installation of two works from Angelucci’s Aviary from November to February 2014 in our Canadian galleries;
  • a Meet the Artist talk in January, when she will talk to artists Spring Hurlbut and Marla Hlady about their work; and
  • a panel discussion, also in January, entitled “Art & Ideas: A bird’s eye view on art & extinction,” to be followed by a three-course meal served in FRANK restaurant, specially prepared by executive chef Jeff Dueck in consultation with Angelucci.

(More details on these activities here.)

As Angelucci settles into the artist-in-residence studio in the Weston Family Learning Centre, we wanted to know what inspired these plans. Here, she offers insight into her practice and its relation to the environment, her fascination with birds and her approach to residencies.

AGO: Do you consider yourself an environmental activist/conservationist as well as an artist?
Sara Angelucci: It is unfair to the true activists out there to call myself that. But, like many people, I’m deeply concerned about what is happening to the environment and in recent years the problems seem to be accelerating as we see weather conditions around the world becoming more extreme.

Where did your interest in songbirds come from? Do you have a personal connection or did you grow interested in them through your practice/research?
I’ve always loved birds and thought they were beautiful. I think a number of things have brought me to thinking about them in a more focused way. I have been spending more isolated time in the countryside and watching them there. Also, in my recent photographic series Aviary I combined images of endangered and extinct North American birds (which I photographed in the ornithology collection at the ROM) with images of anonymous cartes-de-visite.

Although the process by which I came to making this connection is a long one to explain, I think there are interesting overlaps between the craze for collecting cartes-de-visite in the 19th century and the craze for collecting natural specimens. Aviaries become hugely popular at this time, as did taxidermy. The Victorian parlour was a place where both the photographic album and these specimens came together. With this project I’ve been doing a lot of reading on birds and the challenges they face today, which include habitat destruction and pesticides amongs other things.

Sara Angelucci, Aviary (Female Passenger Pigeon/extinct), 2013. C-print, 26 x 38 inches. © Sara Angelucci. Courtesy of the artist.

Sara Angelucci, Aviary (Female Passenger Pigeon/extinct), 2013. C-print, 26 x 38 inches. © Sara Angelucci. Courtesy of the artist.

How do the actions of your residency — the installation of your Aviary portraits, the talks and special meal in FRANK, the chorus — relate to and inform one another?
All of these projects are an attempt to contemplate our relationship to the birds, and by way of extension, the natural world, in a directly embodied way. When we are implicated in a direct way, by combining images of the bird/human, through what we eat, or through the human voice, we cannot separate ourselves from nature. I feel very strongly that one of the reasons we are in such dire straits environmentally is that as humans we see ourselves as apart [from] or above nature. This disconnection is very dangerous for the earth, its species and, ultimately, for us and we are seeing its catastrophic implications.

Do you plan to continue to produce work related to these themes after your residency?
It’s hard to say. At the moment I am very focused on the projects at hand. It’s highly possible that I will, but I try not to get too far ahead of myself on projects.

You’ve done a number of residencies, at NSCAD (Halifax), the Banff Centre, and at Biz-Art in Shanghai – how does the AGO’s program differ from the others you’ve experienced? Did you do localized research during those residencies that influenced your practice afterward?
They have all been extremely different. In each case I have tried to think about what I can do which is special to that place, the people I encounter there and my interests. It sometimes takes a little while to figure that out.

The residency in Shanghai was in some ways the most challenging and so far the most fulfilling. China was a complete culture shock, and I was extremely jetlagged for a good week. So it took me some time to find my footing, and I couldn’t speak to many people. It was very interesting to be silent. You have to find different ways of communicating and making yourself understood. And you have to use keen observation to figure things out.

At the AGO I feel like I’m in luxury. There is so much going on at the gallery that I am invited to be a part of, and so much support for what I want to do. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming, and the resources at hand for an artist are amazing — from technical support to research and curatorial support. Also, it’s my hometown, so it is exciting to be sharing this experience with my family, students and friends as it is unfolding.

Visit Angelucci’s website to learn more about her and her body of work.

Acquired: Jacoposie Oopakak’s Family (2011)

October 23rd, 2013

By Andrew Hunter, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art

Jacoposie Oppaka, Family, 2001, antler, bone, stone, metal, 92.7 x 66 x 88.9 cm, detail of skull and base.

Jacoposie Oopakak, Family, 2011, antler, bone, stone, metal, 92.7 x 66 x 88.9 cm, detail of skull and base.

We are really pleased to announce that we recently acquired Family (2011), the first major work by contemporary Inuit artist Jacoposie Oopakak (born 1948, Qipisa, Cumberland Sound, Baffin Island) to come in to the AGO collection. Made of antler, bone and stone, this is a rare work: it is one of only three complete sets of antlers carved by Oopakak during his career. Antler is difficult to carve due to its fragility, and Family is also unique for having the antlers and skull intact.

Jacoposie Oppaka, Family, 2011, antler, bone, stone, metal, 92.7 x 66 x 88.9 cm

Jacoposie Oopakak, Family, 2011, antler, bone, stone, metal, 92.7 x 66 x 88.9 cm

Jacoposie Oopakak began carving in the 1970s following initial formal training in jewellery workshops run by the government of the Northwest Territories. From the outset, his skill as a carver of intricately detailed and delicate work was widely recognized. His art is rooted in Inuit traditions of hunting, travelling and living off the land and involves complex, multi-figured compositions that suggest evolving narratives and the progression of time.

Like his contemporary Manasie Akpaliapik (who is well represented in the AGO collection), Oopakak is extremely skilled at developing his carvings in a highly sympathetic dialogue with his material, allowing forms to emerge from, and to be suggested by, the structure and material characteristics of bone, stone and ivory, with the natural shape — the extended curving growth of antler in this work, for example — suggesting a narrative trajectory.

In many of his works, one sees a significant transformation in material and in the end it can be difficult to identify the source (a jaw bone or antler for example). In such large, complex sculptures as Family (2011), Power (2011, private collection) and Nunali (c.1988-89, National Gallery of Canada), however, the source material (full antler racks) is explicit and integral to the work.

Jacoposie Oppakak, Family, 2011, antler, bone, stone, metal, 92.7 x 66 x 88.9 cm, detail of antler carving.

Jacoposie Oopakak, Family, 2011, antler, bone, stone, metal, 92.7 x 66 x 88.9 cm, detail of antler carving.

Oopakak’s career can be understood in two phases: a very productive period in the 1980s and then a re-emergence in the past decade. In the 1990s, he suffered a series of personal tragedies and illnesses (the death of his wife and son, depression and tuberculosis), during which his production ceased. There has been a marked resurgence in his production in recent years, creating a consistently high level of ambitious work. Much of it was exhibited in Toronto in the fall of 2011 with Family and Power being the two major pieces presented in Masterful Vision: Sculpture by Jacoposie Oopakak (Feheley Fine Arts, Nov. 5 to 30, 2011).

Carved into the antlers of Family is a mix of wildlife, human figures and pictorial scenes all reflective of the artist’s recollections of family life and community traditions. The skull is anchored to a green stone base featuring a self-portrait. Like a number of senior Inuit artists, Oopakak’s work is a bridge to the traditional life on the land into which he was born, articulated from the perspective of modern settlement life.

Family was a Chalmers Inuit Fund purchase and allowed us to acquire a rare and major work by a senior artist who is under-represented in the AGO collection. (The small carving Sea Goddess from the 1980s, donated by Samuel and Esther Sarick, was the only Oopakak work in the AGO collection). Family will be an anchor work within the AGO’s permanent collection having great potential for exhibition and education purposes and, like the National Gallery of Canada’s Nunali, a signature sculpture in the Canadian and contemporary Inuit collection.