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.
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.
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.
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.
Planning to visit Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde at the AGO over the holidays? Here’s ten of our top tips for making your visit truly memorable. Show closes January 15, 2012.
1. Meet the Russian Avant-Garde
For an amazing introduction to the exhibition check out Creating a New World: An intro to Chagall and the Russian Avant Garde. Presented by our interpretative planner David, this audio guide is just under an hour long and will give you a great overview of what you can expect to see. It’s full of fascinating insights into Chagall’s work as well as introducing many of the other artists in the show. It’s a perfect listen for a long commute.
2. Pick a time that suits you best Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde is a time-ticketed exhibition. This means you can pick a morning, midday or afternoon slot depending on your schedule. You can enter at any time during the slot you choose and you can stay in the exhibition as long as you like – we encourage you to take your time! If you want to beat the crowds weekday afternoons are a good bet. If you want a buzzy atmosphere and a great bargain visit us on Wednesday evenings. We’re open late and up until December 21 you can see Chagall from 6-8pm for just $12.50.
We’re not going to lie, parking in downtown Toronto can be tricky. To make things a little bit easier we’ve got a list of nearby car parks for you to choose from right here. You’ll also find information about cycling, taking the subway and other public transport so that however you want to get here, you can do it quickly, easily and safely. GO customers will receive a special 20% discount on admission to Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde: masterpieces from the Collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris by presenting a GO ticket, Go pass or PRESTO card at the AGO box office.
4. Check in for great offers Use Foursquare? Check-in when you get to the Gallery and you’ll unlock great tips, earn points and access some very special winter deals! Don’t forget to leave a tip of your own to share your experiences with future visitors.
5.Have a surf
We’ve got free wifi throughout the building for our visitors to use. Bring your laptop, tablet or save your smartphone data allowance by logging in. The network is called ‘AGO FREE WIFI’ – why not send us a tweet using the #ChagallTO hashtag whilst you’re online? There’s plenty of serene spots in the Gallery that are great for doing a bit of work or catching up on emails. We especially like the Espresso Bar, on the top level of the new Centre for Contemporary Art, as it gets loads of natural light.
6. Talk back to us
As you wander through Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde you’ll come across one of our ‘talkback stations,’ stocked with paper and pencils. At the station you’ll find a thought-provoking question related to the exhibition – it’s a great chance to document your immediate reaction to the show and we absolutely love reading your responses. See what some previous visitors have left us.
8. Keep exploring We think that Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde is a great introduction to some of the most important moments in Russian art history. If you’re left wanting more, head downstairs to Chagall’s sister exhibition, Constructing Utopia: Books and Posters from Revolutionary Russia, 1910–1940. Containing rare books and posters from revolutionary Russia, it’s a chance to explore two exciting branches of graphic design: futurism and constructivism, and learn about how these ground-breaking art movements sffected the everyday visual culture of Soviet Russia.
9. Cross some items off your holiday shopping list For the most unique merchandise in Canada, be sure to stop in at shopAGO, located just inside the main entrance to the Gallery. There’s also a satellite location at the Chagall exhibition exit. Artist prints, artisan jewellery and home-ware, toys and books are all available. Check out our Top 10 holiday gift ideas for culture vultures blog post to get some inspiration!
10. Have fun!
Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde is a riot of colour and imagination. As much as it’s an amazing space to learn about art, it’s also a great spot for daydreaming, for discussion or for creative inspiration. How you experience the exhibition is up to YOU – we encourage all of our visitors of all ages to interact with the art in a way that makes them happy. There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy a show like Chagall – just make sure you manage to visit before it leaves town on January 15, 2012.
We go behind-the-scenes with the AGO’s Executive Chef Anne Yarymowich to find out where she gets her ideas for a menu to complement a show like Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde and to find out about some of her favourite dishes from shows past.
Anne collaborates with chef de cuisine Martha Wright to create contemporary comfort cuisine: food that is warm and inviting, prepared with honesty and integrity. FRANK’s menu showcases an exclusively Ontarian wine list and seasonal ingredients, striving to support local producers with a dedication to global concepts of sustainable farming and slow food. But a meal at FRANK or in our cafe is about more than just tasty eats . As Anne explains, it’s all about enhancing the visitor experience by creating a relationship between the art and the food….
“When I’m planning a menu based on a show at the Gallery my inspiration comes from a number of places. One is the point of origin of the artist or the place that he or she worked. For example, Matisse is French but his work, such as his Odalisque pieces, has Moroccan content from when he visited the French North African Colonies. I also look to the subject matter of the paintings. Sometimes we go shopping for specific vessels, like tagines for Morocco.
In Chagall we have a Russian Jew working in Paris so there are many rich sources of inspiration. We always ask ourselves (of the show) ‘is it food friendly?’ I’ve got a vast collection of cookbooks and magazines that I can turn to for ideas and inspiration, including a great book on Jewish cuisine.
We wanted to make sure that the menu for Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde was respectful of Jewish culture. We’re not a kosher kitchen but we chose a menu that didn’t use any pork or shellfish.
Then there’s Paris, where Chagall such a crucial period of time. It’s a great culinary destination and one we can invoke with food like croissants and confit – the kinds of food Chagall might have eaten at that time. It takes about a month to brainstorm, test and mull over new concepts for our menus.
We try to stay true to the Frank brand, but with tweaks and nods to what’s going on in the Gallery. Our ultimate goal is to enrich the visitor’s experience of the show. Using tastes and sounds and bits and bites we help to create an immersive experience for the visitor that uses all of their senses. For example, when we had the William Wegman show made up exclusively of pictures of his Weimarner dogs we decided to do ‘dog biscuits’ for the café. I definitely think of the food as part of the Gallery as a whole, as another way of enhancing the guest experience.
I really enjoy Eastern European cuisine as it’s close to my heart. There are so many different expressions of a borscht, and thinking about that tradition reminds me of my mother and grandmother. I’m actually judging a borscht contest soon called ‘Not Your Baba’s Borscht’ as part of a charity fundraiser.’
I also look for food in the images of the shows. Once in a while there will be a still life with an eggplant in it that we can use. Inspiration can come from the work itself, the style, the title or the content. When we had our Surrealism exhibition we showed Magritte’s famous The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images) – the picture of the pipe with the text below it, ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe (this is not pipe). So to complement that piece we served a chocolate dessert with the words ‘c’est ne pas à pied’ written in chocolate sauce below it. It means, this is not a pie.
Food can be very whimsical and tongue in cheek. It’s nice to be playful – when we brainstorm a show everyone in the kitchen will get together with a load of food magazines and swap jokes and banter whilst we come up with ideas.
Art is very sensual and so is food. Both are visual, visceral experiences that use colour, viscosity and textures. We want our guests to feel that relationship. We also know we have to cater to today’s palette and part of the challenge is picking dishes that are exciting but also have that popular appeal. “
Russian-inspired borscht featuring Ontario beets
Pan-fried stuffed egg with horseradish and caviar on a salad of baby arugula, baby beet greens, pumpernickel croutons and Dijon vinaigrette
Pan-seared steelhead trout fillet on buckwheat blini, with roasted baby carrots and lemon-chive sour cream sauce
Braised beef brisket with caraway rye bread pudding, choucroute and caramelized onion
Mushroom barley stuffed cabbage rolls with truffle cream sauce and roasted wild mushrooms
Apple charlotte russe with brandy Alexander sauce and brandied damson plums
Chocolate rum baba with poached pear
You can join us for dinner at FRANK Restaurant for a Chagall-inspired prix fixe menu. To order call FRANK Restaurant at 416 979 6688 or book online.
$65* Chagall & FRANK Restaurant Package:
3-course prix fixe dinner at FRANK
1 adult admission to Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde
1 audio guide
Available October 18, 2011 through January 15, 2012. Tuesday – Saturday, 5:30 – 8:30 pm**
* Price includes taxes but excludes alcoholic beverages and gratuities. The FRANK prix fixe dinner is also available on its own for $50.
**Bookings subject to availability. Exhibition Viewing and Dinner must occur on the same night. Offer not transferable to other promotions.