NOVEMBER 30 TO MARCH 2 On the heels of its hugely popular Ai Weiwei and David Bowie exhibitions, the Art Gallery of Ontario invites you to take a stroll through eight tumultuous years in the creation of avant-garde art. “The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection 1910-1918” draws 66 major works from New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, including pieces by the likes of Cezanne, Gaugin, Picasso, Chagall, Matisse and Mondrian, as well as a wide range of lesser-known experimental artists who were active in the early 1900s. Described by AGO CEO Matthew Teitelbaum as “an exhibit that tells a story,” the show allows its contents to speak for itself, with the vivid colours and shapes of the selected works set against stark white walls. But a story is indeed told: arranged chronologically, each pocket of the exhibition is headed by an infographic that sheds historical light on the paintings and sculptures within.
The minimalist presentation offers visitors the chance to slip inside the experience of the artists, tracing their evolution through the years leading up to World War I as they reacted to—and interacted with—a world in the process of being turned upside down. The first room of the exhibit showcases early experiments such as Frantisek Kupka’s Planes by Colors (1910), a large-scale portrait that employed vibrant colour planes instead of traditional shading, inspired by the recent invention of x-rays. From there, patrons can meander through the lush dreamscapes of Marc Chagall and Vasily Kandinsky’s increasing abstractionism alongside other major pieces like Franz Marc’s Yellow Cow (1911) and Matisse’s Italian Woman (1916). The exhibition culminates in a final collection of works from WWI, which offers a fascinating observation of the effects of war on the artists’ psyches: darker colours, harsher lines and ominous symbolism lurk in pieces such as Max Ernst’s City With Animals (1919). Having borne witness to this artistic upheaval, AGO visitors are left with a final thought from Albert Einstein, projected on the gallery floor: “The world cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” —Sara Burnside Menuck