Photo credit: Utamaro Kitagawa (1754-1806), "3 Women," University of Alberta Art Collection ©2006 University of Alberta Museums.
Contemporary urban life, geisha culture, and legendary events are just some of the topics covered in “Against the Grain: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the University of Alberta Art Collection.” The exhibit surveys the aesthetic, cultural, and technical developments of this unique art form from the Edo period (1603-1868) all the way to present day. Other highlights include iconic works by Hiroshige and Hokusai, which had a major impact on European artists like Vincent van Gogh. On view at the Carleton University Art Gallery until July 24.
Ed Pien's Mary Magdalene
TO AUGUST 21 The city is bustling, the weather is warm and sunny; and hopefully you’re enjoying a fantastic trip to Toronto. But maybe there’s something whispering to you that the good times can’t last forever. If so, you’re not alone. Anxiety, it seems, is a universal feature of life both past and present. It’s also thematic fodder for the latest exhibition at Justina M. Barnicke Gallery. Aptly entitled Scream, after the iconic Edvard Munch painting, the display pairs intricate drawings—such as Mary Magdalene—by Ed Pien and eerie stone carvings by Samonie Toonoo in a daring evocation of worry, fear and what inspires these feelings. For a summer show it’s oppressive stuff, but perhaps when confronted by the artists’ anxieties your own won’t seem so bad.
An Te Liu's Cloud sculpture
TO AUGUST 15 There may be truth in the axiom that without structure, there is chaos. It’s not clear, however, what this structure is, how it should come to be, and, once created, how it should be used. These questions comprise the foundation of Empire of Dreams, a large-scale group show at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. Here, Toronto-based artists interpret the myriad ways in which humans envision, produce and interact with the built environments and systemic constructs that order our lives. Often reflecting an increasingly globalized urban experience, these varied works—including An Te Liu’s Cloud, composed of recycled air purifiers—offer imaginative new perspectives on our surroundings and the ever-evolving conditions of our existence.
Early Snow with Bob and Doug, by Diana Thorneycroft
TO NOVEMBER 29 Fresh—both refreshing and cheeky—aptly evokes the Diana Thorneycroft: Canada, Myth and History exhibition at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The Winnipeg artist juxtaposes toy figurines with well-known landscape paintings in memorable, outlandishly staged photographic tableaux that seem comical but ultimately reveal darker underpinnings. Her Group of Seven Awkward Moments series irreverently deconstructs mythological narratives and challenges notions of cultural identity in such works as Early Snow with Bob and Doug, which places über-Canuck pop icons the McKenzie brothers against the back-drop of Tom Thomson’s 1916 oil painting, Early Snow. Among the other iconoclastic, diorama-like images, expect to see a brilliant exploration of Canadiana emblems like mounties, Bobby Orr, and the Tim Hortons double-double.
Viola Frey's Weeping Woman
ON NOW Colossal clay sculptures by one of the world’s premier ceramicists take over the Gardiner Museum as part of Bigger, Better, More: the Art of Viola Frey. The California-based artist, who died in 2004, helped elevate the status of ceramics as an art form in the latter half of the 20th century. Monumental in aesthetic and scale—the exhibition’s 22 works fit into crates that occupied two 18-wheeler transport trucks—Frey’s figures, such as the larger-than-life Weeping Woman, boast bright primary colours and an electrifying marriage of ceramics, painting and sculpture that offers a provocative commentary on American life. Complementing this retrospective is the release of a catalogue that compiles three essays about the artist along with photographs of her bold mixed-media pieces. Pick it up for posterity at the popular Gardiner Museum Shop.
Pharaoh Tutankhamun's canopic coffinette
OPENS NOVEMBER 24 The boy-king is back—30 years after his celebrated Canadian debut—with his fellow pharaohs in tow. The Art Gallery of Ontario showcases King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, with more than 100 incredible artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb, including weapons, jewels, furniture, his golden sandals, and a gold, carnelian and coloured-glass Canopic Coffinette. Also on view are historical objects from Egyptian temples and other royal tombs circa 2600 to 660 BC, including one of the largest icons of the monarch ever unearthed—a 10-foot statue with much of its original paint intact. There’s also a CT scan of Tut’s mummy! Even if you succumbed to “Tutmania” during the 1979 exhibition, it’s still worth reacquainting yourself with the pharaoh. The AGO’s new display offers an almost entirely different collection of treasures, with twice as many relics as the previous show.
A panel from Charles Pachter's Hockey Knights in Canada.
ON NOW To outsiders, the fanaticism with which Canadians embrace the game of hockey may be hard to understand; conversely, the sport is so ingrained in our collective identity that we rarely stop to question it. Attempting to find meaning in this fixation, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art presents ARENA: Road Game, a group show featuring Hockey Knights in Canada by Charles Pachter, plus related works by an artistic all-star team including Graeme Patterson and Tim Lee. No mere paean to a national pastime, the exhibition offers a deeper examination of hockey’s significance in contemporary culture, touching on everything from notions of hero worship to the controversial role of violence on the ice.
Laterns, Singapore by Nicolas Ruel.
TO OCTOBER 18 Quebec artists continue to gain an audience in Ontario courtesy of the Distillery Historic District’s beautiful Thompson Landry Gallery. Yet, in a sense, the gallery’s latest exhibition has an international flavour, as Montreal-based photographer Nicolas Ruel presents 8 Secondes, a new series of images that depict the world’s great cities through multiple eight-second exposures. Evoking a dreamlike dynamism, these photos are all the more impressive for being printed on stainless steel—the medium’s light-reflecting surface lends further animation to the already vital works.
Edward Burtynsky's SOCAR Oil Fields #3, Baku, Azerbaijan.
OCTOBER 8 TO 31 Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has long been renowned for capturing the almost unimaginable scale of heavy industry’s impact on the natural environment. His sweeping images of manufactured landscapes—at once striking and repulisive—are widely collected and have been the subject of essays, books and even a documentary film. At Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Burtynsky’s vision is distilled in an exhibition focusing on his decade-long study of oil fields and refineries from Alberta to Azerbaijan. Through these meticulously composed images, he depicts the visual duality—and implies the moral one—arising from our continuing exploitation of a resource that is equally valued and maligned.
The Lumikiik lamp is one of many displayed works at the Design Exchange.
ON NOW If Canadian achievements are arguably underrepresented when it comes to cataloguing the international history of design, then those of Quebec have been largely ignored. Consider this: Quebec in Design, the latest exhibition at the Design Exchange, is the first ever large-scale showcase of the province’s long and fascinating design tradition. With two major components—the first examining the work of interior decorators in the 1930s to the whiz-bang wonder fostered by Expo ’67; the second a study of innovations from the 1970s to the present day—the survey employs such objects as François Dallegret’s Lumikiik lamp to reveal the vital role design has played in the enhancement of Quebec’s cultural identity. —Alex Hughes
John Brown's Tower Version One.
OPENS JUNE 6 Scraped, scored and textured with great welts of paint, the works of John Brown are survivors of their own visceral creation—no wonder the Toronto-based artist is known to take months to produce a single panel. Venerable art hub Olga Korper Gallery displays three of Brown’s large-scale pieces that reveal a meticulous process that combines abstract expressionism with artifacts of figuration. Widely collected and critically praised, Brown’s larger body of work, produced over a two-decade span, is also highlighted in a new catalogue to be launched at the gallery on June 18 from 6 to 9 p.m.
The Creation by Judy Chicago, woven by Audrey Cowan (Image © Donald Woodman).
ON NOW The practice of needlepoint—for centuries seen as an innocuous domestic hobby for women—takes on profound political, cultural and artistic implications in When Women Rule the World: Judy Chicago in Thread, the latest exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada. Numerous striking works produced cooperatively by the American artist and volunteer textile makers hang from the museum’s walls and enshrine female iconography in a sphere historically dominated by masculine viewpoints. Spanning Chicago’s four-decade career, the survey offers a distinct feminist perspective with such pieces as The Creation, a large-scale tapestry from the 1980 to ‘85 Birth Project, which explores the physical, emotional and spiritual experiences shared by women through childbirth.