Left: Eva Hesse Studiowork, 1969; Courtesy of The Estate of Eva Hesse; Photograph by Abby Robinson, New York. Center: Betty Goodwin, Bent Figure with Megaphone, 1988; Gift of Ron Kaplansky, 1996. Right: Agnes Martin, The Rose, 1964; Purchased with assistance from Wintario © Art Gallery of Ontario.
At Work: Hesse, Goodwin, Martin
“Absolute standout” — Toronto Star
This fall, the fourth floor of the AGO will feature three linked yet unique exhibitions presented under one title. At Work explores very particular aspects of the remarkable work of three major international artists: Eva Hesse (1936-1970), Agnes Martin (1912-2004) and Betty Goodwin (1923-2008).
While their artistic vocabularies are diverse, presented together in At Work, the installation will tell a compelling story of the labour of art and provide new insights into these artists’ dedicated and focused work in the studio. Major works by each will be presented alongside their writings, studio and archival material, as well as documentary video and photography.
For a behind-the-scenes look at the production of this exhibition, visit Work In Progress, an AGO blog by Museum Studies student Kendra Ainsworth.
Eva Hesse: Studiowork
“Beguiling” — Toronto Star
Organized by the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, this exhibition brings together 50 of the artist’s small ‘test’ pieces to examine, for the first-time, how Hesse’s experimental practices and working method in the studio informed her larger sculptures. Eva Hesse: Studiowork, a solo presentation of the work of German-born American artist Eva Hesse, a major figure in post-war art, is on display at the AGO for a limited time. It is the result of new research by renowned Hesse scholar Professor Briony Fer and is curated by Fer and Barry Rosen, Director of The Estate of Eva Hesse.
Throughout her career, Eva Hesse produced a large number of small, experimental works alongside her large-scale sculpture. These objects, the so-called test pieces, were made in a wide range of materials, including latex, wire-mesh, sculp-metal, wax and cheesecloth. This exhibition proposes that rather than simply technical explorations, these small objects radically put into question conventional notions of what sculpture is. Re-naming them studioworks rather than test pieces, the exhibition and the accompanying major publication offer a timely new interpretation of Hesses historical position, as well as highlighting her relevance for contemporary art now.
This short film, created by the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, is an introduction to the exhibition by curator Briony Fer.
Betty Goodwin: Work Notes
"A quietly intimate stunner ... deeply affecting, moving and genuine revelation." — Toronto Star
This exhibition features more than 85 of Betty Goodwin’s notebooks, a promised gift to the AGO’s special collections.
For almost half a century, Montreal artist Betty Goodwin created powerful images of fragility and survival. She worked and reworked drawings, ideas, and materials. Goodwin was a collector as much as a creator. Her studio was a living archive – a constant source of inspiration and ideas, filled with objects meaningfully arranged. Throughout her life, she also made notes and collected quotes, objects and photographs in numerous notebooks – her most important and very personal possession. Her notebook was her portable studio. In the studio, the notebooks were her creative mine, the main source of her recurring images and themes. It was her wish to donate them to the AGO’s archives upon her death. For the first time, more than 85 of her notebooks are exhibited alongside a few major works.
In addition, 25 of her printing plates, never before seen publicly, are also on display. Goodwin’s breakthrough as an artist took place in the late 1960s in the printmaking studio. Instead of drawing on the plate, she took the working gloves she was wearing, placed them on a carefully prepared printing plate and ran them through the press. The result was immediate and liberating. The gloves were followed by other objects such as vests, nests, notes, and parcels. Her complete process is on view: the actual parcel, the printing plate and the final print. Usually, plates are destroyed to limit the number of prints made. Goodwin kept her plates and in 2005, she entrusted the AGO by donating them to the archives. While no more prints will ever be created from these plates, they provide a unique opportunity to learn about her work.
Visitors also have a chance to flip through selections of her notebooks which have been digitized, as well as listen to first person accounts of what it was like to be in Goodwin’s studio.
Agnes Martin: Work Ethic
“Simply transporting” — Toronto Star
This Exhibition features The Islands, on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art, which comprises a series of 12 paintings that invites the viewer to explore the subtleties of Martin’s artistic vocabulary and her remarkable commitment to the work of painting. Along with two works from the AGO’s permanent collection, and an accompanying video interview, this is the first time Martin’s work will be comprehensively shown in Canada.
Although born in Saskatchewan in 1912, Martin spent most of her life in the US after moving there as a teenager. Her time studying, living and working in the American Southwest greatly influenced her as a person and as an artist.
A deeply spiritual artist influenced by the Eastern philosophical traditions of Taoism and Buddhism, Martin wanted her work to represent the sublime. For her, art was about happiness, a happiness that comes from the perception of universal beauty in the world. Believing that this beauty existed in the mind, rather than in the physical world of objects, Martin renounced explicit connections to the material world in her painting by using simple lines and grids, and limiting her use of colour.
While her paintings can be seen to refer to the natural world in their titles (The Rose, The Islands) and in their forms (lines perhaps representing the horizon, grids the division of farmers fields) Martin did not wish to dictate the interpretation of her work, instead wanting the viewer to come to terms with their own impressions of and feelings about her paintings. In keeping with that thought, listen to her speak for herself in this great interview:
Richard Tuttle on Agnes Martin (Audio)
Eva Hesse: Studioworks is curated by Briony Fer and Barry Rosen. Organized by The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh in collaboration with Camden Arts Centre, London; Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive;
Betty Goodwin: Work Notes includes works from the AGO’s permanent and archival collections. Generously supported by
Agnes Martin: Work Ethic includes works on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Contemporary programming at the AGO is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.