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Black through bronze

Internationally acclaimed contemporary artist Thomas J Price makes his AGO debut with a towering public sculpture that centres the Black experience – on the corner of Dundas and McCaul.

Thomas J. Price. Within the Folds (Dialogue I) 1

Thomas J Price. Within the Folds (Dialogue I), 2020. Cast silicon bronze, Overall: 274.3 × 68.6 × 68.6 cm. Private Collection. © Thomas J Price. Installation view, Dundas and McCaul. Photo © AGO

Last summer’s global uprisings for Black lives sparked a wave of public awareness and inspired widespread calls for social change. Since then, protests resulting in toppled colonial statues have been commonplace in the headlines. While removing these symbols of racism is a step in the right direction, the real question on the horizon is: what should be erected in their wake? Through his important public practice, leading contemporary artist Thomas J Price is answering this question. This week on the corner of Dundas and McCaul Streets, in collaboration with ArtworxTO, the AGO is proudly revealing Within the Folds (Dialogue 1) – an original nine-foot bronze cast sculpture made by Price.   

In recent years, the London-based artist has become internationally recognized for his large-scale sculptural works situated in public spaces. These massive bronze figures depict fictional Black subjects described by Price as “psychological portraits.” Their identities are derived from a hybrid of sources, including real life individuals observed and sketched by the artist and the use of 3D scanning technology for body and clothing detail. According to Price, his use of multiple sources is essential in constructing the characters and “place[s] the focus on their psychological embodiment and underlying humanistic qualities.” Confronted with the towering presence of each figure, viewers are prompted to critically reflect on how they socially interact with Black bodies. 

Thomas J. Price. Within the Folds (Dialogue I) 2

Thomas J Price. Within the Folds (Dialogue I), 2020. Cast silicon bronze, Overall: 274.3 × 68.6 × 68.6 cm. Private Collection. © Thomas J. Price. Installation view, Dundas and McCaul. Photo © AGO

This week’s reveal of Within the Folds (Dialogue 1) marks Price’s second appearance at a major Canadian gallery – his debut was in 2019 with the solo exhibition Ordinary Men at The Power Plant. The sculpture is presented in collaboration with ArtworxTO: Toronto's Year of Public Art 2021–2022, a year-long celebration of Toronto’s exceptional public art and the community behind it. The striking nine-foot bronze figure depicts a Black male subject standing upright in a relaxed position, gazing forward, wearing a casual hooded sweatshirt and pants.

Price’s powerful figures reimagine the landscape of public sculpture, centring the Black experience. It’s no surprise that his practice has recently been tethered to the politically charged global conversation surrounding historical statues. The materiality, scale and meaning presented in his sculptures makes them feel – for many – like the perfect replacement for problematic colonial monuments. Price himself is at the forefront of this conversation, having authored an essay in 2020 critiquing white artist Marc Quinn’s sculptural depiction of Black Lives Matter protestor Jen Reid. 

The AGO is now open, so on your first visit back be sure to stop at Dundas and McCaul to marvel at the majestic presence of Within the Folds (Dialogue 1). And stay tuned to ArtworxTO for more public art projects and commissions that reflect Toronto’s diversity, citywide, from fall 2021 to fall 2022. 

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