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Broadening the Collection

We take a closer look at the work of four Black artists appearing at the AGO on February 4.

Sandra Brewster. Untitled (Blur)

Sandra Brewster. Untitled (Blur), 2017-2019. Photo-based gel transfer on wall. Installation Commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ontario, 2019. © Sandra Brewster, photo: Art Gallery of Ontario

Happy Black Futures Month! We look forward to a month of exciting programming at the AGO, featuring musical performances, children’s storytelling and a Black-owned pop-up marketplace. Everything kicks off this Saturday, February 4, 2023, with a public Artists’ Talk moderated by Dr. Julie Crooks, celebrating ten artists whose works have recently come under the care of the Department of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora, established by the AGO in 2020. Led by Dr. Crooks, who was recently selected as a 2023 Center for Curatorial Leadership (CCL) Fellow, the department focuses on acquiring, exhibiting and building programming around art from Africa and the African diaspora. Encompassing historic, modern and contemporary work, this collection is expanding the AGO’s scope of art representing Black Atlantic histories while adding further complexity and context to the AGO Collection. Here’s a closer look at four of the ten artists appearing this Saturday:

Sandra Brewster is a Canadian visual artist based in Toronto whose work has been exhibited nationally and abroad. Through her community-based practice, she engages with themes including identity, representation and memory, centring a Black presence in Canada. The daughter of Guyanese-born parents, she is especially attuned to the experiences of people of Caribbean heritage and their ongoing relationships with back home. Visitors to the AGO are familiar with her large-scale photo transfer work Untitled (Blur) (2017-2019), currently on view on Level 2. Learn more about the work in this story

Moridja Kitenge Banza. Christ Pantocrator No. 22

Moridja Kitenge Banza. Christ Pantocrator No. 22, 2021. Acrylic and gold leaf on wood, 40 x 30 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hugues Charbonneau. © Moridja Kitenge Banza

A prolific multidisciplinary artist, Moridja Kitenge Banza is best known for his paintings: among the most recognizable, his Christ Pantocrator series. Referring to Byzantine Christian iconography of Christ Pantocrator, Moridja Kitenge Banza replaces Christ’s face with an African mask inspired by those made and worn by the Dan peoples of Liberia. Et la lumière fut: And there was light, a solo exhibition of Banza’s work including the Christ Protractor series, was on view at the AGO for most of 2022. We connected with the artist in this Q&A

Jorian Charlton, Georgia

Jorian Charlton, Georgia, 2021. Courtesy of the artist. © Jorian Charlton.

With her uniquely poetic style of portraiture, Jorian Charlton largely documents young artists from Toronto’s Black community, often landing her work on album covers, magazine spreads and now, even Bay Street building facades. Her debut AGO solo exhibition, Jorian Charlton: Out of Many, was on view at the AGO in the spring and summer of 2022. It spanned generations, placing 35mm slides taken by her father in the 1970s and ‘80s alongside her contemporary portraits of Black Canadians. Reimagining the idea of a family photo album, the exhibition explored cultural identity as it moves over time and space. Take a closer look at Charlton’s work in this photo essay by the artist.

Black and white photo of the back of a young Black woman, wearing a backpack and hair in buns at each side of the head

Bidemi Oloyede. Untitled, Toronto, 2018. Baryta fine art print, Overall: 71.1 × 71.1 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Purchase, with funds from the Friends of Global Africa and the Diaspora, 2021. © Bidemi Oloyede., Courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery. 2021/83

Originally from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Bidemi Oloyede is currently based in Toronto. He holds a BFA in Photography from OCAD University. Bidemi is an emerging street and portrait photographer who captures the energy and emotion of people in their natural environment and social landscapes in a documentary style using predominantly black-and-white film. His documentary style reflects the interaction or inner dialogue between the photographer and the subject. We explored his work in this artist spotlight

For more details, including how to reserve your ticket for this Saturday’s Artists’ Talk, click here. The AGO’s full Black History Month programming schedule can be found here.

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