From photograms to collage, exhibition marks addition of 28 artworks by 10 photographers to the AGO Collection
TORONTO, Nov. 21, 2022— Today, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) announces We Are Story: The Canada Now Photography Acquisition, an exhibition of new additions to the AGO Collection showcasing the vitality and range of contemporary photography in Canada. Opening on January 28, 2023, and curated by AGO Curatorial Fellow Marina Dumont-Gauthier with AGO Curator of Photography Sophie Hackett, We Are Story features artworks by ten contemporary artists, working in a variety of image-based media, ranging from camera-less prints to drone photography.
Support for these new acquisitions comes from the Canada Now Photography Acquisition Initiative, a project conceived in the spring of 2020 by photographer Edward Burtynsky and gallerist Nicholas Metivier to support artists through the COVID pandemic. Thanks to their generosity, Sophie Hackett, Curator, Photography, AGO and Denise Birkhofer, Collections Curator, The Image Centre at Toronto Metropolitan University, each acquired artworks by ten artists for their respective institution’s collections. An exhibition of the artworks acquired by The Image Centre, entitled CANADA NOW: New Photography Acquisitions is on view now through Dec. 3, 2022.
“From the night skies of Nunavut to the streets of Damascus, these works are evidence of photography’s capacity to transform objects, landscapes, and perspectives. These artists remind us how we are shaped by and also actively shape the worlds we inhabit. Thanks to the generosity of the Canada Now Initiative – we’ve been able to ensure that the AGO’s photography collection keeps pace with contemporary practices and reflects the exciting diversity, creativity and range of the field,” says AGO Curator of Photography Sophie Hackett. “I am thrilled to welcome these ten artists into the AGO collection, all but one for the first time.”
Organized as a series of artist spotlights, spread over two galleries on Level 1 of the AGO, Edmond G. Odette Family Gallery and the Robert & Cheryl McEwen Gallery, the works on view range widely in material and in approach – from magazine cut-outs to printed fabric, conceptual and documentary, performance document to war witness, in two and three dimensions.
- A large collage by Aaron Jones (b. 1993; lives in Toronto), entitled Holding my Grandmother’s Oranges (2021) opens the exhibition. One of his most ambitious works to date, it blends images from books, magazines, and other materials, including a postcard promoting California oranges that used to hang in his late grandmother’s home. The collage reflects on the many ways in which images are a key part of—as Jones put it in a 2019 interview — “the ways we build ourselves.”
- Adjacent to Jones, is an installation of 35 photograms, entitled Her own devices (2021) created by Laurie Kang (b. 1985, lives in Toronto). These images – made by placing objects on sensitized paper without a camera– depict various mesh bags, gathered by the artist. Each bag takes on a unique form through variations in contrast, depth, sharpness, and detail, and together they reflect Kang’s ongoing interest in the body as a vessel.
- Suspended from the ceiling of Robert & Cheryl McEwen Gallery, is Where you go I follow (2020), an abstracted image printed on sheer fabric by Inuk artist asinnajaq (b. 1991, lives in Tiohtià:ke (Montreal)). Featuring a close-up view of the shallow waters at the edge of James Bay, the artist reorients the scene, presenting it vertically. Visitors moving through the space cause the fabric to ripple and shift.
- It was during a residency in Kamloops, British Columbia, that Gabrielle L'Hirondelle Hill (b. 1979, lives in Vancouver) braided a field of grass on a hill beside a highway to create Braided Grass (2013). Her intervention, which was filmed and photographed, powerfully blends traditional craft and contemporary performance. In shaping the rough grass into smooth plaits, a skill requiring patience and time, she acknowledges “the long relationship between our bodies and the land.”
- A highly abstracted image of an eight-pack of Lucky brand beer, Lucky X Lager 8 (2012-2016) by Raymond Boisjoly (b. 1981, lives in Vancouver) is the second work by the artist to join the AGO Collection. Here, Boisjoly scans and magnifies the bottoms of the cans, transforming a three dimensional everyday object into minimalist towers. Lucky Lager which moved between breweries in the United States and Canada, inspired Boisjoly's research on the geographical migration of popular imagery.
- From his series The Sum of All Parts comes a diptych by Jalani Morgan (b. 1981, lives in Toronto). Part of Morgan’s ongoing documentation of social justice movements, these two vinyl banners depict an overhead view of a “die-in” that took place at Yonge and Dundas Square, following the killing of Eric Garner in 2014 by New York City police officers. That original photograph made the front page of the Toronto Star, giving powerful visual form to the burgeoning days of the Black Lives Matter movement in Toronto.
- Photojournalist Louie Palu’s (b. 1968, lives in Washington D.C.) series The Fighting Season 1 explores the human impact of war with a selection of twelve prints documenting the conflict in Afghanistan, taken between 2007–2010. Palu offers a nuanced portrait of a contemporary conflict – that involved Canadian troops – whose outcome remains deeply polarizing.
- Viewed from a distance, Tokyo/Damascus (2012) by Iranian-born artist Sanaz Mazinani (b. 1978; lives in Toronto) resembles the ornamentation typically found in Islamic art and architecture. Part of her larger series, The Conference of the Birds (2011-2012), closer inspection reveals that the image combines two distinct images. Sourced from the internet; one is of the Occupy movement in Tokyo and the other is of a Syrian flag waved during the Arab Spring demonstrations. Like a kaleidoscope, Mazinani encourages the viewer to consider the global nature and simultaneity of these events.
- A striking self-portrait along with seven other photographs comprise a group of images by Inuit artist Robert Kautuk (b. 1971, lives in Kangiqtugaapik) document his daily life in Kangiqtugaapik (Clyde River), a small community located on the east coast of Baffin Island. Mostly shot using a drone camera, Kautuk's body of work brings together community Elders, researchers, or climate scientists engaging with the land, while highlighting the role of Indigenous artists in the fight against climate change.
- Visitors confront the image of a foundering ship in Dawit L. Petros’s (b. 1972, lives in Chicago and Montreal) Act of Recovery (Part II), Nouakchott, Mauritania. Part of a larger body of work entitled The Stranger’s Notebook , Petros recalled what prompted him to photograph this moment in Mauritania: “We are used to seeing shipwrecks on the shores of Europe […] But this shot seemed to invert that notion […] It wasn’t yet another displaced African body. That made it feel powerful.”
We Are Story: The Canada Now Photography Acquisition will remain on view through May 2023, and further details about exhibition-related programming will be announced in the months to come.
We Are Story: The Canada Now Photography Acquisition is free for AGO Members, Annual Pass holders, all Indigenous Peoples and visitors aged 25 and under. For more details on how to book your tickets to or to become a Member or Annual Passholder, visit ago.ca.
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We Are Story: The Canada Now Photography Acquisition is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The AGO is grateful for the generous support of a Photography Fellowship provided by:
ABOUT THE AGO
Located in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario is one of the largest art museums in North America, attracting approximately one million visitors annually. The AGO Collection of more than 120,000 works of art ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art to significant works by Indigenous and Canadian artists and European masterpieces. The AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, including solo exhibitions and acquisitions by diverse and underrepresented artists from around the world. In 2019, the AGO launched a bold new initiative designed to make the museum even more welcoming and accessible with the introduction of free admission for anyone 25 years and under and a $35 annual pass. Visit AGO.ca to learn more.
The AGO is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO Members, donors and private-sector partners.
ABOUT THE CANADA NOW PHOTOGRAPHY ACQUISITION INITIATIVE
Conceived in 2020 by Canadian photographer and artist Edward Burtynsky, and supported by the gallerist Nicholas Metivier, this initiative is a response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on artists and the art market in Canada. It is supported by proceeds from the sale of Burtynsky’s 2020 photographic portfolio Natural Order. All funds from Canada Now were designated for the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and The Image Centre at Toronto Metropolitan University, to support the acquisition of artworks by 20 emerging and mid-career Canadian artists.
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