Scanning the range of fall exhibitions at Toronto area art galleries and museums, one can’t miss the abundance of works by Black, Indigenous and people of colour artists in substantial showcases. In addition to these promising shows, the trailblazing Vancouver artist Gathie Falk is receiving a sharp career retrospective that distills the essence of her diverse creativity. It all adds up to an exciting, enriching season for the local visual arts scene.
A tour of the season’s highlights could well begin with the group show Nostalgia Interrupted at Doris McCarthy Gallery (located at University of Toronto Scarborough until Dec. 10). The works demand that we examine the complexities involved in BIPOC nostalgia – a collective memory consistently interrupted by inequality, fear and aggression.
Through photography, video, text and installation, artists Chantal Gibson, Caroline Monnet, Howardena Pindell, Dima Srouji and Shellie Zhang reflect on bold acts of resistance and resilience by BIPOC communities.
A stand-out installation, Deer in Headlights (2022), by Indigenous-French-Canadian multimedia artist Monnet features imposing concrete blocks, weakened by strips of construction safety vests stirred into the cement mixture. The fraying boulders could represent the colonial foundation of Canada. They are certainly compelling, modern abstractions.
At Aga Khan Museum, the exhibition Afghanistan My Love (Oct. 8-April 23) features works by art collective ArtLords (a play on warlords and drug lords), responsible for almost 2,000 murals painted across Afghanistan during the past eight years. Now conducting their Banksy-like “artivism” in exile and in many countries, ArtLords’s mission is “social transformation through the soft power of art.” After viewing murals and paintings, visitors can participate in a community mural designed by the collective.
The exhibition also features Afghan-Canadian artist Shaheer Zazai’s digital works and carpets, their mesmerizing patterns symbolizing complex layers of his cultural identity.
The works of two late female artists – Inuit illustrator, textile artist and sculptor Victoria Mamnguqsualuk and Trinidadian-Canadian painter Denyse Thomasos – are on view at Art Gallery of Ontario.
Until her 30s, Mamnguqsualuk led a hunting lifestyle in the Northwest Territories. After moving to Baker Lake, Nunavut, in 1963, she flourished into one of the most prolific Inuit artists of her generation. Her storied tapestries and drawings “convey how communities must work together to survive, which requires a caretaking relationship with animals and spirits,” says the AGO.
Thomasos’s 70-work retrospective conveys how the artist infused personal and political content into her epic, architectural abstractions. U.S. writer and editor John Yau offers this appreciation: “Her multilayered, constructed space evokes something between a merry-go-round and a tornado, something under extreme centrifugal pressure. It’s as if everything is threatening to bust loose, and the painting itself can barely contain the accumulating forces.”
At the Gardiner Museum, a replica of Karine Giboulo’s home surprises with miniature worlds commenting on these times of global extremes and excesses. On the kitchen counter, in the bedroom dresser drawer and hiding in appliances, more than 500 vibrant clay characters line up at the food bank, work in a factory, flee a fire. The Montreal artist’s social critique through slow-art, whimsical figures attest to an intense connection and deep concern for humanity.
The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, in Kleinburg, near Toronto, has mounted Vancouver artist Gathie Falk’s third career retrospective. The exhibition opens with Falk’s renowned ceramic fruit piles, with subsequent sections devoted to lush painterly works and serial sculptural investigations into shoes and clothing. The show concludes with Falk’s Night Sky paintings from the 1970s and 1980s, accompanied by Reclining Figure (after Henry Moore): Stella, a major sculptural work from 1999.
From modest Mennonite beginnings, Falk rose to fame in the mid-1960s and, at 94, continues to work every day. Curator Sarah Milroy’s gathering of her key works aims to home in on the quintessential nature of Falk’s creativity, an ethos the artist herself calls the “veneration of the ordinary.”
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