The 10 Most Astonishing and Surprising Works of Art from Canadian Galleries in 2021
The fearless art market may have roared in the second year of the pandemic, but things have moved calmly and cautiously in the museum world. Public art galleries in Canada reopened in the summer, offering very late traveling exhibitions or hastily curated performances from their permanent collections.
Despite postponements, cancellations and pivots, there was no shortage of wonders. Here are 10 of the best of 2021.
1. Untitled (slides deleted) by Susan Dobson
In Slide ï½ Lecture, a standout exhibit at the Ryerson Image Center, photographer Susan Dobson struggled with the analogue: all those outdated slides of art history and the Eurocentric pedagogy they represented. Her pristine photographs recorded the round carousels, metal drawers, and paper envelopes used to hold these vast collections, but she made her point powerfully by setting down a large stack of slides thrown in the middle of the floor of the gallery.
With a pile of thousands of discarded slides, artist Susan Dobson questions the value of analog in the digital age
2. Group by Suzanne Duquet
The McMichael Canadian Art Collection produced the most significant revisionism exercise of the year, Uninvited, an exhibition devoted to neglected contemporaries of the Group of Seven. One revelation was the tension between women painters and the subjects of their portraits: not of easy flattery or paternal condescension here. In 1941, Montreal art teacher Suzanne Duquet painted a family portrait (now in the collection of the MusÃ©e des Beaux Arts du QuÃ©bec) showing herself as an androgenic professional surrounded by her hyper-feminine sisters, three women lost in a depressive interiority. despite their frilly dresses and varnished nails.
At McMichael’s new Uninvited exhibition, Canada’s neglected female artists win long-awaited exhibition
3. Sisyphus by Victor Pilon
In October, at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, performance artist Victor Pilon spent seven hours a day, six days a week moving 50 tonnes of sand from one pile to another. In these difficult times, the unnecessary task – a reference to the myth of Sisyphus doomed to push the rock upwards in perpetuity – has become painfully poignant.
Enter the man of sand: Quebec artist Victor Pilon tackles the myth of Sisyphus with much smaller rocks
4. From 1848 to the present day by Moridja Kitenge Banza
In the most controversial curatorial intervention of the year, the National Gallery of Canada featured work by contemporary Indigenous and black artists in its Rembrandt exhibition in Amsterdam. Sometimes postcolonial juxtapositions with the 17th century master were forced; other times they wereâ¦ moving: Moridja Kitenge Banza, the Canadian-Congolese artist based in Montreal, filled a wall with everyday teaspoons, which he acquired through barter, in a layered work on the slave trade.
Rembrandt’s Amsterdam Exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada Shifts Colonization and Slavery to Artistic Achievement
5. Broken circle by Ghazaleh Avarzamani
In the midst of the Greater Toronto Art 2021 exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a delicate metaphor offered by a collection of misshapen spinning tops stood out. Iranian-Canadian artist Ghazaleh Avarzamani created the designs for the oddly shaped wooden trays by sketching shadows cast by a single tray, but the regrouping suggested a silent celebration of the great diversity of humanity. Better yet, visitors could spin them if they wanted.
Iranian artist Ghazaleh Avarzamani’s work challenges Canadian systems
6. Artifact 1 / Upcoming songs by Rajni Perera
Toronto artist and Sobey Prize finalist Rajni Perera is known for his colorful paintings of fantastic oriental figures, as if Indian miniatures had been enlarged by an encounter with Star wars. His fantastic myths for a multicultural future became all the more intriguing when they took on three-dimensional form in the Sobey Finalists’ exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. There she exhibited a bright blue female bust wearing a multicolored scarf and high headdress, a provocative figure that stuck out a long blue tongue.
The Sobey Art Award returns with stiff competition
7. Car, In Your Tongue, I can’t Fit: 100 Jailed Poets by Shilpa Gupta
The title of the show (taken from a sculpture by Betty Goodwin) was awkward but “How long does it take for one voice to reach another?” provided an invigorating look at some recent acquisitions from the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. A long gallery was divided in the middle by a narrow table to which Indian artist Shilpa Gupta had bolted 100 small metal sculptures of closed books. Each represented a poet imprisoned for writing – from different eras and from 40 different countries, including Nigeria, Pakistan, France and the United States. The museum acquired this powerfully physical response to censorship in 2019.
8. Tightrope: In Boxes by Elias Sime
Ethiopian artist Elias Sime accumulates discarded computer parts to create majestic abstracts that read like aerial views of landscapes and cities, creating tension between natural environments and electronic detritus. Tightrope walker: in boxes was one of the highlights of her captivating exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum: Brown and Green Motherboards Could Be A City; colorful squares of coiled wire suggested the fields beyond, the image evoking both our love of technology and a deceptively tame version of nature.
Currently showing at the ROM: Ethiopian artist Elias Sime’s landscapes made from recycled electronics
9. For Jimmy by Jeff Bierk
West Toronto couldn’t miss the portrait of Jimmy James Evans when it was released in May: The man’s head was featured on two billboards in the neighborhood where he lives and begs. It was the weathered face of a difficult life, but the scale and thoughtful gaze of Evans gave the portraits, set against a dramatic sky, heroic dignity. Part of the annual CONTACT festival, the billboards were the work of photographer Jeff Bierk, who has collaborated with Evans over the years on a project questioning consent to street photography.
Toronto billboard features heroic portrait of beggar Jimmy James Evans
10. Jeannette Ehlers’ black balls
The Fragments of Memory exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario was filled with large and impressive works of contemporary art from the Caribbean diaspora and black balls was the one to stop viewers in their tracks. Created by Trinidad and Tobago artist Jeannette Ehlers in 2012, it featured a giant video panel showing a four-minute loop that shows a line of black schoolchildren reflected in the clouds. As they crossed the sky, they melted into their mirror images until they disappeared, as if they were sinking as far as the eye could see in the deepening water. It was a haunting image confronting the viewer with the tragic availability of young black lives.
Dynamic Caribbean art pushes back images of plantations and markets
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