Signage and Not So Common Sense in Galleries

The Art Gallery of Algoma is currently featuring an exhibit titled Imagery from the Canadian North in its Project Room gallery. The exhibition contains works in a variety of mediums from the AGA’s permanent collection that were created by artists from Canada’s North. 

The small exhibit contains wall hangings, prints, drawings, paintings, and stone carving.  The pieces included provide a small glimpse into the rich artistic traditions in Canada’s arctic and Indigenous art in Canada.  I particularly enjoyed an untitled wall hanging by Joanne Akoptanuak depicting both humans and animals sharing a space.

However, very little contextual information was included in the project room about the featured artists, the impact of climate on art, and where in Canada’s North the works were created.  Two maps were included as part of the didactic material in the exhibit but didn’t really provide detailed context about the location of the Northern artists whose work was being featured.

While taking in the exhibition a few other visitors to the gallery were also in the space.  The exhibition features a few soapstone carvings on pedestals without a glass enclosure.  The signage at the entrance to the space did include a note about not touching the artwork.  However, during my time in the space I had to restrain myself when two other visitors repeatedly touched the uncovered artwork.  The one visitor also commented to a friend, “oh these pieces are uncovered, that must mean they want us to touch them.”  Cringing and sideways glares abounded.

If nothing else that experience reminded me of the importance of exhibition design, signage, and security in galleries and museums.  Things gallery staff might think are common sense aren’t always.  Having visible signage explaining appropriate conduct, contextual information, and educational information is a crucial part of any exhibition.

Group of Seven in Algoma

I recently visited the Art Gallery of Algoma (AGA) to take in their fall exhibitions.  Though I have worked with the AGA a number of times on collaborative exhibitions I haven’t really explored the gallery as a visitor before.

The main exhibition at the AGA right now is the Group of Seven in Algoma and a Mysterious Death.  The show is part of the Algoma Fall Festival and focuses on the Group of Seven’s connection to Northern Ontario and the impact that the artists continue to have in the artistic world.

 The Group of Seven portion of the exhibit features 38 pieces of artwork done by different members of the Group and was guest curated by Tom Smart, from the Art Gallery of Sudbury.  The exhibit contains pieces from the AGA’s collection but also brings together works from other private and public collections around Ontario. 

The exhibition features a variety of works, styles, and artists.  It was interesting to be able to compare the different styles within the group and recognize numerous locations in the paintings.  The exhibition featured a number of works by A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, and Franklin Carmichael that I hadn’t seen before. 

The only disappointment of the exhibit was the lack of any work from Lawren Harris, who tends to be my favourite artist from the Group of Seven. But that’s more of a personal preference and the exhibit is excellent regardless.

Paired with the works of the Group of Seven is George Walker’s The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson which contains over 100 prints made from wood engravings.  Walker’s work initially appeared in ‘wordless novel’ format and highlight the impact of Thomson’s impact on Canadian culture while telling the story of Thomson’s life and death.  Digital reproductions of the 109 engravings can be seen here.

In addition to the over 100 prints the exhibit features a few of Walker’s tools, original plates, and a reproduction skull of Thomson.  The prints effectively tell a life story without words and the intricacy of the woodcuts which created the prints was inspiring.  The Walker exhibit was an interesting contrast to the Group of Seven exhibit and worked well in the same space.

Group of Seven in Algoma and a Mysterious Death is open until October 26th at the Art Gallery of Algoma.  Since the event is part of the Algoma Fall festival the admission price is slightly higher ($9) than the regular ($5) gallery admission,  but it is well worth a visit.

Ayumi Goto and Peter Morin Performances and Installation

Re-posted from the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. 
As part of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre’s ongoing critical and creative Healing and Reconciliation through Education programming, the SRSC is pleased to announce new, original performances and installations by visiting artists Peter Morin and Ayumi Goto.

Peter Morin is a 2014 Sobey Award-nominated Tahltan Nation artist, curator and writer. He will present an original performance called escape stories Friday, April 25 at the Art Gallery of Algoma at 3 pm in collaboration with Ayumi Goto. This performance is, in part, related to Morin’s 2012 visit to Algoma University and the site of the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School, as well as his participation in the SRSC-sponsored artist residency Reconsidering Reconciliation held at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, Scewepemc Territory, in August 2013. He recently returned from London, UK, and a series of performances exploring the kidnapping of an Inuk baby and his mother from the land in 1547, which forms the foundation for escape stories. The performance will take place within the Education Gallery at the AGA, which currently houses Why the Caged Bird Sings: Here I Am by Cheryl L’Hirondelle, who similarly participated in visiting artist and residency events put on by the SRSC.

Ayumi Goto is a performance artist based in Kelowna, Okanagan Nation territory. Born in Canada, she draws upon her Japanese heritage to trouble sedimented notions of nation-building, cultural belonging, and structural racism in her creative work. Like Morin and L’Hirondelle, Goto has been engaged with the SRSC and other partners in explorations of the role of art and artist in healing and reconciliation. Over a course of 105 days in 2013, Goto ran 1568.5 km around communities in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario to recognize and pay homage to the Journey of Nishiyuu, in which six young Cree men led by guide Isaac Kawapit, walked from Whapmagoostui, Northern Quebec to Ottawa to raise awareness of Aboriginal issues. She reinforced the walkers’ laborious efforts to bring attention to the Idle No More movement, as well as attempting to transform her own relationship to the land. Her installation at the SRSC, which will open Saturday, April 26 at 7 pm explores this experience through the daily poetic and visual responses she created.

Both Morin’s performance at the AGA and Goto’s installation at the SRSC are open to the public and free for all to attend. Refreshments will be served and the artists will be available for conversations after each event.

Slow Art Day

April 12th 2014 is Slow Art Day.  A day dedicated to encouraging people to discover art and the joy of looking at art.  The day also emphasizes the idea that people can see and experience art without an expert. 

Art galleries and museums internationally are hosting Slow Art Day events.  Most events are structured to allow participants to look at art slowly, by having people look at five works of art for ten minutes each.  Participants then discuss their experience of looking at art. The simple structure makes it easy for galleries to participate.

Started in 2009 with 16 museums and galleries in North America and Europe Slow Art Day has expended to have over 210 venues on every continent in 2014. The list of this year’s participating venues can be seen here

Locally, the Art Gallery of Algoma will be participating in Slow Art Day with art viewing from 12:00-1:00pm and Slow Food Lunch in the Cafe from 1:00-2:00pm.

Why the Caged Bird Sings: Here I Am

The Art Gallery of Algoma and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre are pleased to present Cheryl L’Hirondelle’s exhibition Why the Caged Bird Sings: Here I Am. The exhibition opening is Thursday February 27, 2014 at the Art Gallery of Algoma and artist Cheryl L’Hirondelle will be in attendance.  The exhibition will run until mid-April in the educational gallery of the AGA.

Why the Caged Bird Sings: Here I Am is a multi-video piece which incorporates video and audio of incarcerated Cree women from Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge a correctional facility in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. More information on Cheryl’s interdisciplinary work can be seen on her website.