For those who do not know, I am a volunteer at the Harbourfront Center and I love every minute of my work there. From festivals to concerts, I participate happily in attending to the kids and parents alike coming to enjoy their time at the center.
A couple of weeks ago, my shift consisted in attending to the Artport Gallery as an assistant. Little did I know that in the end of my four hour shift I did not want to leave the space. I was fully immersed in Canadian art and history. I love history, mix it up with some art and you got me all hooked.
The Harbourfront Center presents an artist’s project “Voices; Artists on art” conceived by Yvonne Lammerich and Ian Carr-Harris exhibited at the Artport Gallery from September 23rd until December 24th.
“Fifty years ago, The National Gallery hosted 51 artists in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square in a groundbreaking look at what contemporary art could mean for a public looking at artists to help define a national historical narrative. In a link to that exhibition, “Voices; artists on art” opens a door into 51 studios of artists currently working across Canada while reminding us how powerfully expressed were the thoughts of those 51 artists in 1967″.
Upon entering the gallery ;
On the left side of the room you stumble on two prototype of site proposals for a pavilion in Nathan Phillips Square. Can you imagine an art pavilion in one of the busiest part of downtown Toronto?
Further to the right, there are two vitrines that are filled with pages from Sculpture 67. Catalogue excerpt from the National Gallery of Canada catalogue. Strategically pinned to the wall in the wall mounted monitor that displays the artists ad their art. I stood a good 20 minutes watching the screen and reading the summary briefly written about their work.
While walking down the space, you notice hung on the wall the works of the 51 artists from 1967. Each panel focuses on one artist and the work he exhibited at that time.Take the time to familiarize yourself with these artists and their work. I was surprised at their creativity and it hit me; if they were this creative and futuristic in their work in 1967, what did they create further down the years?
In the middle of the gallery, a table with six desktop monitors give the visitor access to the actual interviews. You can take your time listening to your favorite artist since the interviews are not available outside the gallery. I need to go back again and listen to a few of the artists who artwork attracted my attention from the panel display.
How did this project come to life?
Two years ago, artists Yvonne Lammerich and Ian Carr-Harris were at a bar when one asked the other if they remembered the ’67 art exhibition at the Nathan Phillips Square and the effect it had on the public, first time the latter were face to face with contemporary art. Like any artist, they wanted to share that time in art history with the public today, hence ‘Voices; Artists on art’ coming to life.
“This project addresses those who are curious about contemporary art and the radical changes over the years in the way art is understood – changes that have exposed the fault lines between art as a lived engagement and art as a marketable product. Our project emphasizes the trajectory of cultural and conceptual shifts that artists have forced over the fifty years between 1967 and today, shifts that make art a living enterprise”.
What is interesting however, is the set of questions that are plastered on the left side of the gallery. Very interesting questions that are asked to artists about their take on art and their artwork. Take a few minutes to read them and ponder ..
Last but not least, take some time off and sit in front of the screen and listen to excerpts from the original contemporary artists’ interviews. The video is approximately 60min each.
Do not forget to listen, standing with your headphones, to the three artists, Iain Baxter, Michael Snow and Francoise Sullivan, reading their original statements from the 1967 exhibition catalogue. A very entertaining insight from the artists about their own “before & after” reactions.
“Voices; artists on art” left me curious about Canadian artists. It gave me an insight into Canadian art. Now that I have a list of artists in hand, I am going to research them in order to understand in depth about their work and what inspires them in creating contemporary master pieces.
Words do not give justice to this exhibition.
Do visit the Artport Gallery at the Harbourfront Center, 235 Queens Quay West. The exhibition is up until December 24th.
I know I am going again.