Rita Letendre: Toronto Public Art by Adam Lauder

This text by Adam Lauder was published alongside RITA LETENDRE‘S YYretroZpective exhibition, Toronto Public Art.

Rita Letendre
Toronto Public Art
By Adam Lauder

For years, Rita Letendre’s public art cut radiant vectors across Toronto’s urban grid. After decades living in Montréal and California, the artist had relocated to Toronto in November 1969.[1] Through a combination of public and private commissions for monumental murals and large-scale canvases, she quickly made her mark on the notoriously generic public spaces of her adoptive hometown.[2] By the decade’s close, her signature “arrow” paintings—iridescent, hard-edge abstractions—were a daily sight for thousands of Torontonians. Yet through a combination of misadventure and neglect, Letendre’s once ubiquitous and cherished public art works began to disappear, beginning with Sunrise(1971), her dazzling, seven-floor mural for Ryerson’s Neill-Wycik residence, which was permanently obscured when an adjacent 25-story residential tower was erected in 1978,[3] leaving only a 10-inch gap between the two buildings.

The titular sunrise of Letendre’s luminous mural may be a nod to her Indigenous heritage, her mother being of Abenaki/Québécois ancestry. “Dawn is special to the Wabanaki [a Confederacy of five northeastern nations including the Abenaki],” notes scholar and tribal member Jeanne Morningstar Kent, “because we are the ‘People of the Dawnland’,” where sunlight first reaches North America each morning.[4] Other Toronto-area public art works by Letendre, notably Tecumseth (1972) and Irowakan(1977), likewise gesture toward this personal history. Duane Linklater, a contemporary artist of Omaskêko Cree heritage whose projects excavate subterranean narratives of Indigenous presence and resilience, has recently interpreted the disappearance of Letendre’s public art as a symptom of Indigenous peoples’ historic dispossession.[5] Yet the artist is wary of being pigeonholed, or misrepresented by non-Indigenous commentators.[6] When asked about her identity, she has responded evasively “I am myself, Rita.”[7]

Wanda Nanibush, Curator, Indigenous Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, has argued persuasively for recovering Letendre’s Indigenous roots, tracing the artist’s high-contrast palette and recurring arrow and wedge motifs to “a long Indigenous lineage of abstraction.”[8] Notably, Letendre’s hard-edge paintings radiate an “endless dualism”[9] reminiscent of the symmetrical foundations of Abenaki art.[10] Interpreted through an Indigenous lens, Letendre’s signature arrow motif might symbolize “direction.”[11]

The artist’s explosive vectors are every bit the trajectories of a dawning space age as they are the enduring signposts of non-Cartesian terrestrial wayfinding practices: “[With the arrow paintings] I was influenced by going to the moon, going into space,” she recalls in a new video interview recorded for the exhibition that this text accompanies, adding that “When we started going into space, I got so excited.”[12] This celestial orientation aligns Letendre’s arrow paintings with a broader “1960s ‘cosmic’ zeitgeist” associated with the experimental films of Michael Snow and the visionary media speculations of Marshall McLuhan, thus situating Letendre as an important precursor of more recent Indigenous futurisms.[13] If 1960s’ artists’ cosmic aspirations were symptomatic of a generational quest for identity, the “one-way trip” described by Letendre’s ballistic abstractions anticipate the unilateral orientation of the artist theorized by contemporary non-philosopher François Laruelle, whose “non-aesthetics” rejects the specular politics of representation.[14] Laruelle instead postulates a conjugation of disparate materials resonant with Letendre’s circumvention of categories.

Fittingly, forSunforce (1965), her first outdoor mural, Letendre employed an epoxy paint reserved, until then, “mainly for spacecraft engines.”[15] Her choice of a non-traditional medium may have been influenced by the mural’s locale: California State University, Long Beach being situated at the centre of a then burgeoning aerospace industry.[16] Fortuitously (as it turned out), neither epoxy nor the formidable scale of the 7 x 6-metre Sunforce would support the impastoed facture that had been a trademark of Letendre’s foregoing abstractions, forcing a technical breakthrough that cleared a path for the crisp edges and uniform paint application of the subsequent arrow paintings.[17]

Letendre was invited to produce Sunforcein conjunction with the 1965 California International Sculpture Symposium, a ground-breaking event whose artist-industry partnerships cleared a path for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s renowned Art & Technology Program, whose contributors were likewise chosen by curator Maurice Tuchman. It may have been the participation of Kosso, Letendre’s sculptor husband, that first brought her into Tuchman’s sphere, but she shared the curator’s fascination with science and technology: “If I had not been a painter,” she reflects, “I would have been a scientist”; adding, “if I had had money to go to university.”[18] Growing up in an impoverished family of seven on the outskirts of Drummondville, Québec, a university education was, however, sadly out of the question.[19]

Perhaps the artist’s attraction to new media and techniques—from epoxy paint to computer aided design and drafting software—can be traced to her father’s work as an auto mechanic. (Letendre recalls that her father, who was of Mohawk/Québécois ancestry, “wanted to be French.”)[20] Whatever the case may be, an accident in her father’s auto shop proved life-altering: mangling one of her fingers, and sending the young Letendre to stay with her maternal grandparents for a period of convalescence that ended up lasting several years.[21] (This injury also prevented her from studying piano, thereby forcing the artist to channel her lifelong passion for music into her painting.) Letendre recalls a subsequent childhood incident, while picking strawberries at her grandmother’s home, as decisive in shaping her worldview:

I was with my mother picking strawberries in a field in the country, and a storm started, and it became [a] thunder[storm]. It was not far away from my grandmother’s home, and so we went to my grandmother’s home. And I was terrified. And grandmother show[ed] me the beauty of it: instead of being afraid, to admire and love it. And I think she was certainly one of the most important thing[s] in my life. Never be afraid. See thing[s] as they are.[22]

This dramatic event ignited a tireless inquiry into the nature of things that may account for the more prominent sense of structure evident in Letendre’s early paintings compared to those of fellow second-generation Automatistes (followers of the revolutionary non-figurative painter and anti-clerical pamphleteer, Paul-Émile Borduas). It was Letendre’s keen plastic sense that brought her to the attention of Rodolphe de Repentigny, the chief theorist of the rival Plasticien movement, who signed his own canvases under the nom de plumeJauran. De Repentigny was an early and eloquent champion of the emerging painter. Yet today the artist is quick to distance herself from his geometric Neo-Plasticism, with its roots in the austere modernism of Piet Mondrian: “I reinterpret[ed] geometry … I’m using structure, but not geometry.”[23] As Anne-Marie Ninacs emphasizes, Letendre “remained faithful to the teachings of Paul-Émile Borduas,”[24] an ardent proponent of “spontan[eity],”[25] even if she soon broke with his gesturalist technique.

Art historian Sandra Paikowsky notes that the artist’s production of the late 1950s was emblematic of the new spirit of “pluralism” which pervaded the post-Automatiste generation;[26] but Letendre’s synthesis of Automatiste gesturalism and Plasticien form was always singular.[27] Her early disrespect for limiting labels set the stage for an exploration of Zen philosophy, whose kōans­—cryptic exchanges between master and student intended to provoke satori, or enlightenment—explode the dualistic constraints of conventional logic. Zennist non-duality may have offered Letendre a framework for negotiating her lived experience of cultural hybridity, as she explored aerospace imagery and materials in parallel with her Indigenous cultural inheritance.[28]

Rejecting static symmetry, Letendre’s arrows define a non-dual “parallelism”[29] that explodes the parallel postulate undergirding Euclidean space. Like certain cut-out paintings by Jackson Pollock, the dazzling iridescence of Letendre’s arrows stages a liberatory “tearing” of the modernist grid.[30] The vibratory rays of her hard-edge paintings recall Borduas’s relentless pursuit of “the infinity of everything.”[31]

Two of Letendre’s most significant public art works—Sunforceand Joy, her 1978 skylight for Glencairn subway station in Toronto—suggest analogies with the “gateless gate” invoked by Paul Reps’s classic anthology of Zen parables, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (1957), as a metaphor for the kōan­ as a gateway to enlightenment requiring active audience participation.[32] Writing in reference to Sunforce, which is sited on an elevated crosswalk between buildings on the Long Beach campus of the California State University, Letendre has commented that,

I chose the wall over the passageway because I want people walking in and out of my painting. It must not be static—it must be dynamic with action and an interaction that continues in the mind of the spectator.[33]

Joywould revisit the interactive dynamics of Sunforceto reimagine the fluid space of transitanimated by the earlier mural on an even grander scale. At 54 by 6.4 metres, the majestic Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subway station skylight—her only publicly funded commission—has been justifiably likened to a “cathedral.”[34] The winning entry in a 1975 open competition, Joy’s 318 individual panels of airbrushed tempered glass were installedbetween 1976 and 1977.[35] If, as Wanda Nanibush observes, Letendre’s adoption of the airbrush in 1971 supported her production of “mature colour field abstraction[s],”[36] Joy’s luminous, spray-painted canopy actualized the American colour field painter Jules Olitski’s seemingly implausible ambition “to spray colour in the air and have it remain there.”[37]

Like Sunforce, Joy defined a vibrant public space of “continuous action” that was also a powerful testament to the enduring presence, resilience and creativity of Indigenous people.[38] But after years of neglect that resulted in extensive weather damage, Letendre insisted that the ruined skylight be de-installed in the early 1990s.[39] Joy thereby joined a growing roster of public art works by Letendre that had either been de-installed, destroyed or obscured: from Upward Dream (1980)—commissioned by Omnitown Developments in response to the public outcry sparked by the corporation’s occlusion of Sunrise, only to be removed in turn when the masonry of the eastern wall of the Neill-Wycik tower on which it was painted prove faulty—to Urtu (1972), which graced the Davenport Road office of Dr. Stanley Horowitz until it was painted over in the 1990s.[40] The current whereabouts of other public paintings—including the six-metre-wide Now (1971), commissioned by Greenwin Corporation for its Berkshire House residential and office complex at Eglinton and Yonge—remain unknown at the time of writing.[41] The monumental (3.1 x 15.6-metre) 1974 canvas Irowakan, originally installed in the lower banking floor of the Royal Bank Plaza in Toronto’s financial district, fared slightly better: after being transferred to Royal Bank’s Montréal office at Place Ville-Marie in 1985, it was acquired by the Joliette Art Museum in 2004.[42]

Rita Letendre: Toronto Public Art is the first exhibition focused on Letendre’s public art in Toronto. It reunites the recently-restored Sunrise II (1972)—an imposing sequel to the obscured Neill-Wycik mural, originally installed in the lobby of Greenwin Square on Bloor Street—with Ixtepec (1977), the basis for Letendre’s forthcoming reinterpretation of her 1978 skylight for Glencairn subway station, which is slated for completion in 2019.[43] Supplementary documents include plans for both the original and forthcoming Glencairn projects, as well as a new video interview with the now 90-year-old artist. The exhibition temporarily reactivates the publicness of Letendre’s Toronto public art as a speculative space of remembrance, reconciliation and futurity.

 

ADAM LAUDERis a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at York University in Toronto. He obtained a Ph.D. from The Department of History of Art at the University of Toronto in Fall 2016. He is currently researching Canadian information art in the 1970s. Since 2009, he has curated and co-curated exhibitions for a variety of museum and university art gallery venues. He has also contributed articles to scholarly journals including AmodernArt DocumentationCanadian Journal of CommunicationFuture AnteriorImaginationsJournal of Canadian StudiesTechnoetic ArtsThe Journal of Canadian Art HistoryTOPIA and Visual Resources as well as features and shorter texts to magazines including Art HandlerBorder CrossingsCCanadian Arte-fluxFlash ArtHunter and Cook and Millions. He edited H& IT ON (YYZBOOKS, 2012), featuring original art by ground-breaking information artist IAIN BAXTER&, and is the author of chapters appearing in Finding McLuhan (2015), The Logic of Nature, The Romance of Space (2010) as well as Byproduct: On the Excess of Embedded Art Practices(YYZBOOKS, 2010).

Adam Lauder would like to acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

 

RITA LETENDREwas born of Abenaki and Quebecois parents in Drummondville in 1928 and has lived in Toronto since late 1969. Her painting career began in Montreal in the 1950s, when she associated with Quebec’s prominent abstract artist groups Les Automatistes and Les Plasticiens. Often the sole female artist in their group shows, she broke away from their approach to painting, finding it restrictive. Seeking to express the full energy of life and harness in her powerful gestures an intense spiritual force, Letendre worked with various materials including oils, pastels, and acrylics, using her hands, palette knife, brushes and uniquely the airbrush, which she began using in 1971. She received the Order of Canada in 2005, has completed commissions across Canada and the United States, and has been exhibited nationally and internationally.

Notes

[1] Georgiana Uhlyarik, “Letendre in Toronto,” in Rita Letendre: Fire & Light, eds. Wanda Nanibush and Georgiana Uhlyarik (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2017), 86.

[2] See Luis Jacob, “The Ward, Toronto: A Blank Space,” Canadian Art32, no. 4 (2016): 90-91.

[3] See Gunda Lambton, Stealing the Show: Seven Women Artists in Canadian Public Art(Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994), 56.

[4] Jeanne Morningstar Kent, The Visual Language of Wabanaki Art (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2014), 49. “[C]alled Wabanaki (People of the Dawn) by their inland neighbors, for each morning the first sunlight on the continent belonged to them. And they belonged to it, for they believed that Kisuhs, the great Sky Fire, was the ultimate spirit-power in a world in which everything was imbued with a sacred force.” Bunny McBride, Women of the Dawn (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), 7.

[5] See Linklater qtd. in Adam Lauder, “‘The World Must Have Poetry’: Rita Letendre’s Public Art Interventions,” Canadian Art 32, no. 4 (2016): 116.

[6] See “Painter Rita Letendre on her Work in 1969,” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, December 28, 1969, http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/896872003631.

[7] Letendre qtd. in Lambton, Stealing the Show, 51.

[8] Wanda Nanibush, “Rita Letendre: Fire & Light,” in Rita Letendre: Fire & Light, eds. Wanda Nanibush and Georgiana Uhlyarik (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2017), 20.

[9] Letendre qtd. in Sandra Paikowsky, “Rita Letendre,” in Rita Letendre: The Montréal Years 1953-1963 (Montréal: Concordia Art Gallery, 1989), 30.

[10] “To guarantee symmetry in our designs, thin pieces of birch bark were folded several times and then bitten, creating small punctured holes. … Folding the bark in this way is similar to the way people create cut-paper snowflakes.” Kent, The Visual Language of Wabanaki Art, 24-25. The “acute black ray” that anchors many of Letendre’s arrow paintings recalls the “dark surface” of “spring-peeled birch bark” or “black broadcloth” of woodland clothing that serve as supports for much Abenaki expression. Anne-Marie Ninacs, “The Teaching of Life,” in Rita Letendre: Aux couleurs du jour (Québec, QC: Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2003), 134; Kent, The Visual Language of Wabanaki Art, 40, 27.

[11] Kent, The Visual Language of Wabanaki Art, 47.

[12] Rita Letendre, “Rita Letendre,” video interview by Adam Lauder, July 13, 2017. “The force of life is marvelous to me. We see the same force in the sea, the sun, all around us. It is the same strength that makes human beings dream—to want to go to the moon—to accomplish the impossible.” Letendre qtd. in Elise Emery, “‘Sunforce,’ 1965,” Press Telegram (Long Beach), July 21, 1965, n. pag.

[13] David Tomas, Vertov, Snow, Farocki: Machine Vision and the Posthuman (New York; London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 118.

[14] Ninacs, “The Teaching of Life,” 136; François Laruelle,Photo-Fiction: A Non-Standard Aesthetics, trans. Drew S. Burk(Minneapolis: Univocal, 2012), 1.

[15] Lambton, Stealing the Show, 55.

[16] See Diana Burgess Fuller and Daniela Salvioni, eds.,Art, Women, California 1950-2000: Parallels and Intersections (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002); Rachel Rivenc, Made in Los Angeles: Materials, Processes, and the Birth of West Coast Minimalism(Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2016).

[17] Anne-Marie Ninacs also attributes the mutations in Letendre’s practice that led to the arrows to the artist’s association with the Tamarind printmaking workshop upon arriving in California. See Ninacs, “The Teaching of Life,” 134; see also Lambton, Stealing the Show, 55.

[18] “Science always fascinated me,” Letendre continues; “knowledge of the world, knowledge of life, the way life evolved. … If I had been from a rich family, and going to school and university, I don’t know if I would have been a painter: maybe I would have been, but I would certainly want to be a scientist also.” Letendre, “Rita Letendre.”

[19] See Paikowsky, “Rita Letendre,” 6.

[20] Letendre, “Rita Letendre.”

[21] See Lambton, Stealing the Show, 51.

[22] This memory bears some striking similarities to a Zennist parable annotated, according to Anne-Marie Ninacs, in Letendre’s well-used copy of Reps’s anthology Zen Flesh, Zen Bones:

A man travelling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

 

Muju, “A Parable,” in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and pre-Zen Writings, ed. Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1957), 32. See also Ninacs, “The Teaching of Life,” 137.

[23] Letendre, “Rita Letendre.” “While Letendre herself did not subscribe to de Stijl flatness, the tempering of illusionistic space was certainly important for attaining harmonious colour juxtapositions and her increased use of white provided a new type of spatial field.” Paikowsky, “Rita Letendre,” 15.

[24] Ninacs, “The Teaching of Life,” 136.

[25] Paul-Émile Borduas, “Refus Global,” in Refus global et autres écrits: essais, ed. André-G. Bourassa and Gilles Lapointe (Montréal: l’Hexagone, 1997), 72.

[26] Paikowsky, “Rita Letendre,” 19.

[27] In fact, it is arguably Letendre’s colourism, and the interactivity of works such as Sunforceand Joy, rather than her occasional deployment of geometry, that aligns her work with a generation of “post-Plasticiens” who “pursue[d] new colour-based, dynamic ways of engaging the viewer,” notably Guido Molinari and Claude Tousignant. Roald Nasgaard, “The Plasticiens and Beyond,” in The Plasticiens and Beyond: Montreal, 1955-1970 (Markham, ON: Varley Art Gallery of Markham; Québec, QC: Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2013), 14.

[28] Paikowsky dates the beginnings of Letendre’s investigation of her Indigenous heritage to 1961: “It was at this time that Letendre became more interested in her own aboriginal Indian origins which she has said was prompted by her new interest in Mexican and Pre-Columbian art.” Paikowsky, “Rita Letendre,” 29. It is important to note that Abenaki art itself manifests a longstanding condition of hybridity: “Because of the reciprocal influences,” notes Kent, “there is difficulty in drawing a line between designs copied from European work.” Kent, The Visual Language of Wabanaki Art, 40. “Nuns … taught our young women embroidery, and we taught them beading. The result was a blending of cultural designs.” Ibid, 22.

[29] Letendre qtd. in Paikowsky, “Rita Letendre,” 30.

[30] Hal Foster, Prosthetic Gods(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), 282; see also Adam Lauder, “Rita Letendre: Confronting the Grid,” Millions, no. 2 (2013): 32-27. “Rays and radiations appeared. She mixed her colours with powder of mother of pearl in order to intensify the iridescence of the shafts of light radiating across the whole surface of her canvases.” Gilles Hénaultqtd. in Rita Letendre(Palm Springs, CA: Palm Springs Desert Museum, 1974), n. pag.

[31] Borduas qtd. in Ninacs, “The Teaching of life,” 132. “Letendre’s contrasts of deep, cool blues with radiant red and orange have an expansive quality of the infinite that cannot be contained.” Nanibush, “Rita Letendre,” 18.

[32] See Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki, “The Gateless Gate,” in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and pre-Zen Writings, ed. Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1957), 89-131.

[33] Letendre qtd. in Emery, “‘Sunforce,’” n. pag.

[34] See Lambton: Stealing the Show, 50, 61; Jeanne Parkin qtd. in Lambton, Stealing the Show, 60.

[35] Lambton: Stealing the Show, 61.

[36] Nanibush, “Rita Letendre,” 18; see also Ninacs, “The Teaching of Life,” 135.

[37] Kenworth Moffett, “The Sculpture of Jules Olitski,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, no. 8 (1969): 367.

[38] Letendre qtd. in Emery, “‘Sunforce,’” n. pag.

[39] “Procurement Authorization: Glencairn Skylight Replacement, Contract A11-5,” Toronto Transit Commission, July 12, 2017, https://www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/

Commission_reports_and_information/Commission_meetings/2017/July_12/Reports/7_Procurement_Authorization_Glencairn_Skylight_Replacement_C.pdf.

[40] See Uhlyarik, “Letendre in Toronto,” 98.

[41] See Uhlyarik, “Letendre in Toronto,” 96. Other Toronto area public art works by Letendre that are currently missing in action include two commissions by J.D.S. Investments: the 1972 Tecumseth, originally installed at the Sheridan Mall in Pickering, and a series of paintings installed at 1000 Finch Avenue West. See Lambton: Stealing the Show, 57.

[42] See Lambton: Stealing the Show, 59; Uhlyarik, “Letendre in Toronto,” 104.

[43] “Glencairn Station – Skylight Replacement: August 2017 to March 2019,” Toronto Transit Commission, 2017, https://www.ttc.ca/Service_Advisories/Construction/

Glencairn_skylights.jsp.

 

 

 

CURRENT EXHIBITIONS

RITA LETENDRE | TORONTO PUBLIC ART 
YYretroZpective
ORGANIZED BY ADAM LAUDER
SATURDAY 26 MAY 2018 – SATURDAY 21 JULY 2018

KRISTA BELLE STEWARTA GUEST A HOST A GHOST
SATURDAY 26 MAY – SATURDAY 21 JULY 2018

OPENING RECEPTION
FRIDAY 25 MAY 2018, 6:00PM-8:00PM

RITA LETENDRE | TORONTO PUBLIC ART 
YYretroZpective
ORGANIZED BY ADAM LAUDER
SATURDAY 26 MAY 2018- SATURDAY 21 JULY 2018

For years, RITA LETENDRE’s public art cut radiant vectors across Toronto’s urban grid. After decades living in Montréal and California, Letendre relocated to Toronto in 1970. Through a combination of public and private commissions for monumental murals and large-scale canvases, the artist, who is of Abenaki/Québecois and Mohawk/Québecois ancestry, quickly made her mark on the notoriously generic public spaces of her adoptive hometown. By the decade’s close, her signature “arrow” paintings—hard-edge, iridescent abstractions—were a daily sight for thousands of Torontonians. Yet, through a combination of misadventure and neglect, Letendre’s once ubiquitous and cherished public art works steadily vanished, beginning with Sunrise (1971), her dazzling, seven-floor mural for Ryerson’s Neill Wycik residence, which was permanently obscured when an adjacent 25-story residential tower was erected in 1978, leaving only a 10-inch gap between the two buildings. Duane Linklater, an artist of Omaskêko Cree heritage whose projects excavate subterranean narratives of Indigenous presence and resilience, has interpreted the disappearance of Letendre’s public art in Toronto as a symptom of the historic dispossession of Indigenous peoples.

Rita Letendre | Toronto Public Art is the first exhibition focused on Letendre’s Toronto public art. It reunites the recently-restored Sunrise II (1972)—an imposing sequel to the obscured Neill Wycik mural—with Ixtepec (1977), the basis for Letendre’s forthcoming Joy, a reinterpretation of the artist’s 1978 skylight for Glencairn subway station, which was de-installed following years of neglect. Supplementary documents include plans for both the original and forthcoming Glencairn projects, and a new video interview with the 90-year-old artist.

YYZ acknowledges the support of Galerie Gevik (Toronto), Galerie Simon Blais (Montréal), and the Art Museum at the University of Toronto.

ADAM LAUDER is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow at York University in Toronto. He obtained a Ph.D. from The Department of History of Art at the University of Toronto in Fall 2016. He is currently researching Canadian information art in the 1970s. Since 2009, he has curated and co-curated exhibitions for a variety of museum and university art gallery venues. He has also contributed articles to scholarly journals including AmodernArt DocumentationCanadian Journal of CommunicationFuture AnteriorImaginationsJournal of Canadian StudiesTechnoetic ArtsThe Journal of Canadian Art HistoryTOPIA and Visual Resources as well as features and shorter texts to magazines including Art HandlerBorder CrossingsCCanadian Arte-fluxFlash ArtHunter and Cook and Millions. He edited H& IT ON (YYZBOOKS, 2012), featuring original art by ground-breaking information artist IAIN BAXTER&, and is the author of chapters appearing in Finding McLuhan (2015), The Logic of Nature, The Romance of Space (2010) as well as Byproduct: On the Excess of Embedded Art Practices (YYZBOOKS, 2010).

Adam Lauder would like to acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

KRISTA BELLE STEWARTA GUEST A HOST A GHOST
SATURDAY 26 MAY – SATURDAY 21 JULY 2018

Krista Belle Stewart brings to YYZ dirt from her home in the Okanagan Nation and from Seoul, South Korea, both collections beautifully housed in ceramic containers. Stewart will explore our immediate environment for a possible addition to her growing soil archive, which acts as a travelling reminder of her home and grounding Stewart to where she stands.

KRISTA BELLE STEWART holds an MFA from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Her work engages with the complexities of archival material through processes that allow for both intimacy and coincidence and for the atemporal meeting of actors across time. Working with video, photography, design, ephemera and textiles, Stewart straddles the gaps between personal and institutional histories through transparent mediation. Stewart’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Montreal; Plug In ICA, Winnipeg; House of World Cultures, Berlin; International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York; Vancouver Art Gallery; Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Mercer Union, Toronto; Artspeak, Vancouver; the Western Front, Vancouver; and Esker Foundation, Calgary. She is a member of the Upper Nicola Band of the Okanagan Nation and lives and works in Vancouver.

Krista Belle Stewart gratefully acknowledges the support of the British Columbia Arts Council. She would like to thank Steven Cottingham for writing a text for the exhibition. 

David Yu: Between You and I

DAVID YU | BETWEEN YOU AND I 
SATURDAY 17 MARCH – SATURDAY 28 APRIL 2018

OPENING RECEPTION
FRIDAY 16 MARCH 2018, 6:00PM-8:00PM

DAVID YU | BETWEEN YOU AND I
For YYZ Artists Outlet David Yu presents new work developed from his research in performance practice, specifically the intersection between performance, installation, and sculpture. Between you and I playfully investigates notions behind heterotopias, object oriented ontology, and relational aesthetics, examining formal structures of sculpture and installation situated within a gallery context whilst punctuated with the performative act/gesture. The works provocatively open up avenues for a more visceral experience, calling on the viewers to actively insert themselves within the work both consciously and involuntarily. Subtle participatory cues signal to viewers that further engagement is necessary, be it participating and negotiating physically, pondering the validity, and investigating more in depth all whilst playing with the predisposition and stigma that both gallery spaces and “art often carry with them.

The artist positions himself within the creator catalyst role that generates situations for viewers to negotiate. With much of his work there is an element of social experimentation, garnering responses through a reaction to planned situations. Ultimately David aims for a blurring between a constructed situation and a “real situation.

DAVID YU  is a multimedia, installation, and performance artist that currently practices out of Toronto. He received a Masters in Fine Art from The Slade School of Fine Art in London, UK (2008) and his Bachelors in Fine Art from the Ontario College of Art and Design (2006). Until recently David practiced in London, U.K., exhibiting work throughout Europe and abroad. His exhibition record includes: a one month durational performance during the exhibition Onderweg at Cultuurcentrum Zwaneberg, Heist-op-den-Berg, Belgium (2017); a solo exhibition at MART Gallery, Dublin, Ireland (2015); participation with Flux Night 2012 (Nuit Blanche Atlanta, Georgia) with a multichannel video installation, Small Meteorites, projected within five vehicles; a city wide art installation commissioned and curated by the Duncan and Jordanstone College of Art and Design (2011), funded by the Scottish Arts Council; a solo exhibition at the Monster Truck Gallery in Dublin Ireland (2011); a Triangle Arts Trust residency and solo exhibition at the Kuona Trust Gallery in Nairobi, Kenya (2011). This summer David will be participating in a residency and organizing a solo exhibition with The Orleans Gallery in Ottawa.

David Yu would like to acknowledge the generous support of YYZ Artists’ Outlet, Alex Bowron, Adam Brandejs, Danielle Greer, Mathew Birch, Ritchie Cheung, Talia Greenberg, Cailin Cser, Ben Carson, Karen Yu, Laura Moore, and James Rollo for making this exhibition possible.

Oraib Toukan: When Things Occur

 

ORAIB TOUKAN | WHEN THINGS OCCUR
SATURDAY 17 MARCH – SATURDAY 28 APRIL 2018
presented in collaboration with the Images Festival, April 12 – April 20, 2018

IMAGES FESTIVAL RECEPTION & ARTIST TALK
SATURDAY 14 APRIL, 2:00PM at YYZ
TALK WILL BEGIN AT 3:00PM at the Common on the 4th floor.

 

ORAIB TOUKAN| WHEN THINGS OCCUR
When Things Occur is based on Skype conversations with Gaza-based photographers, fixers and drivers who were behind specific images that were transmitted from screen to screen in the summer of 2014. The film probes the face of mourning and grief- its digital embodiment, transmission, and representation. It asks how the gaze gets channeled within the digital realm, and how empathy travels, digitally. Equally, how the documentary signifier – and its abstraction – operate when viewing suffering. What exactly is viewing suffering ‘at a distance’- and how many meters or kilometers is that? What is the behavior and political economy of the image of war? And who is the ‘local’ in the representation of war? What is the daily routine of those who represent war?

ORAIB TOUKAN is an artist and Clarendon Scholar at the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. She is visiting tutor at the Ruskin School of Art and the International Academy of Fine Arts in Ramallah, Palestine. Until Fall 2015, she was head of the Arts Division and Media Studies program at Bard College at Al Quds University, Palestine. Recent exhibitions include the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Heidelberger Kunstverein, Qalandia International, The Center for Contemporary Art Glasgow, the Asia Pacific Triennial, the Mori Art Museum, and the 11th Istanbul Biennale.

Marie-Michelle Deschamps + Bryan-K. Lamonde: Better Times

MARIE-MICHELLE DESCHAMPS + BRYAN-K. LAMONDE | BETTER TIMES
SATURDAY 13 JANUARY 2018 – SATURDAY 03 MARCH 2018

OPENING RECEPTION
FRIDAY 12 JANUARY 2018, 6:00PM-8:00PM

MARIE-MICHELLE DESCHAMPS + BRYAN-K. LAMONDE | BETTER TIMES

In 2012, Marie-Michelle Deschamps and Bryan-K. Lamonde collaborated on The Twofold Room, a book-object linking philology and architectural form. This book took the reader on a journey following a horizontal line; a line starting with a red carpet, breaking at the reception desk, deploying itself endlessly in a hallway, and folding at the bedroom, where suddenly another appears, as it is, evidently, a double room. The Twofold Room explored the loss of identity caused by moving from one language to another as well the nightmare of interconnected elements slowly drifting apart.

At YYZ, Deschamps and Lamonde prolong their exploration of language as an inhabited space, a key element of their respective practice. They once again play with the material properties of words, letters, and signs, and use them as spaces to collapse, conceal, or inhabit; all the works acting as translations of our experience of the world of objects and forms — a world that we experience physically, but which is also wholly contingent upon language, it being in fact an inhabited space of language.

With Better Times, a simultaneous opened-ness and closed-ness acts to unsettle through a default of décor, to question whether there is any content separate from the process or means of revealing.

MARIE-MICHELLE DESCHAMPS is an artist based in Montreal, Quebec. Her work focuses on the ambiguities of deconstructed language and its transposition in signs and objects. The elusive signification exhibited in her drawings, sculptures and sounds works allow for figurative, abstract, and literary interpretations. She holds an M.A. from the Glasgow School of Art. Recently, her work was presented at MUDAM, Luxembourg (2017); Ausstellungraum Klingenthal, Basel, Switzerland (2017); Darling Foundry, Montreal (2016) and Glasgow International, Scotland (2016). In 2018, Deschamps will show her work at Diagonale, Montreal and at Parisian Laundry, Montreal.

BRYAN-K. LAMONDE is a graphic designer based in Montreal and one of the co-founders of Principal. Working in the realm of contemporary art, his approach has allowed him to collaborate, to create new approaches and to dialogue with numerous artists that share his concerns that are located at the crossroads of art and design. In addition to working with Deschamps on The Twofold Room (2012), he also contributed installations in the exhibitions L*, at the Darling Foundry (2016), Montreal and at Galerie UQO, Gatineau (2016).

Jalani Morgan: The Unforgetting of Black Canadian Baseball

JALANI MORGAN | THE UNFORGETTING OF BLACK CANADIAN BASEBALL
VOL. 1   THE WARD PLAYERS
SATURDAY 13 JANUARY 2018 – SATURDAY 03 MARCH 2018

OPENING RECEPTION
FRIDAY 12 JANUARY 2018, 6:00PM-8:00PM


Image Credit: archival image, the Ward Museum, Toronto

Jalani Morgan’s reverence for baseball is reflected in his act of celebration with his inaugural “Black Canadian Hall of Fame” Collection. Morgan turns his attention to his home studio’s location – The Ward – where his discovery of two Black baseball players that played for the local Mount Carmel Church  team in 1942 will be further explored.

JALANI MORGAN is an established Toronto based photographer, visual historian and photo editor who is known for his editorial, documentary and gallery collected work both nationally and internationally. Morgan’s creative work explores visual representation within a Black Canadian context and focuses on documenting and portraying images of Black life both in Canada and internationally. As a commissioned photographer, he covers the spectrum of portraiture and current events documenting the architectural, racial, musical and cultural landscapes of Toronto. Over the past fifteen years, Morgan has built an impressive portfolio creating pieces for: Black Lives Matter Toronto, National Film Board of Canada, The Fader, Nike, Sportsnet Magazine, TVO, National Screen Institute, Converse, Manifesto, ArtReach, TEDxToronto, Daniel Spectrum, Nia Centre for the Arts and has contributed to exhibits for Photoville New York, The Wedge Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario, Art Gallery of Windsor and CONTACT Photography Festival. Originally from Scarborough, Ontario, Morgan has been dedicated to giving back to his community through mentorship and community empowerment programs that have included The Remix Project, LAMP and We Are Lawrence project created in partnership with City of Toronto and Manifesto. He is a passionate Toronto Blue Jays fan and has a soft spot for Montreal.

Raven Chacon: Report

RAVEN CHACON | REPORT
Presented in partnership with imagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival
SATURDAY 16 SEPTEMBER- SATURDAY 02 DECEMBER 2017
imagineNATIVE ART CRAWL | FRIDAY 20 OCTOBER 2017, 5:00PM-9:00PM
ARTIST TALK | FRIDAY 20 OCTOBER, 8:00PM

OPENING RECEPTION | FRIDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 2017, 6:00PM-9:00PM

Originally trained as a classical composer, Raven Chacon works across a variety of mediums including installation, performance, video, and recording. The works in Report consider the outmost boundaries of an important parameter of sound: dynamics and volume.  The loudness of nature and of unorthodox instruments contrast against a landscape of silence, sometimes explained in a score of text, music notation, or other pictographic depictions.

Three places in the Southwest U.S. chosen for their quietness are presented as Field Recordings, further amplified to their maximum volume. While seemingly reduced to noise, the recordings reveal individual colors of the essence of each location.

Report is a musical composition scored for an ensemble playing various caliber firearms. The sonic potential of revolvers, handguns, rifles, and shotguns are utilized in a tuned cacophony of percussive blasts interspersed with voids of timed silence. In the piece, guns—instruments of violence, justice, defense, and power—are transformed into mechanisms for musical resistance.

RAVEN CHACON holds an MFA in Music Composition from CalArts. He is a composer of chamber music, a performer of experimental noise music, and an installation artist. He performs regularly as a solo artist as well as with numerous ensembles in the Southwest USA, and is also a member of the American Indian arts collective, Postcommodity. Chacon has presented his work in different contexts at Vancouver Art Gallery, ABC No Rio, REDCAT, La Biennale di Venezia – Biennale Musica, Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Chaco Canyon, Ende Tymes Festival, 18th Biennale of Sydney, and The Kennedy Center among other traditional and non-traditional venues. His work with Postcommodity recently exhibited at the 2017 Whitney Biennial and documenta 14. Chacon currently lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

David Court: CV

DAVID COURT | CV
SATURDAY 16 SEPTEMBER- SATURDAY 02 DECEMBER 2017
ARTIST TALK | FRIDAY15 SEPTEMBER, 6:00PM

OPENING RECEPTION | FRIDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 2017, 6:00PM-9:00PM

David Court’s work lacks a stable or reliable methodology, operating instead through responsiveness—to architectural contexts, curatorial frameworks, institutional protocols, and theoretical discourse. These considerations operate alongside a form of authorship that self-consciously seeks to address the dramas of the institution and practice of art, on the level of organization, narration and display. Scattered fragments of material (texts, images, and objects) are gathered into ambivalent and theatrical patterns of association, expression, and style. This work operates with and in the tension between the ethical demand of expression and the institutionalization of taste and sensibility, dwelling on various dysphoric affects of contemporary life—states of suspension, alienation, and impasse—as they manifest in artistic practice and material culture.

DAVID COURT is an artist and writer currently living and working in Ulster County, New York. He holds a Masters in Visual Studies from the University of Toronto (2009) and a BFA from NSCAD University (2006). Recent exhibitions include: Artist’s Rendering (Distressed, Relaxed), AxeNéo7, Gatineau, Quebec, 2017; You can tell that I’m alive and well because I weep continuously, The Knockdown Center, Queens, New York, 2017; Apparatus for a Utopian Image, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Project Space, New York, New York, 2016; Self-Titled (Materials for a 21st Century Room—or SWAMPED, EXHAUSTED, HESITATING), 8eleven, Toronto, Ontario, 2016; David Court, Aryen Hoekstra, Shane Krepakevich, Modern Fuel Artist Run Center, Kingston, Ontario, 2016.

 

YYZLAB 2016-2017: OPEN HOUSE

YYZLAB OPEN HOUSE

YYZ is pleased to present work by YYZLAB participants from Thursday July 20 to Saturday July 29.

Featuring work by Mona Ali, Stephanie Durán Castillo, Amanda Foulds, Monica Gutierrez, Kayla Polan, Aitak Sorahitalab, and Angela Walcott. The YYZLAB is a mentorship program for emerging artists that live outside the downtown core. Come and see what our colleagues are doing!

Opening on Friday July 21 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

YYZ would like to thank this year’s mentors: Aisle 4, Gareth Bates, Bunker 2, Gustavo Cerquera Benjumea, Alissa Firth-Eagland, Betty Julian, Allyson Mitchell, Asad Raza, Susan Schelle, Leila Timmins, and Joshua Vettivelu.

The YYZLAB is supported by the city of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.

Anne-Marie Proulx (in conversation with Mathias Mark): Aiminanu

ANNE-MARIE PROULX | AIMINANU
(IN CONVERSATION WITH MATHIAS MARK)
SATURDAY 13 MAY 2017 SATURDAY 08 JULY 2017

OPENING RECEPTION: FRIDAY 12 MAY, 6:00PM-8:00PM

ARTIST TALK: SATURDAY 13 MAY, 2:00PM (FRENCH) 3:00PM (ENGLISH)
PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH LE LABO

Aiminanu is a word in Innu-Aimun which translates to “there is a conversation going on.” The exhibition rests upon this idea of conversation—between languages, cultures, and people. Through an ensemble of sentences selected from an Innu-French dictionary, it also explores the relations between language, territory, and identity. The dictionary appears as a place of affirmation, where the language itself is speaking: the Innu words, when translated, become sentences which carry meanings, knowledge, and poetic evocations. Placed in the gallery according to the meaning of the four directions, the sky, and the earth, they also evoke an intimate relation between human and territory, in tune with the cycles of the day, of the seasons, and of life. The dictionary also represents a place of dialogue between a spoken language, Innu, and a written language, French—a dialogue that echoes with the sound that is heard in the space, the voices of a conversation between the artist and Mathias Mark, who expresses the importance of hearing the words of his language and culture. Aiminanu thus suggests listening to these voices that come from the earth and that mix with the currents of rivers.

//

Aiminanu est un mot de l’innu-aimun qui se traduit par « il y a une conversation en cours ». L’exposition repose sur cette idée de conversation – entre les langues, les cultures et les personnes. Conçue autour d’un ensemble de phrases tirées d’un dictionnaire innu-français, elle explore aussi les relations entre langage, territoire et identité. Le dictionnaire apparaît comme un lieu d’affirmation, où la langue elle-même prend la parole : les mots innus, une fois traduits, deviennent des phrases qui sont porteuses de sens, de connaissance et d’évocations poétiques. Placées dans l’espace en fonction des significations des quatre directions, du ciel et de la terre, elles témoignent aussi d’une relation intime entre l’humain et le territoire, en phase avec les cycles du jour, des saisons ou de la vie. Le dictionnaire représente aussi un lieu d’échange entre une langue parlée, l’innu, et d’une langue écrite, le français. Un dialogue qui fait écho à ce qu’il est possible d’entendre dans l’exposition, c’est-à-dire les voix d’une conversation entre l’artiste et Mathias Mark, qui énonce l’importance d’entendre les paroles de sa langue et de sa culture. Aiminanu suggère ainsi d’écouter ces voix qui viennent de la terre et qui s’entremêlent aux cours des rivières.

ANNE-MARIE PROULX is originally from Lévis, where she grew up on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, she now lives and works on the other side of the river, in Québec City. With a practice that integrates words and images, she creates poetic works that are situated between history and myth, a consciousness of the world and its interpretation. Her works present themselves as free spaces, open to the imagination, where the real is transformed to reach new narrative evocations. She has presented her work at La Centrale, Panache art actuel, the Darling Foundry, and Regart, and it will be included in upcoming exhibitions at Galerie UQO, FRAC Lorraine (France), and in the exhibition program of Montréal’s 375th anniversary. She has contributed writing for YYZ, Eastern Edge, Ciel variable, Esse, and Les Éditions du Renard, and has presented lectures at conferences in Québec and internationally. annemarieproulx.com

MATHIAS MARK is from Pakuashipi, a community situated on the lower northern coast of the Saint Lawrence River. He lives on the banks of the Pakua Shipu, a large river which is the way into the interior of the territory, where the Innu traditionally lived in the winter season, following caribou herds. Through the teachings of the elders, he is invested in learning the skills and knowledge of his traditional Innu culture, in order to share them with new generations. He is interested in the technical as much as the spiritual aspects of hunting, following preparation methods with respect for the animal, while listening to traditional songs and to the rhythm of the teueikan, the sacred drum. He has also begun recording the stories of the elders so that their memories will continue to inspire the life of the Innus.

//

Originaire de Lévis, où elle a grandi sur les rives du fleuve Saint-Laurent, ANNE-MARIE PROULX vit et travaille maintenant de l’autre côté du fleuve, à Québec. Avec une pratique qui fait se rencontrer les images et les mots, elle crée des univers poétiques qui se situent entre l’histoire et le mythe, la conscience du monde et son interprétation. Ses oeuvres se présentent comme des espaces de liberté, ouverts à l’imaginaire, où le réel est transformé pour atteindre de nouvelles évocations narratives. Récemment, ses oeuvres ont fait l’objet d’expositions à La Centrale, Panache art actuel, la Fonderie Darling, Regart, et son travail sera bientôt présenté dans des expositions à la Galerie UQO, la FRAC Lorraine (France), ainsi que dans la programmation d’expositions du 375e anniversaire de Montréal. Ses textes ont été publiés dans différentes publications et revues, et elle a présenté des conférences tant au Québec qu’à l’étranger. annemarieproulx.com

MATHIAS MARK est de Pakuashipi, une communauté située sur la Basse-Côte-Nord du fleuve Saint-Laurent. Il vit sur les rives de la Pakua Shipu, une grande rivière qui mène vers l’intérieur des terres, où les Innus vivaient traditionnellement durant la saison hivernale, suivant les hardes de caribous. Par l’enseignement des aînés, il s’investit dans l’apprentissage des compétences et des connaissances de sa culture innue traditionnelle, afin d’en faire le partage aux nouvelles générations. Il est intéressé par les aspects autant techniques que spirituels de la chasse, suivant des méthodes de préparation en respect de l’animal, et écoutant des chants ainsi que le rythme du teueikan, le tambour sacré. Il a également commencé à enregistrer les récits des aînés pour que leurs souvenirs continuent à inspirer la vie des Innus.

The artist would like to gratefully acknowledge the support of Mathias Mark, Tanya Lalo Penashue, Craig Rodmore, Guy Sioui Durand, Sodec, VU, L’Œil de Poisson, François Simard, Le Labo, YYZ.

Read Aiminanu by GUY SIOUI DURAND, a text published alongside ANNE-MARIE PROULX’S exhibition.