Form Follows Fiction: Art and Artists in Toronto

Curator’s Comments by Luis Jacob

What are the enabling myths that shape our relation to “place” in Toronto?

It seems to me that, historically, people attempting to describe the characteristic qualities of life in this city recurrently adopt a very specific cluster of ideas.  Themes of erasure, forgetfulness, and creative destruction appear time and time again, establishing a clearly discernible pattern.  As Northrop Frye wrote, in relation to the imagery of Canadian poetry, Toronto appears to be “haunted by a lack of ghosts.”

The exhibition Form Follows Fiction: Art and Artists in Toronto, currently on view at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, strives to present these (and other themes) in relation to the artistic culture produced by this city.

At the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at Hart House, viewers encounter a grouping of works that include Gordon Lebredt’s Get Hold of This Space (1974/2010), Jeff Thomas’s Seize the Space (2000), and Public Studio’s Toronto Purchase (2015) – the latter, a work that refers to the founding agreement conducted between the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and the British Crown, which established the colonial territory that eventually became the city of Toronto.  One thing that unites these diverse works seems to be a definition of “place” understood as a kind of emptiness ready for appropriation (in the colonial sense) or occupation (in the sense of political contestation).

At UTAC, viewers are presented with another grouping of works: Karen Henderson’s Melted Tin (1994), David Armstrong Six’s Track It Around (2000), and Jon Sasaki’s Microbes Swabbed From a Palette Used by Tom Thomson (2012).  These works present a very different definition of place – one that is determined by the presence of a mysterious, formless substance that tends to morph, stick to one’s shoes, and even create a kind of “culture” (in the microbial sense).

Concentrating on a period of more than fifty years, Form Follows Fiction: Art and Artists in Toronto is a thematic overview of work by eighty-six artists.  The exhibition is a constellation of symbolic forms, or memes, that repeatedly appear in the work of artists of different generations – a panorama of the mythic blueprints that artists have drafted over many decades to give form to life in one of North America’s largest cities.

When: September 6 – December 10, 2016
Where: The Art Museum: Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and the University of Toronto Art Centre


Early Closure
Please note that the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery section of this exhibition will close on November 5, 2016.

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