Tag Archives: canadianart

On fear of art: thinking about Lum, Gaston, Schutz

So Edmonton has gotten cold feet and cancelled the installation of Ken Lum’s sculpture for reasons you can ready about here and here.

You might conclude there’s some irony here, because Lum has expressed support of toppling monuments. There is a fine distinction between the nondescript monuments of historical figures and Lum’s unique art. Too fine, perhaps. The tide sweeping out statues of Ryerson and Cornwallis have ignored such a fine distinction and swept out his work also.

This rejection of Lum is not unique. It’s one of many examples of fear of art. To be precise, fear of how some will respond to art.

For example, in reviewing the recent Guston exhibit, John Yau writes:

A lot of issues are raised by the museum’s presentation of Guston, which have been eloquently discussed by Barry Schwabsky in The Nation and Sebastian Smee in The Washington Post. My complaint is cruder. I got sick of the museum’s defensiveness, such as the “Emotional Preparedness” card by health and trauma specialist Ginger Klee, that preps visitors for the show, and of being repeatedly told by the the wall labels that Guston’s hooded figures are about America’s racist history, because I think they are more than that, and that is what makes them so powerful, necessary, urgent, and, most importantly, relevant to whatever present they live in.

Galleries are adopting a defensive crouch to avoid provoking any one from protesting the work on display. Perhaps they are thinking of what happened to Dana Schutz’s  and her 2017 work titled “Open Casket,”  of Emmett Till, and all the controversy concerning that.

Whatever is driving them, sponsors of works of art are afraid. This fear is leading them to pull works or to water them down, in a sense. And that’s a shame.

P.S. Ken Lum was recently at the AGO and it was a good show. You can see more of Ken Lum at that link.

On General Idea at the National Gallery of Canada


One of my  favorite Canadian artists are General Idea. Living in Toronto in the 80s and 90s, there work was often on display and often on my mind. If you want to see how great they are for yourself, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa has a big exhibit of their work that is running until the Fall of 2022. Well worth a visit to take that in.

For details on it, go here: General Idea | National Gallery of Canada

On Maud Lewis and the art world and Henri Rousseau too


This is an interesting but odd view of the great Canadian artist, Maud Lewis. It’s somewhat about her, but really it’s more about the art world and how they go about. In short, it’s about how the paintings that she used to sell for a few bucks to buy food are now worth many thousands of dollars. It proceeds to speculate if they will continue to go up in value.

I think it’s worth reading. Her life and work are interesting. I still don’t think the art world knows how to think or talk about her.

If anything, she makes me think of the work of Henri Rousseau. They didn’t quite know what to do with him either. But eventually they did. I think the same is happening with Lewis.

Regardless what they think, I hope you will think she is a fine artist and seek out her work. (And Rousseau’s.) Your life will be enhanced the more you know of their work.

(Image links from Canadian Art and ibiblio.org)

On Betty Goodwin

I’m always struck whenever I see the works of Betty Goodwin. They have a distortion that reminds me of Francis Bacon, and there is sometimes a threat implied with them, the way Bacon’s work does too. But Goodwin is her own artist, and if anything she has a greater range than Bacon does. This is not to strictly compare both artists, for they are both great in their own way. It is just meant to highlight how good I think she is.

If you want to see more of her work, you can go the National Gallery of Canada, here. The AGO also has some of her work and had a fine exhibit on her in 2019. You can read about it here.

In praise of Mary Pratt

Mary Pratt is a master of colour and light. You get a sense of that just from this photo of her, and if you have ever seen her paintings, then you already know that. I have been studying her painting recently, and in search of more information of her, came across this great piece in Canadian Art. She passed away in 2018, but her art will live on long after this decade or even century has passed.

If you aren’t already a fan, I recommend knowing more about her and her work. That linked article is a good starting point.

Quote

Reason over Passion

Still a great work, after all these years. More on it, here: 1968 – Reason over Passion by Joyce Wieland | 150 years 150 works