A veteran photojournalist on the arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.

EDITION #137 - WEEK OF MAY 29-JUNE 4, 2017

O’Keeffe retrospective amazes

Left-right: “Oriental Poppies”and “Blue Sky” make an appearance among the eighty works at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s exclusive retrospective of the famed American artist extraordinare, Georgia O’Keeffe.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Venue: Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West

Dates/Times: Through July 30; Tuesday and Thursday 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday and Friday 10:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. and Weekends 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Admission/Information: Adult $25 (with general admission), Seniors $21.50, Student/Youth (6-17) $16.50, Child (under 5) FREE, Wednesdays evenings 6-9 p.m. $12.50; call 416-979-6648 or visit ago.net.

Gallery Review

The work of one of the American originals, Georgia O’Keeffe, is beyond iconic and otherworldly in their moments to find a definitive description, as one will find in the first-ever exclusive Canadian retrospective with eighty works of her artistry at the Art Gallery of Ontario runs quite expressive in finding more than just a bunch of close-up flowers and animal skulls one would associate with.

It’s a full exhibit chronicling her entire career from a young art student fresh from Wisconsin studying in post-World War I New York City to her final days as the octogenarian sage of the New Mexican desert for six decades whose mix of abstract and realism made her work unique as the strong charcoal linear lines seen in “No. 17 – Special” and “Black Lines” already had the makings of a true artist were at hand, including a couple of her watercolours “Pink and Blue Mountain” and “Blue Hill No. 11.”

The early abstract series are a great starting point here with the sculpture “Abstraction,” meant as a tribute to her mother, with lines and forms of a shrouded figure – recast as a lacquered bronze statuette here – was controversial for its time that would follow her for the rest of her life and career, if not overanalyzed by art historians and critics since; for deeming it as erotica (which she always dismissed such charges to the point of irritation). Her oil paintings ranging from the hint of green sweeps within an arc in “Red and Orange Streak” to the swirls of darks and greens within “Abstraction White Rose” still are amazing and striking to the eye.

Those New Yorker years provided a fruitful inspiration for O’Keeffe as seen in a highly-detailed graphic perspective in “East River from the 30th Storey of the Shelton Hotel” for all its browns, blacks and smokestacks depict the bustling metropolis at its apex of the 1920s, including “New York, Night” and “Ritz Tower, Night,” while capturing the serenity of the upstate New York wilderness in “Lake George.”

Her famous flower series that she did for over forty years is here and they do not disappoint, as “Oriental Poppies” just bursts with crimson reds and oranges in the central black stamens; the rich greens come out of the plain simple “Petunia and Glass Bottle” and “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1” encases all the creamiest of whites ever used to depict a white trumpet flower. The muse that she is best known for, the New Mexican desert, comes alive in “From Faraway, Nearby,” “Horse’s Skull and Pink Rose” and “Mule’s Skull with Pink Poinsettia” adds a beauty to death in trying to dispel whatever symbolism she tried to put in her work.

Latter abstract landscape works are perhaps her strongest when viewing the deep blue mountain range atop of a red desert sky in “Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie’s II” or with that rectangular dagger of blue against a limestone rock formation and background grey cliffs for “Blue Sky” is a standout piece, as well as “Pedernal” as being something so beautiful yet ominous of a cutting blue sky above a chaparral landscape and “Dead Piñon Tree” has a lot of life in its browns, reds and greens within its spidery branches. For this exhibit is her rarely-seen “My Last Door,” consisting of black squares on white and greys; which was only shown once during her lifetime before it became a permanent fixture in her bedroom that possibly was her favourite, until her death in 1986.

And don’t miss out on the other artists involved in the exhibit, including her photographer/agent husband Alfred Stieglitz with his photos of the Lake George area (“Barn and Snow”, “Apples and Gable, Lake George”) provide interesting afterthoughts, including his various “Equivalent” clouds series to being his muse in “A Woman (One Portrait)” series where he shot 350 photos of her on platinum and gelatin silver prints on paper; as well as noted nature photographer and friend Ansel Adams showing a rare side of herself (and himself artistically) in the comical Western portrait, “Georgia O’Keeffe and Orville Cox, Canyon de Chelly National Monument”; plus a tributary poem from punk rock godmother Patti Smith from her 1978 poetry collection Babel, just entitled “Georgia O’Keeffe,” as a stark, if respectful ode for inspiring women and feminist artists everywhere.

It’s not too often a work of this magnitude belonging to one of the pre-eminent artists of the last century gets a fair viewing in this country, so seeing this retrospective of O’Keeffe on its final and only North American stop of a world tour should be an essential to art lovers everywhere. Definately do not miss this one.

Dark Venus; Northern tintype stars

CONTACT Photography Festival 2017 Reviews

Part 5 of a 5-part series

Mark Lewis: Canada

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West

Through December 10; Tuesday and Thursday 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday and Friday 10:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. and Weekends 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Commissioned by the AGO for Canada’s 150th year, filmmaker Mark Lewis presents a silent triptych projections of what comes to mind when Canada is invoked to the layperson who knows so little (or none) about our country and its citizenry, minus any preconceptions and/or archetypes we may have even about ourselves in Canada.

Done in looping continuous one-shots, the titular ten-minute video of a young lady reading a copy of American author Richard Ford’s Canada near Lake Ontario in a sheltered picnic area as passers-by go about their daily business is a meditative one on what we think about ourselves and our home from a outsider’s point-of-view; whereas “Things Seen” has a woman in a wetsuit rising from the depths of a lake on a overcast day like a dark Venus with a observant if intensive look on her face from close-ups to pan-outs as it starts with a blanched colour tone before going fully black-and-white in a nearly dizzying 360°-rotation is the series’ nadir entry on nature giving us a new rethink, all in its five-minute run.

The longest, “Valley,” clocks in at eleven-and-a-half minutes is an experimental music video imagined for the Joni Mitchell 1971 classic “A Case of You” as a camera swoops along the Lower Don Valley Parkway from a transformer station and abandoned train tracks down to a homeless person making shelter in a closed-up walkway and listening to a Walkman – oblivious to the camera – as a impending snowfall comes up as the early afternoon rush hour goes on, as a statement on industrialization cutting a swath through urban greenery like a decaying, forgotten scar as to remind us of our natural beauty and ugliness.

Free Black North

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West

Through August 20; Tuesday and Thursday 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday and Friday 10:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. and Weekends 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

As recent headlines have shown us, Canada is often looked at as a sanctuary from persecution and injustice with the flood of migrants coming from the United States on the heels of the current administration’s war on illegal immigrants is a reminder of what we were over a century and a half ago, when African slaves escaped from the American South through the Underground Railway to settle in present-day southern Ontario. Free Black North is that photographic record of those communities from the 1860s to 1890s by unknown photographers of former slaves expressing their newfound freedom, courtesy of Brock University and the Archives of Ontario, being seen here for the very first time.

This collection is lovingly put together by retired Niagara Region firefighter and amateur historian Rick Bell, who found a trunk full of these photos while cleaning out his mother’s attic one day – and whose family had come here during the U.S. Civil War – along with some of noted historian Alvin McCurdy’s 3,000 archival photos that he’d collected for forty years of his life until his death in 1989.

The sepia and black-and-white construct of these long-forgotten, anonymous faces all dressed up in their finery and their pride shows it in these tiny tintype photos no bigger than an average-sized passport photo are so steeped of a enriched history few people know about, like because of being a hub of the Underground Railway the town of Amherstburg became one of the largest concentration of African-Canadians (outside of Toronto) in the province and how we must continue to be that Northern Star for the tired, the poor and huddled masses yearning to be free.

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CONTACT 2017 ends this Wednesday (May 31), although some exhibits will continue. Most venues are FREE. For information, call 416-539-9595 or visit scotiabankcontactphoto.com.