There are hundreds of interesting exhibitions on view across the country this season. Here are 10 at the top of our list.
“Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools” at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery
“Witnesses” is an important exhibition that isn’t afraid to take on a tough theme: artists who have produced work arising from the history of some infamously abusive institutions. Featuring art by Alex Janvier, Carl Beam, Beau Dick, Jamasie Pitseolak, Skeena Reece, Adrian Stimson and others, it coincides with (but is independent from) Vancouver’s recent Reconciliation Week. “Witnesses” is curated by Geoffrey Carr, Dana Claxton, Tarah Hogue, Shelly Rosenblum, Charlotte Townsend-Gault, Keith Wallace and Scott Watson. As Wallace says in our Fall issue, “We envision the exhibition as a collection of voices that encourages everyone to become a witness.” A related symposium on November 15 on “Traumatic Histories, Artistic Practice and Working from the Margins” also promises to deepen the experience. Runs September 6 to December 1, 2013.
“The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism” at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
Quebec City is the only Canadian stop for this exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York from its William S. Paley collection. Paley, who founded the CBS television network, was also a MoMA board trustee and modern-art aficionado, collecting paintings by Matisse, Gauguin, Picasso, Degas and other icons. Among the offerings is a Cézanne self-portrait that Paley acquired from the painter’s son in 1933. Runs October 11, 2013, to February 16, 2014.
Land|Slide: Possible Futures at the Markham Museum
The creative team behind 2009’s Leona Drive Project—which transformed soon-to-be-demolished suburban bungalows into large-scale artworks—and Nuit Blanche Toronto’s 2012 underground-parkade spectacle Museum for the End of the World returns this fall with another compelling site-specific project, Land|Slide: Possible Futures. More than 30 local and international artists—including Blue Republic, Duke and Battersby and Terrance Houle—are installing in the dozens of pioneer buildings that make up the 25-acre, open-air Markham Museum, a compelling backdrop for themes of ecology and economy, farming and development, history and diversity. Runs September 21 to October 14, 2013.
Geoffrey Farmer at the Art Gallery of Alberta
Vancouver artist Geoffrey Farmer—this year’s $50,000 Gershon Iskowitz Prize winner—recently had solo exhibitions at the Migros Museum in Zurich and the Barbican in London. This fall, he has returned home to Canada to open one of his largest installations yet at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Taking the form of a haunted house, The Intellection of Lady Spider House is an unprecedented collaboration between Farmer and 11 other Canadian artists, including Valérie Blass, Julia Feyrer, Hadley + Maxwell, David Hoffos, Brian Jungen, Tiziana La Melia, Gareth Moore, Judy Radul, Hannah Rickards and Ron Tran. Runs September 14, 2013, to January 12, 2014.
Sobey Art Award Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Toronto was wowed last year by the Sobey Art Award shortlist exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, and this year’s award show at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia promises similar appeal. Works by Isabelle Pauwels, Mark Clintberg, Duane Linklater, Pascal Grandmaison and Tamara Henderson will make a case for each finalist. These include Pauwels’s most recent video work, Clintberg’s hand-woven fishing net and series of takeaway posters, Linklater’s complete five-piece neon-light series Tautology, Grandmaison’s new video installation of reversed and slowed footage of unnatural destruction in a natural environment, and Henderson’s blown-glass vessels, chair and 16mm film Accent Grave on Ananas. Just prior to the prize announcement on October 9, Linklater will also give a talk on October 8 at 7 p.m. Runs September 14, 2013, to January 5, 2014.
“7: Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated” at the MacKenzie Art Gallery
Not many people are aware that there was an aboriginal “Group of Seven” too. But more will find out with the showing of “7: Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated” at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Paying homage to PNAI, which officially incorporated in February 1974, the exhibition considers how Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Alex Janvier, Carl Ray and Joseph Sanchez broke ground in demanding recognition for First Nations artists. Runs September 21, 2013, to January 12, 2014.
“David Bowie is” at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Featuring more than 300 objects from Bowie’s personal archive, including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits, photographs of Bowie by Helmut Newton and others, and handwritten set lists and drawings, “David Bowie is” was a hit for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London earlier this year. Now, Toronto becomes the show’s first world-tour stop. Bowie’s connections to Surrealism, German Expressionism, music hall, mime and Japanese Kabuki performance all promise to be explored. Runs September 25 to November 27, 2013.
“Another Happy Day: Found Photographs Collected by Jonah Samson” at Presentation House Gallery
Collector and artist Jonah Samson, who currently lives in Cape Breton, has scoured eBay to accrue an impressive assemblage of unique and unsettling anonymous photographs. This show and an accompanying publication reveal the diversity of his singular collection. Also worthwhile at PHG is “Collected Shadows,” photos from the Archive of Modern Conflict, which formed an impressive display at this year’s Contact Festival in Toronto. Runs September 12 to October 27, 2013.
“Kill Joy’s Castle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House” at 303 Lansdowne
Haunted houses aren’t just a theme for Geoffrey Farmer and friends this fall; feminist and “deep lez” artist Allyson Mitchell has spent the last few months on a structure “nailed, knit, and glued by a coven of dedicated feminists.” It’s full of rug-hooked, crocheted, and paper maché’d constructions that are “womb-like wonders for visitations of the undead lesbian community, who are hell-bent on remaining nightmarishly non-assimilated.” The kickoff on October 16 will include more than 25 live performances; then, until Hallowe’en, it will be open each day from 4 to 8 p.m. as an art installation. Runs October 16 to 30, 2013.
Michel Campeau at the National Gallery of Canada
Since 2005, Montreal’s Michel Campeau has been photographing darkrooms. He’s travelled from Havana to Ho Chi Minh City to Tokyo, taking pictures of these analog-devoted spaces that are slowly dying out, creating what he calls “a poetic look at technological work that has almost fully disappeared.” His Darkroom series has been exhibited internationally, and this autumn is being featured at the National Gallery of Canada alongside another great series on the topic of changing photographic technologies: Robert Burley’s Disappearance of Darkness. Runs from October 18, 2013, to January 5, 2014.
For more recommendations of what to see this fall, check out the Agenda section of our current issue, which is on newsstands now. Also view our weekly openings picks that are released each Thursday, or subscribe to our award-winning weekly e-newsletter to get them delivered.