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Features / September 21, 2017

16 Art Shows to See This Fall

Canada’s busy fall art season is here, and we’ve rounded up the shows we’re most excited about

“Jeneen Frei Njootli: red rose ad lidii” at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery

While Indigenous materialities—cultural productions that connect bodies to territory and kin through the animation of sacred materials and kinship ceremony—can be manifestations of love and community care, they can also ironically reflect the consumption of Indigenous bodies, art and knowledge. Frei Njootli captures this complex relationship in “red rose ad lidii,” her upcoming exhibition at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery comprised of printed images, video, objects and performances centering her personal beadwork collection, which was largely given to her by kin.

Frei Njootli exposes her body as a space that reveals to her the connectivity between land, life and love, and that anchors her to all creation—a relationship she considers by pressing beading into her flesh and capturing the imprints left on her body in their absence. These tiny rows of dots patterning the expanse of her skin, stretched over flesh and bone, are a reminder to Frei Njootli that materialities simultaneously connect her to creation, but can represent violence on the body, and thereby violence on the land. Indigenous materialities are love, yes. But Frei Njootli also exposes a (perhaps) uncomfortable reality: that our communities, lands and cultural productions can exhaust us as well. With “red rose ad lidii,” Frei Njootli disrupts Indigenous masculinist narratives around emotional labour, asking, Why can’t I admit that I am tired, too? Tired from the emotional labour of being a creator, and of being consumed.—Lindsay Nixon, Indigenous editor-at-large

“L’Offre” at DHC/ART

This fall marks a decade since Montreal arts philanthropist Pheobe Greenberg launched DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art. And a memorable 10 years it’s been. From the opening of its inaugural show of works by British artist Marc Quinn in October 2007, DHC has delivered a steady stream of major solo and group exhibitions by top-notch international artists: Sophie Calle, Christian Marclay, Harun Farocki, Paul Pfeiffer, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Jenny Holzer, John Currin, Omer Fast, Philippe Parreno, Taryn Simon, Thomas Demand, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Richard Mosse, Joan Jonas and the list goes on.

The space has been a boon to the local and national art scene, and what better way to celebrate than with an exhibition based on the idea of a gift. “L’Offre” fills DHC’s multi-storey exhibition space in Old Montreal with works by Sonny Assu, Phil Collins, Dora Garcia, Simryn Gill, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Emily Jacir, Sergej Jensen, Mike Kelley and Lee Mingwei. Each artist has examined exchange as a conceptual proposition, a kind of give and take between artist and audience that challenges preconceived notions of value and reciprocation, and recognizes that even the simplest acts of generosity can carry a critical edge that keeps on giving.—Bryne McLaughlin, senior editor

“N. Vancouver” at Polygon Gallery

The inaugural exhibition at the Polygon Gallery considers North Vancouver and its surroundings. Photographs of Vancouver are often framed by the coastal mountains on the city’s northern edge. This rugged, natural beauty bolsters Vancouver’s reputation as one of the world’s most livable and picturesque places. Nestled at the base of a mountain, the city of North Vancouver is hazily evident in these pictures—a glistening appendage to its southern sister—and a place whose complex histories can only be dimly imagined. “N. Vancouver” registers the familiar while revealing the hidden.

“Mitchell/Riopelle: Nothing in Moderation” at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec

The love story of Nova Scotia painter Maud Lewis and her husband Everett screened across cinemas this summer, but I’m holding out for an adaptation of Jean Paul Riopelle and Joan Mitchell’s turbulent affair. Picture it: blazing arguments, separate homes in Giverny (though the pair famously always had dinner together), fallouts with Clement Greenberg. You could even throw in the scene that Peter Schjeldahl recounts of a dinner party with Mitchell, when she alternated between dressing down a newly engaged woman for her bourgeois choice, and screaming down the stairs at Riopelle, whom she refused to let in. (“Here,” writes Schjeldahl, “was a craziness of a scary and rare order.”) In lieu of a cinematic version, though, I’ll settle for the MNBAQ’s “Mitchell/Riopelle: Nothing in Moderation,” which brings together some 60 works by both artists to chart the influence and effect of their partnership.—Caoimhe Morgan-Feir, managing editor

Divya Mehra in Toronto, Brandon and Charlottetown

Divya Mehra is sweeping the nation this fall. The Sobey finalist’s cunning and cutting commentary on the art world’s white supremacy comes through in two solo exhibitions, a window display and limited-edition beach towel, and a performance at Flotilla, an artist-run culture conference. And that’s just this September. To read “You have to tell Them, i’m not a Racist.” you have to maneuver to get the fluorescent overhead lights to hit the translucent white vinyl text covering the walls of Georgia Scherman Projects at the optimal angle. In that way, negotiating for legibility mimics the insidiousness of the relatable narratives that weave through Mehra’s text-based works.

Her window piece at Art Metropole, “Emerging Powers and Conflict Management (Toppling over statues, hate amid radical new platforms),” is on display for the rest of September, and it slips in the kind of conversations that BIPOC have with each other about wack white people into a street-level window display that will make some nod and others squirm. At the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba at the end of this month, she’ll be staging her exhibition “Pouring Water on a Drowning Man,” with the notable series of sizzurp-printed text pieces with quotes of actual racist shit that’s been directed to her. Her work deftly tells of the compliance, the bending over backwards required to appease whiteness, while Mehra herself refuses to.—Merray Gerges, assistant editor

“Migrating the Margins” at the Art Gallery of York University

If you are in the Toronto area, it’s worth making the trip to the Art Gallery of York University to see “Migrating the Margins,” curated by Emelie Chhangur and Philip Monk. Artists Erika DeFreitas, Anique Jordan, Tau Lewis, Rajni Perera and Nep Sidhu transform the gallery space into a constellation of many worlds. Life-sized sculptural portraits and larger-than-life figures depart from an understanding that the world is in a bad way and in need of healing, and they seem to offer disparate proposals to the question “What now?” The exhibition also includes public art projects by Farrah Miranda, Otherness and Sister Co-Resister.—Yaniya Lee, associate editor


Canadian artist-run centres will converge on Charlottetown September 21 to 24 for the first transnational gathering focusing on nomadic and temporary elements of contemporary artist-run culture in Atlantic Canada. And plenty of art will be on view alongside the proceedings. Among the artists involved, whether as speakers or exhibitors, are D’Arcy Wilson, Raven Davis, Mathieu Léger and Sooyeong Lee. Jordan Bennett and Lori Blondeau will also be collaborating for the first time ever, in a project that honours water.—Leah Sandals, managing editor, online

“Field Guide” at Remai Modern

To say that the opening of the new Remai Modern this October is going to be a blockbuster may be something of an understatement. Momentum has been building since 2011 when plans were announced to replace the former Mendel Art Gallery with a new gallery that aimed to catapult Saskatoon, and the city’s art scene, on to the international art circuit. Whether that ambition will come to pass is still to be determined, but if the Remai’s inaugural exhibition is any indication, plans are well underway. “Field Guide,” curated by Remai director Gregory Burke and chief curator Sandra Guimarães, assembles works by close to 80 local, national and international artists in multiple exhibitions, site-specific projects, installations and performances spread throughout the Bruce Kuwabara–designed building on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.

Highlights include: a “critical workshop” organized by Thomas Hirschhorn and designed to reverse the roles of teachers and learners; a permanent-collection intervention and series of discursive events by Tanya Lukin Linklater and Duane Linklater that examine the role of the museum as “a physical or conceptual vessel to carry or hold Indigenous ideas, histories, objects and forms”; selections from the Remai’s core collection of 405 Picasso linocuts curated by artist Ryan Gander; and marquee installations of works by local artists Bob Boyer, Eli Bornstein, Kara Uzelman, Ruth Cuthand, Tammi Campbell and Robert Christie, alongside works by Lawrence Weiner, Haegue Yang, Pae White, Jimmie Durham, Stan Douglas, Geoffrey Farmer and Rodney Graham, among others.—Bryne McLaughlin, senior editor

“Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry” at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Florine Stettheimer—Jazz Age saloniste, painter, poet—liked a good time. “I like slippers gold / I like oysters cold / and my garden with mixed flowers / and the sky full of towers,” she once wrote. And it shows: almost all of Stettheimer’s paintings look like a party. There are tuxedoed revellers, feathered fans, fireworks and lewd behaviour all captured in a blazing Fauvist palette. But while Stettheimer travelled to Europe and studied the work of Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne, her work doesn’t really look like anyone else’s. She was at the heart of cultural and intellectual life of New York in the early 20th century, but pursued only her own sensibilities. The AGO’s showing of “Painting Poetry” offers Canadian audiences the first chance to properly see Stettheimer’s work. She was Warhol’s favourite artist, maybe she’ll become yours as well.—Caoimhe Morgan-Feir, managing editor

Marlene Creates and Thaddeus Holownia at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery

Following a $30.5 million capital campaign, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery is reopening in October with a new design by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects of Halifax that adds some 14,000 square feet of interior space over three levels. Among the highlights to check out on reopening weekend and beyond: a new survey of Newfoundland-based artist Marlene Creates called “Places, Paths and Pauses” that will later travel through Atlantic Canada and to Ottawa; a remounting of New Brunswick artist Thaddeus Holownia’s “Walden Revisited: 24 Tree Studies for Henry David Thoreau”; and the first large-scale survey of Oscar Cahén’s work in three decades.—Leah Sandals, managing editor, online

“Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice” at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection

This is a rare chance: to see a large survey of the late Cape Dorset artist Annie Pootoogook’s work. For the exhibition “Cutting Ice,” curator Nancy Campbell collected more than 50 drawings by the renowned Inuit artist and presented them with a selection of works by her contemporaries, among them Jutai Toonoo, Shuvinai Ashoona and Siassie Kenneally. Pootoogook’s quotidian scenes of violence, tenderness, desperation and the mundane challenge traditional modes of representation in Inuit art. The breadth of the exhibition showcases the singularity of her work, and the scope of her unique talent.—Yaniya Lee, associate editor

The 2017 Canadian Biennial at the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta

After years of being on the receiving end of critiques about its Canadian Biennial, the National Gallery of Canada is opening up the affair to include artists from beyond our nation’s borders. (So expect to see some Nick Cave soundsuits as well as Vancouverite Stan Douglas’ sprawling video work Luanda Kinshasa, for one example.) Haters may still dig in about the fact that this is a “collections-based” biennial—that is, based on artworks the NGC has acquired since May 2014—so don’t expect that to change. But in another expansive move, part of the Canadian Biennial this year will also be hosted at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton. Look there for works by Beau Dick, Chris Ofili, Hajra Waheed and more. It’s a promising lineup.—Leah Sandals, managing editor, online

“INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE” at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Opening September 23 is the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s largest-ever contemporary Indigenous art exhibition. Twenty-nine emerging-to-established Indigenous artists are featured, including Joi T. Arcand, Dee Barsy, Dayna Danger and Earthline Tattoo Collective, among others. It’s curated by Julie Nagam and Jaimie Isaac, who state, “Winnipeg has one of the fastest-growing Indigneous populations in Canada. We have strength in that and we want to showcase it.”—Leah Sandals, managing editor, online

“raise a flag” at Onsite Gallery

For the inaugural exhibition at the new location for OCADU’s Onsite Gallery, Ryan Rice has curated a show that celebrates 33 artists and their works as acquired by the Indigenous Art Collection of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada from 2000 to 2015. “raise a flag” features significant conversations in a year marked by some as Canada 150. Works such as Shield Wall by Wally Dion present a narrative that is twofold: one that blends Plains First Nations quiltworks with formed riot shields. In a time when we should be critical of learned histories, “raise a flag” supports differing and alternative discourses that reveal current issues through an artistic lens.—Andrew Harding, development and administrative assistant

Bunker 2

Bunker 2, a contemporary art centre, is based out of a shipping container currently housed on Campbell Avenue in Toronto. Its mandate is one that promotes connections and dialogues between artists and communities, and its use of a shipping container-cum-gallery is a reaction to the inaccessible prices of Toronto’s real estate market. The existence of DIY galleries like Bunker 2 allows for collaboration, dismantling traditional methods and fostering artistic output of young(er) artists, curators and patrons. “[long pause],” featuring works by Robert Anthony O’Halloran, is my show to see this fall (along with any and all of Bunker’s yet to be publicized upcoming programming).—Emma Gaudio, marketing and programs coordinator

Responsive International Light Art Project

The Nuit Blanche juggernaut seems to have continued, and will emerge again at locations across Canada this fall. One related phenom, just appearing for the first time, however, is the Responsive International Light Art Project in Halifax. The HRM has already had its Nocturne for a few years, but this is something slightly different: a collaboration between the cities of Halifax and Cologne, Responsive International Light Art Project includes artists from Canada and abroad. On the docket: Kelly Mark, Mischa Kuball, Hartung + Trenz and Cuppetelli + Mendoza, among others. Next year, the program will shift to Cologne.—Leah Sandals, managing editor