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2012 Roundup: Artist Breakthroughs

Here’s a look at some the engaging Canadian artists who have have had major breakthroughs in 2012. Many promise to continue the excitement into the coming year.

Jeff Wall is already renowned internationally, of course, but this year he achieved a new level of profile on the markets front when his Dead Troops Talk was sold for $3.6 million at Christie’s New York auction in May, making it the third most expensive photo ever sold at auction. Curatorially, there were also high points for him. Wall’s “The Crooked Path,” a major retrospective of his work and the influences behind it that he co-curated for BOZAR in Brussels in 2011, travelled to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Critic Sarah Milroy (who also has Vancouver roots) made her own pilgrimage to the show and then through Wall’s photographic career for our summer magazine cover story “A Pilgrim’s Notebook.”

Ken Lum made a move from West to East, taking up the post as director of the Undergraduate Fine Arts Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, a switch in place and thinking that was the subject of two online columns (here and here) for Canadian Art. Reece Terris also showed up in Philadelphia this fall with another of his trademark blue-collar sculptural interventions, Good-Bye Work, on the roof of the city’s Global Dye Works building. It might just be the image of the year.

Vancouver artists Geoffrey Farmer and Gareth Moore made iconic, much-praised works for Documenta 13—Farmer discussed his process with Rosemary Heather for us, while Michael Turner reviewed Moore’s live-in outdoor installation. Also related to the strong Vancouver scene, Ian Wallace recapped a 40-plus year career as the figurehead of the Terminal City’s production with a major retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Shary Boyle got a big boost this year with the announcement that she would be representing Canada at the 2013 Venice Biennale. She also was one of the first artists to exhibit in Toronto’s new Maison Louis Vuitton.

The sometimes Lethbridge-based artist Taras Polataiko made headline news at home and around the globe this fall with one of the most unique and intriguing exhibitions of the year, Sleeping Beauty, a tableau vivant, at the National Art Museum of Ukraine in Kiev, covered for Canadian Art by Nancy Tousley (who made her own mark on the year with a Canadian Online Publishing Award for her columns on our site).

Montreal-born artist Jon Rafman stood out at the 2012 Contact Photography Festival with his Nine Eyes of Google Street View, concurrently shown at the festival’s flagship exhibition “Public: Collective Identity | Occupied Spaces” at MOCCA and at nearby Angell Gallery. Rafman was featured among Leah Sandals’s festival picks, and highly recommended in Saelan Twerdy’s review. Later in the year, a wave of international press accompanied his exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London.

In the past 12 months, Toronto expat Julia Dault has gone forth and conquered, with group shows in Morocco, South Korea, Spain and at the New Museum in her adopted home of New York. This year, Dault also had a solo show at the new White Cube Bermondsey, London, and her work was among the Art Gallery of Ontario’s new acquisitions at Art Toronto. To catch up on this artist’s evolution, read Joseph R. Wolin’s meditation on her work from the Fall 2012 issue of Canadian Art.

Montreal-based artist Jessica Eaton can be a hard person to track down these days, as her unmistakable, graphic, even op-artish photographs—made in camera as a literal deconstruction of her studio practice—have taken her from South Korea to Los Angeles this year, with many stops along the way. Gabrielle Moser caught up with Eaton at her Montreal studio and shared her insights into Eaton’s practice in the Winter 2013 issue of Canadian Art.

Hugh Scott-Douglas seems to have gained an unstoppable momentum this year. He had his first New York solo show under the representation of Clifton Benevento, a show with his San Francisco dealer Jessica Silverman Gallery, and at home in Toronto, Douglas participated MOCCA’s summer spectacular “trans/FORM.” Also in Toronto, Tomorrow Gallery, a project space co-founded and directed by Douglas, Tara Downs and Aleksander Hardashnakov, has had an active year working with local and international artists, as evidenced in Tess Edmonson’s conversation with Tara Downs.

Annie MacDonell has had a very big year, kicking it off with a solo show at Mercer Union (remembered by Sam Cotter here) before having back to back shows at the Art Gallery of Ontario: first a solo show co-presented with the Images Festival and again as a nominee for the Grange Prize.

Halifax’s Eleanor King received much attention this year beyond the Atlantic region. Being a 2012 Sobey shortlister—as Richard Rhodes pointed out, this year’s Sobey exhibition was full of winners—was much to credit for that. At home, she remounted The King and I, a collaborative speakeasy with Stefan Hancherow, as part of NSCAD’s 125th anniversary. King is closing out 2012 with a solo show at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, up until January 27.

Fellow Haligonian Kim Morgan, though she originally hails from Saskatchewan, brought her Range Light, Borden-Carleton PEI—a latex cast of a decommissioned lighthouse—to MASS MoCA’s blockbuster exhibition “Oh, Canada,” reviewed here by Sarah Milroy.

Newfoundland’s Jordan Bennett was one of the three winners of the inaugural Charles Pachter Prize for Emerging Canadian Artists. Bennett’s work is prominently featured in “Beat Nation”—reviewed for us by Tanya Harnett, which debuted at the Vancouver Art Gallery and is now on view at Toronto’s Power Plant.


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jim messenger says:

How interesting there are no Quebecois artists in your survey…. Shame on you.

Leah Sandals says:

Hi Jim,
Thanks for your feedback–we will definitely strive to cover all areas of the country more effectively in any future roundups!

Andrew McLaren says:

A minor point but it is one of the very first things to be seen in this article: the caption for Reece Terris’ Good Bye Work incorrectly identifies the installation site as the “Global Dye Works” building, when even the altered sign makes it evident, that it is Globe, not Global.

Leah Sandals says:

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for taking time to flag this error! It’s now been corrected.

Chris Lloyd says:

To boost just a bit the Quebecois content, I’d add Valerie Blass: her show at the MaCM was fantastic, she was also in “Oh Canada” (albeit her work was installed a bit oddly there)

Leah Sandals says:

Hi Chris, I hear you! I’m a big Blass fan too. We’re definitely going to take these considerations into any future articles we do. Thanks for the suggestion…. feel free to add more!

Mireille Bourgeois says:

It’s important to note as well that Kim Morgan has also won the 2012 Lieutenant General Masterworks Arts Award. I know it’s difficult to add all artists achievement due to word limit, but this is the biggest award in the atlantic region (25K is awarded to the masterwork in question) and is the only award of its kind in Canada.

Congratulations to all artists, Canada has some talented and incredibly relevant artists on and off any list created!

Leah Sandals says:

Thanks for the tip, Mireille! We will keep an eye on this award in future… as well as on Kim’s work!

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