As 2012 dawns, thoughts inevitably turn to what’s next in the Canadian art scene, and there’s already a number of key events—both at home and abroad—that promise to make a major impact. Here’s a little bit of what we’re looking forward to.
Lights Out! and Yellow Signal Initiative in Vancouver
The Vancouver Art Gallery has a typically busy year in 2012, highlights of which include “Lights Out!” (February 18 to April 29), an important survey of Canadian painting in the 1960s by Michael Morris, Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland and others, curated by Ian Thom. Beginning May 12, Chinese artist Yang Fudong—influenced by classic cinema and post-structuralist storytelling—shows a seven-screen video installation entitled Fifth Night, in its Canadian debut. Curated by Daina Augaitis, the piece is part of “Yellow Signal Vancouver,” a project initiated by Centre A that will feature work by contemporary Chinese artists throughout the city.
Iain Baxter&, Picasso and Evan Penny in Toronto
Pioneering Windsor-based conceptualist Iain Baxter&’s retrospective, which recently finished a successful debut run at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, comes to the Art Gallery of Ontario this spring (March 3 to August 12). Expect the gamut of the artist’s cheeky practice: deconstructions of American mid-century conceptualism, vacuum-formed works, and landscapes painted on TVs. An AGO summer show of Picasso (May 1 to August 26), arriving from Paris’ Musée National Picasso, will offer a personal view of the 20th-century master, comprised of works he kept for his family and himself during his lifetime. In the fall, a sure-to-be-spectacular retrospective of the last 10 years of hyperrealist sculptor Evan Penny’s career also comes to his hometown institution after stops in Germany and Italy.
Van Gogh: Up Close and the Canadian Biennial in Ottawa
The National Gallery of Canada’s summer 2012 blockbuster is “Van Gogh: Up Close” (May 25 to September 3), and it’s the first major Canadian show of the Dutch post-impressionist’s works in more than two decades. (Appetites will be sufficiently whetted after art-history nerds have finished their Christmas gifts of Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s recent tome, Van Gogh: The Life.) The exhibition will feature roughly 50 works from international private and public collections, and it promises to shed new light on the legend through a thorough and contemporary emphasis on optics. In the fall, the NGC presents its second Canadian acquisitions biennial, following up 2009’s much-praised (and much-debated) “It Is What It Is.” Though the exhibition is still in development, the show is due to include Winnipeg-born, Montreal-based painter Dil Hildebrand and Cape Dorset draughtsperson Kavavaow Mannomee.
An Appetite for Painting: Those of the Present and Valérie Blass in Montreal
Co-produced by Montreal venues Arsenal and Galerie de l’UQAM, under the respective directorships of Jean-François Bélisle and Louise Déry, “An Appetite for Painting: Those of the Present” is a fall show (September 20 to December 19) that will constitute a significant examination of contemporary daubers throughout the country. Selections by curators Marie-Eve Beaupré and Julie Bélisle will cover a wide range of practitioners, including realist Mike Bayne, abstractionist Arabella Campbell, and dozens of others. The project, an undertaking five years in the making, will be shown in Arsenal’s vast, 20,000-square-foot main hall. Earlier in the year (February 2 to April 22), renowned Quebec sculptor Valérie Blass will premiere her largest show ever at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, which promises to include 30 new works.
The 10th Anniversary of the Sobey Award and Skin: The Seduction of Surface in Halifax
Over the past decade, the Sobey Art Award, based out of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, has grown into the country’s largest art prize, drawing widespread media attention to younger Canadian art talents each fall. This year marks the 10th anniversary for the award, and even though its main exhibition and ceremony (in keeping with its alternating-year touring patterns) will travel away from Halifax in 2012, taking place in Toronto at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, it’s an opportunity reflect on the many artists who have come of age under the Atlantic-founded award’s influence. The AGNS also has other strong offerings on the menu in May, as chief curator Sarah Fillmore presents “Skin: The Seduction of Surface,” an examination of identity, sexuality, geography and more through ideas of flesh. Appropriately, the exhibition is wide-reaching in its participants, mingling Canadians such as Duke + Battersby and Attila Richard Lukacs with international names such as Gillian Wearing and Vito Acconci.
dOCUMENTA (13) in Germany
The large-scale, every-five-years exhibition of contemporary art returns to Kassel, Germany, this summer. Conjecture is always the name of the game with this event, as lists of participants are not traditionally released until the opening. (Typographic license is also a hallmark, with dOCUMENTA (13) being the official moniker of this year’s exhibition.) That said, eminent Canadian Kitty Scott, director of visual arts at the Banff Centre, is involved with dOCUMENTA (13) as agent, curator and researcher, and confirms that “Canada will be well-represented”—and it already has been represented, in part, as Vancouver’s Ian Wallace contributed to the event’s publication series 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts. dOCUMENTA (13) activities will not be restricted to Germany, however. Scott is hosting a related residency at the Banff Centre during the exhibition’s run, with prestigious faculty such as Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, artistic director of dOCUMENTA (13), and French artist Pierre Huyghe.
Oh, Canada! in Massachusetts
The 400-plus studio visits that MASS MoCA curator Denise Markonish did to organize this exhibition are already the stuff of legend in certain Canadian-art circles. Opening May 27, “Oh, Canada” boasts 62 participating artists—among them Shary Boyle, Daniel Barrow, Kent Monkman, BGL and Janet Werner—with a focus on figuration, vernacular tradition (such as craft) and mythology, themes that Markonish has explored in previous forays not related to the great white north. Whether the exhibition will have anything definitive to say about a national aesthetic remains, then, to be seen.
The Biennale of Sydney in Australia
Also not to be overlooked on the Canadian-art-abroad front is the 18th Biennale of Sydney. Co-curated this year by the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Gerald McMaster and the Tàpies Foundation’s Catherine de Zegher (formerly of MoMA, the Drawing Centre and, yes, the AGO), the event’s main exhibition promises to include dozens of Canadian artists. (Ed Pien is among the names already confirmed.) Titled “all my relations,” it “intends to focus on inclusionary practices of generative thinking, such as collaboration, conversation and compassion, in the face of coercion and destruction.”