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Shows to See over the Break: December 24, 2015, to January 6, 2016

There are lots of exhibitions to check out over the holiday break across Canada. Here are our best bets.


In her first solo exhibition in North America, Aleksandra Domanović brings together a body of work that spans her practice, including her ongoing paper stacks and video and installation work at the Plug In ICA. Rosemary Heather’s Moby Dick, also at the Plug In, begins from a question: “Can one legitimately claim authorship over a novel that was written by someone else, generations before her?” Moving from this, Heather retells Melville’s original work word by word on a projected screen where words appear at a rate of one per 12 seconds over 28 days (so it’s unlikely you’ll actually cover much of the book, unless you really want to avoid your family over the holidays).


There’s a final chance to see the ambitious sculptures and assemblages of Korean artist Lee Bul, known for her acclaimed cyborg sculptures that draw upon elements of art history, critical theory and science fiction, on at Vancouver Art Gallery until January 10. The VAG is also showcasing work by Cornelius Krieghoff, Zacharie Vincent, Charlotte Schreiber, Emily Carr and others in “Embracing Canada,” which gives an overview of the history of artistic engagement with the Canadian landscape from c. 1840 to 1940. In “Shooting the Sun/Splitting the Pie” Hornby Island–based artist Jerry Pethick, known for his pioneering work with holography, produces a complex body of sculptural work focusing on questions of perception and knowledge, as well as revolutionary moments from the history of Modernism. Also in Vancouver is an exhibition of work by artist Kim Beom featuring humorous and inquisitive takes on the way we come to see and know things, showing at the Contemporary Art Gallery. Afterwards, drop by an installation by the hilarious Walter Scott (favourited last year by Canadian Art’s Rosie Prata) at Yaletown-Roundhouse Station.


The Art Gallery of Alberta has been transformed into an operating textile workshop for the third part of “Charette Roulette,” entitled FABRIC, remaining open over the winter break. Also at the AGA is an exhibition of oil paintings and encaustic drawings by Edmonton-based artist Dana Holst, titled “She’s all that”—undoubtedly a nod to Freddie Prinze Jr.’s masterwork.


Canadian painter and sculptor David Thauberger showcases the stylings of the vernacular architecture of the prairies, including legion halls, grain elevators, diners and small-town bungalows, in paintings at the Glenbow Museum during the holidays. Also on at the Glenbow is “Kaleidoscopic Animalia,” an exhibition about animal culture’s impact on trends in broader visual culture.


A host of exciting work by First Nations artists is on display at the MacLaren Art Centre. “Reading the Talk” brings together work by contemporary artists who critically examine relationships to land, region and territory through a variety of practices, looking particularly at Indigenous perspectives on treaties in Canada. Carl Beam’s work is on view in “Fragile Skies,” particularly his photo-based lithographs that reflect the First Nations experience. While you’re at the MacLaren, make sure and check out an exhibition of paintings by the late Norval Morrisseau and a selection of mixed-media abstract pieces by Robert Houle.


Sobey Award finalist Sarah Anne Johnson shows a body of work reflecting on trauma sustained as a result of CIA experiments at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery until the end of January. Also showing at SAAG is Corinne Thiessen’s humorous, robotic Three legged dog and Janice Wright Cheney’s complex and creepy Cellar, comprised of hundreds of rats of various shades and colours created from a wide range of recycled vintage fur coats. Both are definitely worth catching.


What happens when trees become commodities? This question frames the group show “Silva Part II: Booming Grounds” at the Nanaimo Art Gallery, where visitors are brought to face resource extraction in forestry practices.


50 large-scale paintings and watercolors by 19th century English landscape painter J.M.W. Turner make up a critically acclaimed show touring for the first time outside Europe; at the Art Gallery of Ontario, “Turner: Painting Set Free” showcases a selection of his rarer late career paintings organized thematically, looking at his travels across Europe, his fascination with classical history, mythology and religion, his love of the sea and his pre-occupations with capturing light and atmosphere. Also on at the AGO, and closing at the start of the new year, is the exhibition for the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize, with work by four contemporary photographers ranging from documentary and video work to conceptual and political pieces. Also open in Toronto over the break is the Power Plant, currently showcasing films shot by Mark Lewis in Toronto, an enormous site-specific installation by Carlos Amorales and a multi-faceted exploration of language and perception by Dora García.


Three great exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Windsor will be finishing in the early 2016, so catch them now. Drawing purposeful comparisons to the Group of Seven, “7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc.” brings together 83 works (including formative works and recently uncovered masterworks) by one of Canada’s important early artist alliances: the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated. The Summit Meetings is a large-scale installation by Montreal-based artist, Raphaëlle de Groot. Also at the AGW is a sculpture by Bonnie Devine, Treaty Robe, for Tecumseh, that re-interprets masculine military accounts through a feminist lens.


The digital world and IRL are fast overlapping in new-media artist Skawennati’s “Realizing the Virtual: A TimeTravellerTM Experience” showing at Dunlop Art Gallery until January 13. Skawennati created her 9-episode machinima series, telling the story of a 22nd century Mohawk man on a quest, using Second Life. Also showing at Dunlop is Indigo, an animation inspired by Indigenous ideologies and the personal experiences of emerging artist Amanda Strong.


A show at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery focuses on Atlantic Canadians responding to the idea of “place,” bringing together work by 24 artists from all Atlantic provinces. The Beaverbrook is open many days over the break and this show closes on January 10.


Three exhibitions will be open for perusal over the winter break at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal: Camille Henrot’s 13-minute video installation Grosse Fatigue uses the concept of the encyclopaedia to build a narrative through juxtapositions and superimpositions, mixing scientific history, creation stories and more. An exhibition of two significant bodies of work by Patrick Bernatchez in the show “Les Temps Inachevez,” which includes drawings, photographs, films, sound pieces and installations that form part of a larger conceptual project about time and temporality. Also showing at MAC is the work of New York painter Dana Schutz, whose recent paintings are inhabited by strange portraits or group scenes. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is also open for the break and showcasing the original and entertaining “From Here to Ear” by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, which stars 70 zebra finches from an aviary in Thetford Mines who fly around and play a variety of instruments including electric guitars (so cute). If the artful aviary doesn’t take your fancy, there is also on show documentary photography by American George S. Zimbel, most famous for capturing the moment Marilyn Monroe’s skirt is blown around by a draft from the subway.


2015 will be the last year that the Sobey Art Award is hosted by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, so this winter is the perfect opportunity to see the show of work by finalists: Raymond Boisjoly from West Coast and Yukon, Sarah Anne Johnson from Prairies and the North, Jon Rafman from Quebec, Lisa Lipton from Atlantic and this year’s winner, Abbas Akhavan, from Ontario.

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