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10 Shows to Catch this Summer

There are heaps of excellent exhibitions happening from coast to coast this summer. Here are the ones we most want to catch.

Ai Weiwei at the Art Gallery of Ontario, opening August 17
Influential curator Francesco Bonami recently made waves by saying he hates Ai Weiwei, accusing him of exploiting “his dissidence in favor of promoting his art.” Whether one agrees or not, Weiwei remains one of the most powerful and controversial artists in the world. In August, a touring exhibition of his work, “According to What?,” arrives for its sole Canadian stop at the AGO, with the opening weekend including a live volunteer performance of Remembrance (2010), in which the names of thousands of schoolchildren who perished in China’s May 2008 earthquake disaster are read aloud.

Martin Honert at the Vancouver Art Gallery to October 14
Over the past few years, Jeff Wall has co-curated some excellent exhibitions of international artists at the Vancouver Art Gallery—often as the first major presentations of these artists’ works in Canada. Patrick Faigenbaum and Kerry James Marshall are some of the past examples; just last week, another such show opened featuring the art of Germany’s Martin Honert. Known for sculptures based on childhood photos, illustrations and memories, Honert says his aim is “to save an image before it dies within me.”

Rebecca Belmore at the Carleton University Art Gallery to September 1
“Sakahàn,” the worthy indigenous art quinquennial currently on at the National Gallery of Canada until September 2, has a number of offsite or collaborative presentations as well, and this is one of them. For it, CUAG presents a variety of works by the Anishnaabe artist, all of which touch on colonial histories, as well as the effects of these on First Nations people.

Janet Werner, Dagmara Genda and Jillian McDonald at the Esker Foundation to September 6
A trio of strong solo shows appeal at the Esker. First up is a touring exhibition of Montreal painter Janet Werner, whose takes on fashion images meld the beautiful and the grotesque. (It’s the westernmost stop for the tour, organized by Saskatchewan’s Kenderdine Art Gallery | College Art Galleries.) Also on view are two bodies of work that play off landscape: Jillian McDonald works made at a recent Glenfiddich Distillery residency that play off Scottish myths and legends, and Dagmara Genda’s Panorama and Corrupted Animals, large installations which address clichés of Canadian geography.

Michel de Broin at Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal to September 8
Whether turning an old Buick Regal into a pedal-powered vehicle or attaching a smoke machine to a bicycle, the art of Montreal’s Michel de Broin constantly upends conventional expectations. This show offers a selection of works from the past decade, and a few made specially for the occasion.

Cory Arcangel at DHC/ART Foundation to November 24
The first major Canadian solo show of this renowned computer-centred American artist includes some of his fan favourites—like Drei Klavierstuke, which recreates Arnold Schoenberg’s 1909 Opus 11 Drei Klavierstucke (Three Piano Pieces) by editing together YouTube videos of cats playing pianos. It also heralds a new sculpture, website and performance.

Mary Pratt at the Rooms to September 8
Renowned for a particularly luminous brand of photorealism, often based on objects in her home, Mary Pratt makes works that provoke both wonder and unease. This 50-year survey, due to tour the country, includes her 1969 landmark work Supper Table as well as more recent paintings.

The Piano at the Art Gallery of Alberta to August 18
Even as the analog piano—heavy and awkward, despite its beauty—fades from Canadian living rooms and pop culture in favour of the digital version, it remains a subject of interest for contemporary artists. This much is suggested by a group show in Edmonton of Canadian artworks from the 1960s to the present that are inspired by the instrument. Stan Douglas, Rodney Graham and Tim Lee are among the artists included.

Hilda Woolnough, Patrick Lundeen and Philip Delisle at Confederation Centre Art Gallery, to December 22
One of PEI’s most influential creators, Hilda Woolnough, passed away in 2007 after helping create organizations like the PEI Printmakers’ Council and the PEI Council of the Arts. She is well remembered in Confederation Centre’s current survey, which opened last month. Also on view at the centre is a solo show highlighting the wild pop-cult stylings of Alberta-born artist Patrick Lundeen and an exhibition of paintings by NSCAD grad Phil Delisle based on his recent Joseph Plaskett Award tour of Europe.

Rodney LaTourelle, Eli Bornstein and “The Automatiste Revolution” at the Mendel Art Gallery to September 15
Berlin-based Canadian artist Rodney LaTourelle wowed many visitors to the 2010 Canadian Biennial with Neo-Plastic Vice, a large, colourful sculpture that viewers walked through. Recently, the Mendel commissioned him to make sculptures that people could sit, chat and read upon. These have debuted alongside a survey of influential Saskatchewan artist Eli Bornstein, “Shaping Saskatchewan: The Art Scene 1936–1964” and the terrific touring show “The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941–1960.”

For more recommendations of what to see this summer, check out the Agenda section of our current issue, on newsstands now.

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