1.) The Art Gallery of Ontario’s “selected survey” of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller is a nice intro to their work, but far from a thorough presentation of their oeuvre. Highlight of the installation: Cardiff & Miller’s Road Trip (2004), a work typically overshadowed by showier installations such as The Paradise Institute (2001). Road Trip is a essentially a narrated slide show that addresses one of the two narrators family history, what he does and doesn’t know about it and the role of memory in constructing our identities.
2.) The AGO has also placed Janet Cardiff’s Forty-Part Motet (2001) in its Henry Moore sculpture gallery. Putting it there could have failed spectacularly: The works might have clashed, the combination of the speakers and the sculptures might have made the space feel cramped. Instead, the installation is one of the richest, most rewarding art experiences of my life, an overwhelming improvement upon installing the piece in an empty white cube. (Cardiff requested the space, the AGO said OK.) While not every sound piece is as great as Forty-Part Motet, this installation should motivate other art museums to experiment with sound pieces in their galleries.
3.) There’s far, far more glass on paintings at the AGO than would seem to be necessary.
3a.) I had already thought the AGO’s marketing of Getty curator Christine Sciacca’s early-Renaissance Florence show was condescending and utterly dumb, but I was still caught surprised by the jaw-dropping stupidity of the exhibition-promoting banners that lined the AGO’s Dundas Street frontage: “700 YEARS LATER THE SECRETS CAME TO LIGHT,” the banners blare.” Hogwash. The exhibition is one of the smartest, most scholarly shows on Italian art in recent memory. The show has nothing to do with “secrets.” Bush league stuff, AGO.
3b.) Speaking of oof, the AGO has chosen to put two big billboard-like advertisements on its Frank Gehry-designed Dundas front. Downtown Toronto is substantially billboard-free, so the AGO’s self-promotion comes across as all the more garish.
4.) Do American art museums devote as much space to meh American art as the AGO does to meh Canadian art? It was great to see some pieces by the underrated Joyce Wieland, but I would have preferred seeing her Flick Pics #4 (1964) and Boat Tragedy (1964) next to Andy Warhol’s Cleopatrz Liz (1963). Instead the Wielands were segregated into a so-so gallery of Canadian early contemporary art. The Wielands address ideas about film, seriality and the consumption of images. They should be hung with works engaged in a similarly non-border-defining dialogue. (Sorry, none of the Wielands are online.)
4a.) Also a joy to see Michael Snow’s Rolled Woman I (1961). Snow is probably the major artist who is Canadian who is most underplayed in the U.S.
5.) Another little thrill: Seeing Richard Serra’s 1976 film Railroad Turnbridge (which the AGO bought in 1977!). When Serra was on The Modern Art Notes Podcast, I asked how his experience in working construction on San Francisco’s Crown Zellerbach building influenced him later on. Yes, here.