Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dreaming in Toronto.

My last post from the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) acknowledged themes of memory and dreams that seemed to infuse the museum's permanent collection of Modern and Contemporary Art. But those same themes were alive and well elsewhere in the museum.  Take the temporary exhibit Jack Chambers: Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life. I was not familiar with the work of this Canadian artist. Over the course of his career, the artist developed a hyper-real style he called "Perceptual Realism." The process involved taking pictures of his family, home, and favorite places.  Then carefully rendering those images in paint.  The results are images that feel like the old, faded color photographs of my childhood. And just like those old photographs, these paintings inpsire  emotions that serve as a reminder life is really just a collection of memories we curate until we die.  I liked these painting very much.  Here are a few examples:

Diego Reading (1976-1977, oil and synthetic paint in natural resin varnish on plywood).

Sunday Morning No. 2 (1968-1970, oil on wood).

I forgot to record the title of this painting, but I love the sleeping boy and the toy Gorilla.

Also of interest at AGO is the Thomson Collection, originally amassed by Kenneth Thomson and now housed permanently at the museum. There are so many things to see at the world's museums that I believe in focusing my time to explore the things that interest me most; usually modern and contemporary art. I seldom get interested in Old World collections.  But the Thomson Collection is like nothing I've ever experienced.  The objects that most interested Kenneth Thomson were small, precious items frequently made from natural materials.  And there are hundreds of tiny, intriguing curiosities from Medieval enamel and ivory works to Renaissance rosary and prayer beads. There are collections of Chinese snuff boxes and Baroque boxwood and ivory sculptures.  The displays go on and on.

I have to commend the curators at AGO for staging some of the most beautiful exhibit cases I've seen.  It starts with the cabinet of curiosities that greets you at the entrance to the galleries. This gives you just a taste of the thousands of items that will confront you inside the galleries.

This amazing wall of ivory busts is just one of many such overwhelming displays of collections.

And Mr. Thomson loved skulls and skeletons.  There many collections that featured skulls.  I loved this small ivory sculpture of a cherub resting on a skull.

This is the first time in a long time when I wished I had left more time to explore the old European collections of a museum.

Before finalizing my experiences there are a few other things to mention.  First, my new favorite museum perk: the folding gallery stool.  All over AGO were discreet racks that held small, easily-carried stools.  So that you could plop down in any gallery and enjoy the art.

When museum visits involve so much walking, it sure is nice to have a few moments to rest and contemplate what you're looking at.  I wish more museums had these.

Finally, I can't end my memories of AGO without showing one more element of Frank Gehry's inspiring architecture.  I loved this soaring gallery lit with natural light.  It just happened to be empty during my visit but that may have made it even more beautiful.

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