We can’t wait to return safely to the AGO when it reopens Tuesday, February 1. But what to see first? While the current exhibitions and collections on view reflect great art and ideas from around the world and through time, five floors of art are a lot (of fun!) to navigate. The first in a new occasional series, we present Three Things to See Now, a micro-tour of exceptional works to inspire your next visit.
First stop: Robert Houle’s Red is Beautiful (1970), a vivid abstract painting on view as part of his career retrospective on Level 2 in the Sam & Ayala Zacks Pavilion. The first work Houle ever sold, now at the AGO on loan from the Canadian Museum of History, its location at the end of the exhibition testifies to Houle’s singularly avant-garde career. In the words of the exhibition curator and AGO Curator, Indigenous Art, Wanda Nanibush, Houle produced this work “during a time when he was exploring the work of Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns; he was drawn to the way artists like Barnett Newman strove to understand the spiritual aspect of abstraction.”
Second stop: Moving south, both literally and artfully, we pass through Walker Court, saluting Houle’s Seven Grandfathers (2014) and the towering figure of Zak Ove’s Moko Jumbie (2021), and ascend to Level 5. In the exhibition Fragments of Epic Memory, we encounter a custom-designed case and a haunting albumen print entitled Bananas, Trinidad (ca.1890) by Felix Morin. It is one of 200 images from the Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs. Morin produced award-winning landscape, portrait and still life images from his studio in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in the late 19th century. These images circulated around the world and played an important role in constructing views of the Caribbean as a tropical paradise.
Last but hardly least, from out of the Caribbean and into the imaginary, the final work in our trio of must-sees takes us inside Matthew Wong: Blue View, an exhibition of works by the late Toronto-born Chinese-Canadian painter, now showing in the Phil B. Lind Gallery on Level 1.
Wong taught himself how to paint through research, experimentation and discussions with fellow artists and art world figures In A Dream (2019), we see many inspirations collide, as he leads the viewer along a winding path through an isolated, evocative landscape. Striking in an exhibition of works exploring the many meanings and possibilities of the colour blue, this work stands out, its rich yellow sky and dappled pink beach blurring the line between dream and reality.
The AGO will resume regular operating hours beginning Tuesday, February 1. The AGO’s robust health and safety measures remain in place, including capacity limits, timed-entry ticketing, health screening and proof of vaccination policy.