Art Gallery of Ontario to launch major exhibition of work by former Vancouver-based artist Rebecca Belmore

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      Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is preparing to launch two major exhibitions featuring Indigenous artists.

      One of those exhibitions will survey the work of artist and former Vancouverite Rebecca Belmore, who is a member of the Lac Seul First Nation (Anishinaabe).

      Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental will open on July 12 on the fifth floor of the AGO's Contemporary Tower and will continue until October 21.

      This show will feature over 20 large scale works, and will include Fountain, a 15-foot projection on water from 2005, and At Pelican Falls, a 2017 tribute to residential school survivors that incorporates video, sculpture, and photos.
      “Beautifully delineating the line between poetics and politics, Facing the Monumental highlights the artist’s lifelong commitment to natural materials, to the body, and to the act of listening,” AGO Indigenous Art curator Wanda Nanibush stated in a news release. “In capturing the universal truths of pain, beauty, empathy, hope, and transformation, her work positions the viewer as a witness, and encourages us all to face what is monumental.”

      Artist Rebecca Belmore

      She resided in Vancouver for almost 12 years, before relocating to Winnipeg in 2012, and later Montreal in 2014. She is currently based in Toronto.

      “I think I arrived in Vancouver at a good time, at a good point in my career," she told the Georgia Straight in a 2013 interview, "kind of when I was just getting control of my work and having a clearer sense of my ideas and how I wanted to work as an artist.”

      Her 2002 performance piece Vigil, performed in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, commemorated the lives of murdered and missing Indigenous women who have disappeared from Vancouver.

      Rebecca Belmore, Quote, Misquote, Fact, 2003. Graphite on cotton rag vellum, 3 pieces, each 45.7 x 134.5 cm. Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston. Gift of Rebecca Belmore, 2004 (47-005) © Rebecca Belmore

      Meanwhile, the exhibition Tunirrusiangit: Qinnuajuaq Ashevak and Tim Pitseolak will open at the AGO on June 16 to showcase the work of two major Inuit artists.

      Kenojuak Ashevak (1927–2013) from Kinngait (Cape Dorset), known as the "Grandmother of Inuit Art", is internationally renowned for her graphic storytelling and design sensibility.

      Her work inspired her nephew Tim Pitsiulak (1967–2016) to create art at Kinngait Studios. The exhibition will feature his view of contemporary Inuit life through over 110 drawings, sketches, and rare works on paper.

      "The blend of magic, realism and surrealism these two created in very different ways, allows us as the next generation of Inuit artists to continue breaking new ground, for ourselves, our families and communities and our audiences around the world,” exhibition co-curator and performer Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory stated in a news release.

      The announcement of the exhibitions coincide with the renaming of the J.S. McLean Centre for Canadian Art as the J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art. The centre closed for extensive renovations on March 6 and will reopen on July 1.

      An April 3 news release from the AGO explained that the name was changed to recognize the existence of Indigenous art both before and beyond Canadian borders.

      "The re-configuration and re-installation of the Centre will see works by Indigenous, Inuit, and Canadian artists put into conversation across time, to better reflect the nation to nation relationship that Canada was built upon," the release stated.

      In addition, text at the centre will appear in three languages: English, French, and Anishnaabemowin to recognize that the gallery is located on Mississauga Anishinaabe territory. Meanwhile, the Inuit collection will have text in Inuktitut, English, and French.