Ottawa Art Gallery Spring and Summer 2022 Exhibitions Deliver Powerful Messages from Diverse Perspectives

Top: Robert Kautuk, Sikut (different layers of ice), detail, 2018, Photograph (drone image), light box, 62.76 x 111.76 cm. Courtesy of the Artist.
Bottom: Leslie Reid, Through Time, Through Space 5, detail, 2020. Photographs, light boxes. Diptych: 68.6 x 68.6 cm; 68.6 x 96.5 cm. Courtesy of the Artist. Archival aerial vertical b/w photograph: National Air Photo Library; taken for early mapping of the North, above Frobisher Bay, 1949.Colour photograph: Leslie Reid, taken from the deck of the Canada C3 Expedition icebreaker Polar Prince, Franklin Strait, 2017.

This season features many firsts: OAG’s first solo exhibition by an Anishinābe Algonquin artist; the first installation partnership between OAG and the National Gallery of Canada; the first major solo installation by graphic novelist Stanley Wany; OAG’s first Firestone Reverb exhibition from a Chinese-Canadian lens; and the launch of Robert Kautuk’s first exhibition in Canada.

On Friday April 22, the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) inaugurated seven new exhibitions with its first in-person vernissage since the start of the pandemic. Featured artists deliver powerful and diverse messages through sculpture, video, drawing, painting, photography, and beading—to unveil hidden histories, honour family heroes, question gender roles, appropriate and re-appropriate, and to invite all to collectively reflect on shared responsibilities.

A suite of installations on the fourth floor explores the ongoing impacts of colonialism from shared and unique perspectives. In the multimedia installation For those who Chose the Sea, Quebec-based artist Stanley Wany brings together wave footage of the Atlantic Ocean with sculptural approximations of the compartments in which human beings were stored below decks on slave ships. Accompanying work on paper echoes the dislocation brought on by lost identities. OAG’s first solo exhibition by an Anishinābe Algonquin artist is the presentation of the work of Jobena Petonoquot. Titled Rebellion of My Ancestors | Nid Ànike-mishòmisibaneg Od-Àbimìtàgewiniwà, the exhibition features beadwork, fibre art, installations, printmaking and photography, and pays tribute to the rebellion of the artist’s ancestors. Petonoquot’s grandfather rebelled against colonialism by hunting—even though it was prohibited by colonial powers—which enabled the survival of Indigenous ways of knowing. In Mr. and Mrs. Andrews without their Heads, artist Yinka Shonibare, internationally known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism, lifts the British couple out of their social, economic and political identity. Dressed in Dutch waxed cotton, in styles reflecting the fashions of 18th-century gentry, the figures become, in part, a critique of ongoing colonial capitalism and systemic racism. The installation is a partnership first between the OAG and the National Gallery of Canada.

On the third floor, ᓯᑯ ᕿᕐᓂᖅᓯᓯᒪᔪᖅ | Dark Ice examines Climate Change, and features photographs, paintings and videos of Arctic land and ice, and the communities who live there. Robert Kautuk from Kangiqtugaapik (Clyde River), NU uses drone technology to produce aerial photographs and videos of his community. He works at the Ittaq Heritage and Research Centre that documents and records traditional knowledge, while also encouraging community and Inuit-led research. Leslie Reid, an established Ottawa-based painter and photographer, retraced her father’s mapping flights, undertaken in the early years of the Cold War, and became increasingly aware of the impact of colonialism and climate change on the North.

Don Kwan is a queer third-generation Chinese-Canadian artist, whose Firestone Reverb exhibition Landscape, Loss, and Legacy explores the notion of inclusion and exclusion through the lens of landscape and the story of his family, the well-known owners of Shanghai restaurant on Somerset Street in Ottawa. Kwan’s selection of works from the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art (FCCA), is displayed alongside pieces such as a transformed Chinese palace lantern; an installation of Muskoka chairs; and a triptych of light boxes featuring photographs from the artist’s Landscape and Loss series. Together, the works in the exhibition ask the question: What does it look like to belong in the Canadian landscape?

“We celebrated our spring opening with seven extraordinary exhibitions on Earth Day – a day to recognize the beauty and abundance of this celestial body that we call home, as well as a time to recognize that our planet is in trouble. From the climate crisis, to ongoing conflicts spurned by colonization and racism, to the continuing pandemic, humanity is facing an extraordinarily challenging time. How better to position and engage change than through the work of contemporary artists who tell vitally important stories that help us to not forget, and enable the experience of different perspectives so that we can, individually and collectively, move forward on a better path.”
– Alexandra Badzak, Director and CEO, Ottawa Art Gallery

OAG also inaugurated Human Nature, in Galerie Annexe, featuring the work of Jemimah Lorissaint, Peter Shmelzer and Sharon Vanstarkenburg, artists who examine and redefine the portrait by challenging social norms of gender and identity. Additionally, the exhibition Wingspan features works made by long-term care residents at Perley Health (Ottawa) throughout the pandemic.

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About the Ottawa Art Gallery
OAG is Ottawa’s municipal art gallery and cultural hub. Located in Ottawa’s downtown core, the expanded Gallery is a contemporary luminous cube designed by KPMB Architects and Régis Côté et associés.

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