Come May, there will be no shortage of striking images to look at, when over 1,000 local, national and international camera-wielding artists put their work on view during CONTACT, Toronto’s annual month-long photography festival. And the fest isn’t limited to gallery walls: you’ll find many of the over 200 installations in a range of public spaces throughout the city, including on billboards and in public courtyards. The theme for this year’s photo extravaganza is “Figure & Ground,” and the images are meant to explore the relationship between people and their environments. To help you find an exhibit that’s right for you, here’s a guide to some of CONTACT’s highlights.
If the mantras of Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolf and Camille Paglia were to be given visual form and caught on camera, they would look something like the work of Toronto-based photographer, performance artist and video maker Suzy Lake. Over the past 40 years, Lake, a former model and mime, has photographed herself as everything from an aging rock star to a human puppet in an effort to explore what it means to be female. The 24 works in “Political Poetics” survey themes from Lake’s pioneering career and reveal why she has become one of Canada’s most important visual artists.
University of Toronto Art Centre, 15 King’s College Circle. May 3–June 25. Tues-Fri, noon-5pm; Sat, noon-4pm.
With surrealist wit and a virtuoso flair for elegance, Scarlett Hooft Graafland choreographs and photographs scenes set within vast landscapes. With “Dynamic Landscape,” the Dutch artist focuses her camera on the Canadian Arctic. In her humorous work Lemonade Igloo, an Inuit leans against his home, which is dyed fluorescent orange. In Plea, we see nothing but two yellow-gloved arms emerging from beneath the snowy tundra, their hands touching in supplication. A René Magritte for our times, Hooft Graafland cleverly explores the confluence between our physical and psychological worlds.
Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art: Main Space, 952 Queen St. W. Apr. 30-June 5. Tue-Sun, 11am-6pm
In the 1950s and ’60s, Fred Herzog loaded his camera with Kodachrome, a colour slide film, and marginalized himself as an artist at a time when art photography was almost exclusively associated with black and white imagery. Now Herzog’s reputation is making a comeback because gazing into his large-scale photographs is like stepping into a time machine. With “Vancouver,” you’ll be taken on a tour of the city’s gritty streets, neon signage and memorable characters, as Herzog’s images capture the impact of modernity on a burgeoning metropolis.
National Gallery of Canada at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, 952 Queen St. W. Apr. 30-June 5. Tue-Sun, 11am-6pm.
Western countries produce up to 50 million tons of electronic waste annually. In “Permanent Error,” South African photographer Pieter Hugo exposes the shocking consequences of this statistic. Portraits of Ghanaian slum denizens are presented before the ravages of industrialization, including mountains of discarded hard drives, keyboards and monitors. Although Hugo’s photographs are like scenes from an apocalyptic era, they are nonetheless majestically beautiful and arguably among the most interesting landscape images of today.
On billboards at the corner of Spadina Ave. and Front St. To June 4.
Robert Longo is one of the art world’s biggest names, and it’s a coup that CONTACT is showing this famous body of work. Between 1979 and 1987, Longo posed elegantly dressed men and women on the rooftop of his New York studio. As rubber balls and rocks were thrown at his subjects, Longo photographed their twisting forms against an empty background of sky, resulting in images where the people appear to be in free-fall. Originally, Longo used these pictures as source material for pencil drawings, which were widely exhibited in the ’80s. Now, 13 of these photographs are on display as artworks in their own right.
Metro Hall, 55 John St. May 1–31
In March of this year, the cover of the US art magazine ARTnews featured the work of 34-year-old Montreal-based photographer Jessica Eaton for a story titled “The New Photography.” Eaton’s lushly coloured experimental images—layers of red, green and blue hues, separated through filters and multiple exposures—look more like geometric abstract art than traditional photographs. But don’t let this stop you from seeing Eaton’s captivatingly beautiful pictures, which have been dubbed the next big thing.
Contact Gallery, 80 Spadina Ave., Ste. 310. May 1-31. Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm; Sat, 11am-5pm.