Tim Whiten: Elemental Fire
September 15 – December 2, 2023
Guest curated by Liz Ikiriko

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 14, 6–9pm

A woman, dressed in a pantsuit resembling a disco ball, stands on a plinth. Spotlit, she is performing for an audience in a darkened environment.

Tim Whiten, Untitled, 1971. Graphite on paper, 153.5×188 cm. York University collection.

AGYU is honored to announce our upcoming Fall exhibition, Tim Whiten: Elemental Fire, which brings together over 14 cultural objects from the past four decades of Tim Whiten’s prolific career, including works in glass, works on paper, and a new site-specific installation created specifically for this exhibition. Whiten’s enduring 50-plus year practice has been clearly and consistently focused on the known and unknowable; on practical and ephemeral aspects that fundamentally propel and challenge human existence and consciousness.

Elemental Fire, guest curated by Liz Ikiriko, considers how the material transformations of fire appear in Whiten’s work as forms of alchemy, risk, play, and energetic power. Often alluding to notions of time and faith through histories of storytelling and spirituality (ranging from prehistoric, Greek, and Roman mythology through to Kabbalist and Buddhist traditions), Whiten’s work returns us to consider primary questions of our bodies, our presence, and our value in this current moment.

Elemental Fire is part of an expanded, multi-venue retrospective and collaborative publication celebrating Whiten’s extensive career, developed as a partnership with the Art Gallery of Peterborough, Art Gallery of York University, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and McMaster Museum of Art from 2022 to 2023. This series of exhibitions shares the nomenclature “Elemental” and is thematically united by the classical elements of air, water, earth, and fire — a reference to Whiten’s interest in alchemical practices. AGYU is pleased to present the final exhibition of this series.

As part of Elemental Fire, we present an active program of conversations, readings, and performances, including a curatorial walk-through by Liz Ikiriko; a panel discussion with the curators of the Elemental series of exhibitions; an offsite respondent talk by scholar Nehal El-Hadi and experimental sound response by artist Zoma Tochi Maduekwe at Arraymusic; and an online reading group lead by writer and artist Farhia Tato.

Parallel Programs:

Curatorial Walkthrough with Liz Ikiriko: Saturday, September 16, 3–5 pm, AGYU

Elemental Curatorial Panel with Pamela Edmonds, Liz Ikiriko, Chiedza Pasipanodya, Fynn Leitch, and Leila Timmins: Wednesday, October 18, 3–4:30 pm EST, online

Respondent Talk and Spatial Audio Experience with Nehal El-Hadi and Zoma Tochi Maduekwe with Liz Ikiriko: Tuesday, November 14, 7–9 pm, offsite at Arraymusic, 155 Walnut Ave, Toronto ON

Elemental Reading Group with Farhia Tato: October 24 and November 28, 7–8 pm EST, online

 Tim Whiten was born in Inkster, Michigan, in 1941. Self-described as an image maker and creator of cultural objects, Whiten’s practice spans five decades. After receiving his MFA from the University of Oregon in 1966, he served military duty from 1966 to 1968. Immigrating to Toronto, he began his teaching career in the  Division of Humanities in the Faculty of Arts at York University. For 39 years, Whiten inspired thousands of students in their creative pursuits; as an award-winning educator and Chair of York University’s Department of Visual Arts, he has contributed to generations of the Toronto arts ecology. His work has been exhibited across North America, from MOCA, Toronto, to ICA, Boston, and the Colorado University Art Museum, with his work in public collections at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Art Gallery of Hamilton, York University, and de Young Museum in San Francisco, among others. Of his many accolades and awards, he is the recent recipient of the 2022 Gershon Iskowitz prize at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the 2023 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for Artistic Achievement.

With over fifteen years of experience in the field of contemporary art and photography, Liz Ikiriko has delivered large-scale complex projects working closely with a variety of artists, organizations, and institutions. She builds long lasting connections with organizations, including Wedge Curatorial Projects, the National Music Centre, Critical Distance Centre for Curators, and the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Ikiriko received her MFA in Criticism and Curatorial Practice from OCAD University and has taught photography at Toronto Metropolitan University and Sheridan College. She has written for and worked on publications, including Maclean’s, Public Journal, MICE Magazine, Blackflash, Akimbo, C Magazine and, most recently, contributed to Aperture’s As We Rise: Photography From the Black Atlantic. She is co-founder of the Ways of Attuning Curatorial Study Group, a member of the curatorial committee for the 13th Rencontres de Bamako, African Photography Biennial in Mali. She is the inaugural Curator, Collections and Art in Public Space at the University of Toronto’s Art Museum and was the previous Curator of Collections and Contemporary Art Engagement at AGYU.




Art Gallery of York University
Keele Campus, Accolade East Building
Toronto Ontario  M3J 1P3

Staff directory


Spring 2023 HOURS
Tuesday to Saturday: 12 noon to 5 pm

Always free


Click here for a map

Visual story visitor guide

Nearest TTC Wheel-Trans stop is York University Subway (north entrance)