Biding Time: The Collection Strikes Back
A tour through key moments of York University’s art collection

14 January – 15 March 2015
Opening Reception: Wednesday, January 14, 6 – 9 pm

York University’s art collection is visible yet hardly seen in a coherent way. Some of it hangs on public display, some of it graces the walls of offices, and some is stored in protective vaults. In most institutions it is the fate of collections to bide their time until individual works see the light of day in exhibition. There is always more art in collections than can at any one moment be displayed—at least safely and securely. A collection has a pattern that is dependent on its history, and such is York’s. At times pursued relatively coherently, at times passively, as a consequence the collection has no one direction or theme. Biding Time charts key moments in the history of acquisition to make sense of our eclectic collection that sometimes was actively collected through purchase and “passively” through donation.

York is a relatively young university, so you will find none of those old masters of Canadian art, The Group of Seven, familiar to older, traditional universities. York answered to it times, and of the moment was the phenomenon of Inuit art, a collection of which was created at one fell swoop in 1970 through the purchase of two private collections. (Some of these nearly two hundred works are on permanent display in The Centre for Aboriginal Student Services in York Lanes.) But it was the decision in 1959 that .5% of building costs were to be allocated for public display of art in the new buildings that kickstarted the general collection.

York astutely collected some classics of Canadian art of the time, an excellent but small collection of mainly single works from the 1960s by painters Guido Molinari, Claude Tousignant, Roy Kiyooka, Yves Gaucher, John Meredith, Jack Chambers, and others, purchased mainly directly from the artists. A small collection of Op and Pop art prints equally was on the agenda (most of the Pop art prints subsequently were de-accessioned), purchased the same time in 1967 – 68. A major outdoor sculpture collection was also commenced with works by an international roster of artists including Alexander Calder, Mark di Suvero, Anthony Caro, George Rickey, Enzo Cucchi, Jocelyn Alloucherie, and Liz Magor. But at some point purchases ended and the collection was then dependent on donations. (The exception is the collection formed for and on display at the Schulich School of Business.) The major event here happened in 2001 when Joan and Martin Goldfarb donated seventy-six important paintings, sculptures, and works on paper from their collection to the University. The donation rectified absences in the collection giving weight to Quebec art (paintings by Paul-Emile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle) and American art (Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, and Frank Stella), First Nations work by Norval Morrisseau, but also adding sculptures by Inuit artist David Ruben Piqtoukun, and Degas and Moore bronzes.

Every collection has its oddities and York’s is no exception, but oddities are means by which to question what a collection is about. At question here would be York’s Papua New Guinean collection and the works of outsider artist Alma Rumball, samples of both which are displayed.

*A free shuttle bus departs OCADU (100 McCaul Street) at 6 pm and returns downtown at 9 pm.

Piece by Piece

19 – 30 January 2015

Gales Gallery, York University

How do we define who we are? Piece by Piece investigates this ever-elusive question through theories of fragmentation. It is impossible to consider the self without recognizing the multitude of “pieces” and traits that form our physicality and consciousness. The works, from both the Goldfarb Collection and the York University collection, explore fragmentation through abstracted forms, isolated body parts, multiple consciousness, and the embodiment of the self in objects. Piece by Piece is also self-reflexive, recognizing the creative process as an abject bodily function where the pieces of the show are also disembodied pieces of the artists themselves and reflected here for the viewer. We will always be grappling with these different fragmentations, assembling them piece by piece into an illusion that comes to represent a make-shift whole. We may never fully realize a complete self, or even determine what that is, but we know that we will always be more than the sum of our parts.

Piece by Piece is an exhibition by Art History MA students Karina Irvine, Jenna Shamoon, and Simone Wharton.

AGYU Vitrines

AGYU kicks off a new series of commissioned works by York MFA and PhD students for AGYU Vitrines with York MFA candidate Alice Mijeong Kim. Kim’s work explores the phenomenology of location, presence, and spatial experience through engaged viewership and site-specificity. In See Through Space—developed specifically for the three vitrines that line the exterior wall of the AGYU—she invites passers-by to contemplate the many layers of space projected onto and into each of these vitrine spaces, where the vitrine windows themselves become views into different spaces altogether while reflecting the world around them, their entanglement situated at the threshold of a multiplicity of spatial diffractions.

Kim is a graduate of the Berlin University of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions internationally. She works across a variety of media including installation, books, video, object, and photography.

Contemporary Art Bus

Sunday, 1 February 2015, 12 – 5 pm | FREE

Tour starts at the Koffler Centre of the Arts at Artscape Young Place (180 Shaw Street) and then departs for Blackwood Gallery, AGYU, and Doris McCarthy Gallery, returning to Shaw Street at 5 pm. Seating is limited. Please RSVP by Friday, 30 January, to Suzanne Carte at or 416-736-2100 ext 44021.

ABotM collection

While we have not yet announced the next iteration of the AGYU Artists’ Book of the Moment competition, we do have some exciting news. We have transferred the collection of past shortlisted titles to the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections. Housed in the Scott Libraryon York U’s campus, it currently contains over 200 books and is available for viewing by appointment. For a taste of the collection, please see:

Waging Culture

Late October at the Universities Art Association Canada annual conference, Michael Maranda presented the latest in the analysis of the 2012 Waging Culture survey, a research project on the socio-economic status of Canadaresident visual artists.

Looking specifically at income inequality within the arts sector, he showed a very interesting split in the type of career trajectory of visual artists: those whose primary income comes from sales versus grants. Artists primarily earning their income from sales exhibited the characteristics of a “winner-take-all” economy, where there was dramatic inequality (and an overrepresentation of male artists at the high end of the scale).

The pool of artists earning their income primarily from grants, however, exhibited an opposing “work-preference” model, with much lower income inequality, and much more equitable distribution of resources based on sex and visible minority status. One drawback, from an economic standpoint, is that those artists who work under the “work-preference” model generally earn less overall than those in the “winner-take-all” economy. An additional interesting point is that the higher the education that an artist receives, the less money that they earn from their practice! Maranda has also been invited to present these results at the 2015 College Art Association annual conference in New York in February.

Debwewin @ TDSB

AGYU offers a shout out to Elder, artist, activist, poet—and past 2011 AGYU Totem Impactcollaborator—Duke Redbird (York U’s first Métis graduate, 1978!) for his curatorial debut Debwewin (Anishinaabe for “truth”), inaugurating the Toronto District School Board’s new exhibition space at Eastern Commerce Collegiate

Institute with an exhibition drawn from the TDSB’s First Nation and Inuit collection and celebrating its new Aboriginal curriculum. Duke’s curatorial advisor was AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur, and the exhibition was installed by AGYU-affiliated technicians Carmen Schroeder and Brian Davis.


Griffith Residency and Upcoming Street Procession

This past November, our 2014 – 2015 artist-in-residence Marlon Griffith (Trinidad/Japan) was here, again, to continue working on his large-scale street procession programmed in conjunction with the Parapan American Games in summer 2015. Marlon worked with artists in a variety of disciplines – from visual art to textiles to environmental arts to fashion at two of Toronto’s most dynamic community arts organizations, Sketch and Art Starts, to produce costume components for the procession. He also began to collaborate with disability artists from Picasso Pro and Equal Grounds on the choreographic sequences for the large-scale “sentinel” characters: wisdom, courage, respect, honesty, humility, truth, and love, based on the Anishinaabe Seven Grandfather Teachings. Workshops in these foundational teachings took place with the “orators” of the procession (see REVERB: Rhythms of Poetry, below), young word-warriors from Jane-Finch, Malvern, and Regent Park. The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation provided additional pedagogical support and the youth group Alternative Roots participated in a number of the visual art workshops, providing advice and ideas for the costumes, not to mention beats on the drum—the heartbeat of the procession. AGYU would like to thank our wonderful community partners in this project: Sketch, Art Starts, MalvernSPOT, COBA (Collective of Black Artists), Success Beyond Limits, and individuals Sandra Brewster, Carleen Robinson, Katherine Earl, Tamara Haberman, Duke Redbird, Rose Jacobson, Cathie Jamieson, Stacy LaForm, Carolyn King, Faith Rivers, and Veronica Jamieson, and of course all the amazing artists who are collaborating on this project—and there are many! The street procession is open to the public, so stay tuned to find out how you can get involved! Marlon Griffith will return next summer for an intensive residency from May – August, and will participate in the L.L. Odette Artist-in Residency Program in the Sculpture Area of the Department of Visual Arts, School of the Arts, Media, Performance, and Design at York University. Marlon Griffith’s residencies (2014-15), procession (summer 2015), and exhibition (fall 2015) are curated by AGYU Assistant Director/Curator Emelie Chhangur.

The AGYU is grateful to Ignite Ontario for generously supporting aspects of this project as part of the Toronto IGNITE cultural initiative in conjunction with the Pan/Parapan American Games.

REVERB: Rhythms of Poetry

Continuing over the course of the year, the REVERB spoken word poetry workshops for youth are now under way in Jane-Finch, Malvern, and Regent Park. Our team of lead-artists (Britta Badour, David Delisca, and Jordon Veira), along with our group of junior artists (Aliyah-Suvannah [Suviana], Destiny Henry, Moose, Nadia Adow, Zeinab Aidid, Jacob Agustin and Berma) have led engaging sessions, teaching and demonstrating the poetic techniques of flow, clever word play, and powerful performances. Freestyling over beats, our participants took part in ciphers, which were integral to generating a collective energy through improvisation and to building a creative momentum, which inspired the writing process.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Anishinaabe people provide the thematic framework for junior artists and workshop participants who produced poetry inspired by the guiding ethical principles of wisdom, courage, respect, honesty, humility, truth, and love. In November, our junior artists met with renowned Elder, scholar, writer, and poet, Duke Redbird in order to learn more about how these teachings provide a foundational belief system and world view. In addition to meeting with Redbird, our junior artists had the opportunity to showcase their recent poems and work with internationally acclaimed artist Marlon Griffith as well as the talented team of Art Starts’ Sew What!? fashion designers on the development of Griffith’s upcoming large-scale public procession. Look out for upcoming emerging talent showcases in Jane-Finch, Malvern, and Regent Park in February, March, and April 2015!

The AGYU would like to thank the staff of Success Beyond Limits (SBL), COBA (Collective of Black Artists), and MalvernSPOT for their invaluable support of this program. Financial support has been provided by a grant from the Honey Foundation and the Vital Toronto Fund at the Toronto Community Foundation, Ignite Ontario, and the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council’s Targeted Enhanced Funding for generously supporting this program. This project is part of the Toronto IGNITE cultural initiative in conjunction with the Pan/Parapan American Games.

Student Engagement

Labour Intensive definitely was intense.

AGYU kicked off the Creative Campaigning: Performance as Resistance series with Los Angeles-based artist Heather Cassils. In collaboration with a diverse range of York student advocacy groups and associations, the action Labour Intensive worked to further articulate their vision and needs on campus.

Understanding that student-activists are pushed to the limits for their cause every day, Labour Intensive focused on making physical and emotional labour visible through a poetic participatory performance piece highlighting the efforts that are expended in pursuit of social justice. Students maneuvered around Keele campus, beginning and ending at the Samuel J. Zacks Gallery (Stong College), connecting the direct engagement of social action with that of corporeal action.

Above the inspirational quote of Murray Ross emblazoned on the façade of the iconic Ross Building, which charges students to free themselves from the mechanizing of the mind, a group of performers resisted, pushed, carried, and strained their bodies in the glass corridors connecting the north and south wings. With the bright afternoon sky as a backdrop, the hallways became a theatrical stage set for the audience of 250 Environmental Studies students gathered below. The physical traces of the actual labour, and resulting sweat, was captured at the end of their action on printing plates courtesy of Barbara Balfour and the Department of Visual Art and Art History printmaking students. The prints will be used to create posters highlighting individual student organizations’ causes. Labour Intensive illustrated that exertion is both an effort of the body and the energy of an idea, by asserting the body as both instrument and image.

Working alongside the Department of Visual Art and Art History; York Federation of Students (YFS); Creative Arts Student Association (CASA); Trans, Bi, Lesbian, and Gay Allies at York (TBLGAY); and students from the Fundamentals of Social Work program, this campaign focused on critical connections and action-research as a means of production through developing a process of negotiation and collaboration. Cassils gave artist talks and recruited performers through a series of lectures on campus focusing on gender construction and using the physical body as sculptural mass with which to rupture societal norms.

After the performance, Cassils joined Buffalo-based artist and theorist Zach Blas downtown at Videofag to discuss their practices in relation to the concept of performance as resistance through technology, public demonstrations, politics, and queer darkness.

In conjunction with the residency Positive Space Training was facilitated by TBLGAY and hosted by CASA. The session allowed participants and visual art students to problem solve and workshop ideas on how to create a more supportive and inclusive environment for LTBTQ+ members on campus and in the broader community. Cassils was also guest speaker at Activate TO at the Centre for Social Innovation and spoke to a diverse audience of graduates from York and Ryerson University’s campuses from the joint Communication and Culture program.

AGYU would like to thank everyone who came out to sweat.

Creative Campaigning is curated by AGYU Assistant Curator Suzanne Carte and generously supported by the Artists and Community Collaboration Program through the Canada Council for the Arts.

Grow Team Grow!

Every year AGYU staff actively trains young, emerging artists, curators, arts administrators, museum workers, arts advocates, and activists through our work/study, internship, and volunteer program, sometimes even informally taking on roles behind the scenes. Beyond that, we are also active in mentoring students from other disciplines outside the arts, or through specialty programs offered at YorkU and through the Toronto District School Board. This year we have two special situations we thought needed a little shout out. We are please to welcome, via the experiential learning program at York, Wendy Lai from the Department of Communication. As the Communications Assistant, Lai will be responsible for building a strategic plan for communication on campus, focusing on providing quantitative and qualitative research. By assessing student engagement initiatives, building social media campaigns, and facilitating student opinion polls, she will create new tactics for marketing and awareness on Keele campus. And through the CAP Program (Community Arts Practice Certificate Program), we welcome Maju Tavera, an accomplished photographer in her own right, who will jump feet first into the dynamic participatory world of AGYU’s programming, joining the growing team of people working on our Marlon Griffith project.


Our latest publication, Raqs Media Collective: Casebook, was released last fall. The book covers a decade of work by this New Delhi-based artist collective. With an extensive introductory essay by Philip Monk, it includes critical essays by 13 international curators, writers, and critics such as Hans Ulrich Obrist and Svetlana Boym and is a real contribution to scholarship on contemporary Indian art.

In the meantime, we are moving ahead with several new publications. The first is an extensive bilingual (English/Spanish) catalogue on the fall 2012 exhibition, Imaginary Homelands. Featuring 9 young Colombian artists, it includes an extensive essay by the curator, Emelie Chhangur, and interviews with all the artists by Emiro Martínez-Osorio, a professor in the Department of Languages, Literature, and Linguistics at York University.

In addition, the photographic and installation work of Sara Angelucci will be covered in a catalogue that documents her spring 2013 exhibition, Provenance Unknown. This one will include several portfolios of Angelucci’s work, an introduction by exhibition curator Emelie Chhangur, as well as essays by E.C. Woodley, and Claude Baillargeon.

AGYU Accolades

Premier’s Award

The AGYU was a finalist for this year’s top provincial art award, the prestigious Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, an award created to “recognize outstanding achievements by Ontario’s artists and arts organizations.” The AGYU was the first university art gallery, indeed first public art gallery, so nominated. We did not win on September 16 but it was a great honour to be a finalist. Thanks to our nominator University of Toronto Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Professor Stephanie Springgay, whom we quote here from the August 6, 2014 story in yFile:

“The AGYU is a leader in contemporary curatorial practices, educational programming, arts publications, ‘in reach’ to local non-art communities, and artistic research and development on an international scale,” said Springgay. “Key to their leadership is a focus on collaborating with artists to develop long-term sustainable projects, relationships, and exhibitions; disseminating critical scholarship on artists’ works and global issues related to curatorial practice through their award-winning publications; and the development of innovative pedagogical and community-based ‘in reach,’ which links local non-art communities and the university population to research and development in the arts.

“As an academic scholar in the arts, who conducts largescale, multi-site research projects with artists in schools and in collaboration with local communities, the AGYU has been a model of critical research practices and a site for research and dialogue. Their commitment to criticality, pedagogy, and community development ‘on the margins’ demonstrates their willingness to take intellectual risks, advance new art practice methods of collaboration, and to conceptualize how the arts can lead to broader social, educational, and community change. One example, is the gallery’s commitment to exploring the ethical implications of research creation and consequently to open up the power structures that often exclude non-artists from participating, and the galleries that are supposed to ‘represent’ them,” said Springgay.

“This was a guiding principle of the three-year participatory project The Awakening/Giigozhkozimin curated by Emelie Chhangur (which won the Ontario Association of Art Galleries Public Program Award in 2012), a collaboration between Panamanian artist Humberto Vélez, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and Toronto’s urban runners (Parkour), which culminated in a performance in the Walker Court of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in May 2011. One of the major achievements of the project was the creation of a youth exchange between the Youth Councils of New Credit and the ago. Designed by the participants themselves, these workshops (which took place in New Credit, at the AGO, and at the Monkey Vault Parkour gym) were about learning First Nations culture in participatory ways – learning things that the young urban runners and members of the ago youth council would say they weren’t taught in school. At the same time this project was an intervention into breaking down stereotypes and inserting different methodologies for learning into young people’s lives.”

See the story full in yFile at premiers-award/

AGYU Sweeps Ontario Association of Art Gallery (OAAG) Awards

It’s been another good year for the AGYU at the 2014 Ontario Association of Art Galleries Awards. On November 5, we picked up seven of the twenty-three awards across all the major categories—a feat not achieved since 2009 when … the AGYU won seven awards!

Congratulations to Emelie Chhangur for Exhibition Design and Installation Award for Sara Angelucci: Provenance Unknown; to Allyson Adley, Suzanne Carte, Emelie Chhangur, Michael Maranda, and the dozens of artists for Education Award for Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA) #2 & If We Ruled the World (the Jane-Finch component taking place in the agyu); to Allyson Mitchell and Emelie Chhangur, and the host of performers/participants for Public Program Award for KillJoy’s Castle: A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House; to Emelie Chhangur, Philip Monk, Michael Maranda, designer Lisa Kiss for Art Publication of the Year for Will Munro: History, Glamour, Magic; to Liss Kiss Design for Design Award: Catalogue for Will Munro: History, Glamour, Magic; to Ame Henderson, Evan Weber, Jp King, and Jeremy McCormick for Design Award: Art Book for Encyclopedia of Incidental Activisms; and to Luis Jacob for Art Writing Award for Will Munro: History, Glamour, Magic. And a shout out to the designer of this newsletter, Ken Ogawa, for a Design Award for the catalogue The Collaborationists: Jennifer Marman & Daniel Borins.


Spring 2015: Rashaad Newsome
Fall 2015: Marlon Griffith




Art Gallery of York University
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