Picasso, photography and human hair: A look at Remai Modern’s summer exhibits

By in Culture
Pae White’s Lucky Charms has been a mainstay of the Remai since its opening.

With the turn of the season, the Remai Modern is exhibiting new works: a bold collection of Picasso linocuts, a cinematic adventure, eccentric sculptures and lens-based works by leading Indigenous artists await in its gallery spaces.

The gallery features a new exhibit based on the theme of one of Picasso’s prominent interests: bullfighting. Among the works showcased in Picasso on View, those that are notable include: Toros en Vallauris and his series Picador Goading Bull with Matador. The collection comes from the archives of Picasso’s master printer, Hidalgo Arnera.

Curator Sandra Fraser explains the significance of the authenticity of the works.

“[The Remai has] working proofs and experimental proofs in addition to the finished print that most people would have had a chance to see,” Fraser said. “What I really love is how I can imagine myself in Picasso’s studio as he works through choices around composition or colour — I can see the things that he tried out, at times rejected and other times carried through.”

The bright abstractions and lines that characterize Picasso’s works contrast against the neutral colours of the gallery walls in a way that most certainly warrants delight. Other works feature a darker palette with rich, muted tones — inviting the viewer into a closer examination of Picasso’s action-packed depictions of bullfighters.

Picasso on View closes on July 20, and a new exhibit, curated by Fraser, will take its place: Pablo Picasso: Process and Poetry.

Echoes, running at the Remai Modern until Oct. 14, showcases the photography of Indigenous artists Rebecca Belmore, Lori Blondeau, Raymond Boisjoly and Duane Linklater — whose artwork represents a unique exception, as it is presented through video and sculptural media.

Fraser emphasizes that having the works of Indigenous artists featured in the gallery is one of the Remai’s central values.

“It is important for us to reflect our audiences and to engage with concerns — both artistic and social — that are relevant to the communities we serve,” Fraser said.

Among the notable works in Echoes are the breathtaking portraits in Blondeau’s series Asiniy Iskwew. Blondeau, a master’s of fine arts graduate from the University of the Saskatchewan, is the co-founder and current director of TRIBE, a Canadian Aboriginal arts organization.

The primary exhibit at Remain Modern, housed in the larger galleries upstairs, is At the Center of the World by Jimmie Durham. A quote from Durham near the gallery entrance reads: “I feel fairly sure I could address the whole world if only I had a place to stand.”

The themes of Durham’s works challenge Western historical narratives, including the state and dominant institutions, colonialism, the vehicle of language, the relationship between humans and nature, and Indigenous identity.

His sculptures consist of natural materials, ranging from animal bones and seashells to driftwood, and astonishingly enough, human hair, human dentures and Durham’s own teeth — as seen in Head.

These elements, paired with everyday objects such as mirrors and pipes, add to the vaguely morbid character of his artwork. The exhibit is compelling, eccentric and unsettling — it is bound to pique intrigue with its social commentary.

Durham himself is a man surrounded in controversy, having self-declared as Cherokee. Many of his works centre on the theme of identity, drawing from his personal life. Public condemnation has been voiced by multiple Cherokee artists in protest to his claims, and Durham remains highly criticized, as members of the Cherokee Nation have explicitly rejected Durham as Cherokee.

At the Center of the World will be calling the Remai Modern home until August 12.

Remai Modern’s new cinematic exhibition Roving, featuring five works by Oliver Husain, is on display until Oct. 14. Curator Rose Bouthillier says that viewers should anticipate a unique immersive experience upon seeing the Canadian director’s works.

“It’s an unfolding survey that shows how certain themes have developed in Husain’s work, including pageantry, illusion, anticipation, absurdity and the apparatus of film itself,” Bouthillier said.

Themes of Husain’s work, as observed by Bouthiller, include a visual exploration of social, political and environmental upheaval; the process by which histories are mythologized; and the radical potential of art.

Cleo Nguyen

Photo: Riley Deacon / Photo Editor