The red glow of the wall outside beckons you in. In huge sans serif letters, you can read “UTAC” – University of Toronto Art Centre, housed within University College. Curiosity at a new exhibit was what had me enter, and spectacular art was what kept me hooked.
Upon entering, my first thought was hey, this feels and smells like art museum – you know, the wide open airy spaces and clean fragrance of nothing. There is a wooden counter with a receptionist sitting behind it, who smiles at me. I’m filled with intrigue.
“This is a new exhibit?” I ask stupidly. She smiles, obviously used to this question, and replies,
“Yes! This is the new photography exhibit we have featured until July 30th.”
I actually manage to do a quick preliminary sweep of the room with my eyes, and as a lover of photography, I’m amazed. Walls of photographs and projections fill the room, composed very minimally, and I immediately set off on a browse through the museum after I quickly mutter a thanks. The title of the exhibit is “Counterpoints: photography Through the Lens of Toronto Collections”, curated by Jessica Bradley. At once, I’m reminded of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s earlier photography exhibit titled “The Outsiders” and I am thrilled.
I feel at ease wandering lazily around the museum, sometimes nodding to the few people scattered around the photographs. I pass by River Road by Jeff Wall, and his capture of the scene looks like an accurate but cinematic depiction of a stark winter day in Canada. My face must have been comedic; my jaw being perpetually unhinged and my eyes absorbing every inch of the photographs.
As I wander to the back areas of the museum (which surprisingly stretches very far down), I notice a name on a plaque: “Michael Snow”, Door. As a film student, I took the CIN310, also known as Avant Garde Cinema, and spent a good deal of time on Michael Snow, a Canadian avant-garde filmmaker, sculpter, painter and, it seems, photographer. My excitement is piqued, and I learn about how Michael Snow’s minimalistic qualities veering to the psychologically complex are seen in his photos as well. Door is propped up against the wall, and it gives the illusion of it being an actual door.
In addition to scenery and captures of inanimate objects, there are also a good number of portraits featured within the museum. One of my favourites is Birth Certificate by Tracey Moffatt. Do we know if what she is holding is her actual birth certificate? No. But the sheer emotion captured on her face and the way the shot is framed has you believe in the title.
So the title of the exhibit, “Counterpoint” fits and is an accurate word to tie together all the works. These captured moments look like ordinary events and people, but the artists persuade the viewer to look at it from a counterpoint; these seemingly mundane occurrences become layered with meaning and beauty, and people have stories in the depth of their eyes.
I highly recommend paying a visit to UTAC – it’s free, student-friendly, and spectacular. The sister gallery called the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, located in Hart House, also features a continuation of “Counterpoint” and is free for students. Basically, a smaller version of the AGO. For info on its hours, visit http://www.utac.utoronto.ca/
Let me know how you find the gallery! Thoughts on the exhibit? Did I encourage you to visit? Comment below!