Where is the Hoopla for a groundbreaking Black curated exhibition at the AGO in Toronto

 A Caribbean Art Exhibition Of Epic Proportion Opens Friday At The AGO.  Only the Hoopla Is Missing

By Stephen Weir

Curse the Toronto Covid shutdown.  This Friday there should be balloons, fireworks, and revellers in the street to mark the opening of Caribbean-centric art exhibition the likes Canada has not seen before.

But, the reality of the age is that on Friday morning the Art Gallery of Ontario will quietly open its Dundas Street front doors on the exhibition Fragments of Epic Memory, a detailed exploration of the complex history of the Caribbean in this made-in-Toronto major exhibition.

 

The big show is an amalgam of a huge collection of historic photographs of 19th and early 20th century life in the Caribbean displayed beside contemporary Caribbean Canadian artists including Ebony Patterson, Rodell Warner, Sandra Brewster and Zak Ové. The black and white photographs many dating back to the 19th century (and many never seen in public), are from the recently acquired Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs.

 

“This is the first show featuring a selection of photographs from the Montgomery,” explained Julie Crook, the curator of the exhibition. “There are more than 3,500 pictures to choose from!  I made a selection of 200 over the pandemic.  Back in July 2020 we had a two-day session with Caribbean scholars who looked at the collection (their picture picks are also incorporated in the show).


These photographs highlight the work of a range of mainly European and American photographers who were drawn to the region. Shedding light on the monumental changes taking place in the region during the latter part of the 19th century, these photographs are a visual archive of the colonial legacies inherited by modern and contemporary artists and their descendants

 

“We have historic pictures from, Jamaica, T&T, Barbados, the tiny island of Saba, Grenada, Haiti and BV,” she continued. “It is very eclectic, but it is not encyclopedic. We see where the holes are.”

 

The show goes modern too - there is a newly commissioned 18-foot high mixed media sculpture by British-born artist Zak Ové entitled Moko Jumbie that will be unveiled ahead of Friday’s  exhibition’s opening.

 

Fragments of Epic Memory is free for AGO Members, holders of the $35 Annual Pass, and visitors aged 25 and under, and is included in General Admission The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated hardcover catalogue, co-published by the AGO and DelMonico Books/D.A.P, scheduled for release later this fall.

 

photograph information
top: Unknown. Martinique Woman, c. 1890. Albumen print, Overall: 14.6 × 10.2 cm. Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs.
middle: Unknown. Jamaican Women, c. 1900. Gelatin silver print, Overall: 17.5 × 23.5 cm. Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs.
Bottom: Gomo George. Women’s Carnival Group, 1996. Water colour on Rag Paper, 55.9 × 76.2 cm. Courtesy of the artist. © Gomo George

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