Looking back 40 years is a little trippy for most of us, but for 49 former students of the Ontario College of Art (ACO) it is great to get together to display old and new art works, compare hair colour—various shades of grey and white with a little purple for braver souls—and remember old haunts and good times. The reception was a little like a school reunion and lots of trading stories surrounded by friends, family and the curious.
The Opening Reception on October 14, 2023 at Gallery 1313
The exhibition, curated by Adrienne Trent (who also had work in the show), was jam packed with an eclectic mix and many gems among them. Photographer and former OCA student George Whiteside came to the opening reception despite a recent stroke. His work Painted Doodle, a digital laminated print, shared a wall with Frank Perna’s acrylic on canvas piece, There is no Monsanity Clause. In front of these works on the floor was Simon Muscat’s Canoe Headstone made from South African granite. It weighs in at about 500 pounds and is a focal point.
George Whiteside with Painted Doodle, digital laminated print
Frank Perna in front of his work There is no Monsanity Clause, acrylic on canvas
Simon Muscat and his sculpture Canoe Headstone, South African granite
Just around the corner is Adrienne Trent’s Heads Together, a mixed media work of plaster foam heads. Artist Rirkrit Tiravanija has a cocktail tray with mock cocktails. On the tray are the words ‘Fear Eats the Soul.’ He was absent from the reception as he had an opening at MOMA in New York. Success has its obligations.
Adrienne Trent with Heads Together, a mixed media work of plaster foam heads
Installation work by Rirkrit Tiravanija
There are a few video works, such as Janet Bellotto’s Coral Grief, a one-minute digital video. Steev Morgan had an interactive video work Retroflective video, Hands and Faces (1979, 1985, 2023). Ian Carr Harris, one of his former instructors, came to the reception.
Steev Morgan with his video, Hands and Faces, 1979, 1985, 2023
Ian Carr Harris (left)
A few artists had QR codes such as Douglas Walker. His print work UNtitled R915 (1985) made references to Gallery 76 which was near OCA on McCaul. Later he caught my attention when telling stories of the old days at Gallery 76. There was also a print that included the Sandy Simpson Gallery on Queen St. West near Spadina, gone by now, but a sample of the 80s period.
Douglas Walker with his prints
I liked Owen Ford’s Untitled canvas from 2015. I remember Denise Cooper from Loop Gallery when it was on Queen St. near Gladstone. Her recent work from 2023 Beloved Earth from Sky is oil on masonite. Cathy McNeil’s Ontario Place, a pencil drawing on paper, was another favourite.
Owen Ford, Untitled, painting on canvas, 2015
Denise Cooper, Beloved Earth from Sky, 2013, oil on Masonite
Cathy McNeil with her work Ontario Place, pencil drawing on paper
Nestled in a corner was glass maker Alfred Engerer’s work, Madonna (1996) a sculptural piece of solid hot worked glass. John Redekop’s Tablet #11 is a round work using newspaper, varnish, wood and paint. A striking piece.
John Redekop with Tablet #11, newspaper, varnish, wood and paint
There is certainly no shortage of different mediums used in the exhibit. Fashion designer, Kingi Carpenter has a silk-screened work that visitors could try on as well as individual T-shirts themed by participating artists. Artist Joe McClean even has some streaming audio titled, A Friend in both Worlds. Carolyn White’s artwork from 1980, X Marks the Spot, is definitely a period piece.
Kingi Carpenter showing her silk-screened works
Installation view with Joe McClean’s A Friend in both Worlds
John Abrams painting Late Nature (Walking Wolf), oil on panel, is very impressive. In fact, everything in the exhibit seems to be placed well and to hold its own.
John Abrams with his paintings
Thanks to the curator, Adrienne Trent, her friend Natalie Olanick and gallerist, Carla Garnet, who positioned the works, a challenge with so many styles and mediums.
(L-R) Carla Garnet gallerist, friend Natalie Olanick and curator, Adrienne Trent
Beyond the gathering of old friends, the 40 x 40 seemed a good marker of the artists that came out of OCA forty years ago. Perhaps you can’t always go home again but you can have a little fun connecting with old friends and put on a great exhibition of art at the same time.
Text and photo: Phil Anderson
*Exhibition information: 40 x 40 / Group exhibition, October 11 – 22, 2023, Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen St. West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat 1 – 5pm, Sun 1 – 4 pm.