Human Rights Human Wrongs at the Ryerson Image Centre

April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

By Emily Butko

Recently I had the privilege of visiting the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) to see the HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN WRONGS exhibition by guest curator Mark Sealy, located in the centre’s main gallery. 

In 2010, The RIC invited Curator Mark Sealy, to Toronto to research the school’s prestigious Black Star Collection of approximately 292,000 photojournalistic prints.  

Featuring more than 300 original prints from the Black Star Collection, HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN WRONGS begins in 1945 and includes photographs of iconic U.S. civil-rights events, independence movements throughout Africa, Nobel Peace Prize-winners, political protests in South America and the war in Vietnam and Rwanda.

By providing bite-sized postcards for each year following the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Sealy offers an in-depth historical background for the photographs. The postcards provide information on significant historical events that were simultaneously taking place throughout the world, highlighting important links between events that are frequently discussed in isolation.

Sealy’s accompanying essay, HUMAN RIGHTS AND WRONGS 1945 – 1994: THE END OF WAITING (Mining the Black Star Collection at Ryerson University) provides the viewer with a contextual framework from which to critically engage with the photos that are presented. He describes the events leading up to the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and explores the colonized subjects’ contradictory experiences of World War II, fighting against the European Axis powers’ tyranny while being subjected to European Allied forces’ racism. He describes how these conflicting positions influenced an epistemic shift away from European ideology and towards a new sense of self and political purpose, which in effect shaped the direction of independence and de-colonialist movements across the world. Sealy provides a brief but useful background on the history of photojournalism and its role in these political and racial struggles. A summary of the essay, located on the east wall of the gallery, also provides a contextual framework, from which the viewer can critically engage with the exhibit without having to read the essay that is provided in the catalogue (available to read in the gallery and for sale).

As Sealy’s essay suggests, the photographs provide a look into the 20th century that forces the viewer to consider how so much wrong has been enacted on the human body within the climate of change. The curator’s subtle reference to the 6th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Right to Recognition as a Person before the Law” reminds the viewer to consider whether these images of political struggle, suffering and victims of violence work for or against humanitarian objectives. The sculptural cache of every copy of the photojournalism magazine, LIFE, from 1963 – 1972, reminds us of the cultural position and disproportionate power of the Western media, and specifically, of the Western photographer.

HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN WRONGS is on view at the Ryerson Image Centre, located at 33 Gould Street, from January 23 to April 14, 2013. 

To find out more about the Ryerson Image Centre and the Black Star Collection, visit

Gallery Openings for the Week of November 21-25.

November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Glabush (MKG127)

Here is a list of some of the new shows on display in Toronto this week.

Photographer Chris Curreri is showing black and whites of musclebound faceless men at Daniel Faria Gallery from November 17 – January 7, 2012.

Nicole Collins is exhibiting paintings exploring systems theory at General Hardware from November 17 until January 21, 2012.

Dorian Fitzgerald is showing new paintings at the Clint Roenisch Gallery. « Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Didier Courbot at Susan Hobbs.

November 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Courbot (Susan Hobbs)

Didier Courbot’s collection at the Susan Hobbs Gallery succeeds at a daunting task – presenting site-specific installations in a meaningful way outside of their immediate context. Courbot accomplishes this by showcasing photographs of his works, which remain in Paris. « Read the rest of this entry »

Gallery Openings for the Week of November 7-11.

November 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

"Etobicoke School of the Arts South Doors" (Chris Shepherd)

Here is a list of some of the new shows on display in Toronto this week.

Dana Holst explores feminine themes with her new paintings and rug at Red Head Gallery from November 2–26.

Painter and illustrator Rachel Berman is showing at the Ingram Gallery from November 3-23.

NSCAD professor Robert Bean examines the relationship between Marshall McLuhan and John Cage using sound and visuals at the Circuit Gallery. From November 3-December 5. « Read the rest of this entry »

Gallery Openings for the Week of October 17 – 21.

October 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Crossing Natures at Paul Petro

Here is a list of some of the new shows on display in and around Toronto this week.

George Boileau, Jim Reid and Amanda McCavour are showing at Lonsdale Gallery from October 13 – November 13.

Rachel McFarlane has a new show of abstracts rendered after maquettes she makes out of refuse at Nicholas Metivier Gallery from October 13 –November 5.

The group show “Guns and Butter” is at the OCADU Student Gallery located at 285 Dundas St W.

Activists, curators and landscape architects Adrian Blackwell and Jane Hutton have a show at the freshly installed G Gallery, located at 134 Ossington Ave.

“Crossing Natures,” a group show featuring Yvonne Housser and Joyce Weiland, is on at Paul Petro Gallery from October 14 – November 12. « Read the rest of this entry »

Nuit Blanche 2011.

October 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Life Long Burning Question Project

By its very title and stated intent, Nuit Blanche seems like a tall order. It is a challenge to both our understanding of light versus dark as well as a question put to our definition of ‘art’, pushing viewers to experience work outside the confines of a gallery. Whether the invited artists made the most of the opportunity is definitely up for discussion… « Read the rest of this entry »

Gallery Openings for the Week of October 3 – 7.

October 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

A list of some of the new shows on display in Toronto this week.

Bradley Harms (Angell Gallery)

Bradley Harms and Jeanie Riddle at the Angell Gallery.

Winnipeg native Bradley Harms shows some of his digitally inspired abstract paintings which seek to “….exceed the viewers’ visual awareness; a contemplation of modernism is transferred into a more frighteningly contemporary construct. Unlike the modernist impulse, they are not intended to be reductive but additive in nature, subsequently allowing for a field of discourse that is open-ended and reflective of our techno-driven ability to process vast amounts of information…” (Source) « Read the rest of this entry »

REVIEW: Andrew Wright’s ‘Coronae’ – Winner of CONTACT’s BMW Exhibition Prize

June 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Andrew Wright’s Coronae exhibit is no slap in the face.  The new series of work at Peak Gallery, winner of CONTACT’s BMW Exhibition Prize, does not flatten the viewer with colour and movement, or a plethora of cultural references.  Instead, Coronae slowly sucks you into its visual vortex, gently persuading of a truth that transcends all the chatter.  The more one experiences these works (in person, as is absolutely essential), the more one absorbs them like a towel soaks up wine. They are truly innovative, complex and beautiful works – a fitting winner for this year’s CONTACT prize.

The six 60” x 60” digital chromogenic prints were crafted by boring holes, using an electric drill, into slide film canisters with spools of 35mm film wound within them.  You know, the little cylinders of film we used to buy for our 90s cameras?  With only a small hole drilled through all the layers of film, they were left to sit and collect whatever light that trickled through the opening.  Once the film was developed, Wright re-photographed the chromogenic prints into digital format, resulting in the final work displayed at Peak Gallery.

Large swathes of inky blackness envelop the central image – the ‘corona’ – so that, one is unsure as to whether one is pushed away from a hard, black, table-top surface, or falling into the plush depths of an untouched universe.  This becomes a central theme in Andrew Wright’s new work.  “I’m particularly interested in the idea that black can be both surface and space, so that as surface, you relate to it as a body, not just a set of eyes,” stated Wright in an interview with ArtSync.  “The body relates to the world that you’re in.”  He then commented on photography’s tendency to portray other spaces, and how he hopes this series of new work will successfully fall between the physical “here” and fictive “there”.  Indeed, Coronae explores photography’s inherent voyeurism by complicating the traditional gaze:  one is not sure if the photograph, as a physical object, is imposing on the viewer’s space, or the viewer is imposing on the photograph by entering its visual wormhole.  This ambiguity gives Coronae the heavy presence of an object whilst retaining photography’s ability to serve as a private window into a different landscape.

The close visual similarities between a mere pin-prick of light through a film canister, and photographs of the larger cosmos, is remarkable.  Appropriately, “corona” is defined as a circle of halo around a luminous body, such as the sun or moon during an eclipse, but can be applied to anything crown-like (corona being latin for crown).  The macroscopic and microscopic, so interchangeable in such a body of work, seems to link the whole spectrum of life in-between – with an intensely spiritual effect.  One cannot help but be reminded, whether religious or no, of the biblical phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.  Very large to very small; beginnings to endings; birth to death: there is a familiarity between the outermost reaches of any one thing, which draws it all together like a neat package.  Andrew Wright’s work touches on these “deathbed” questions – questions which, although most certainly timeless, may seem on the heavy side for some viewers.  However, those who relish the visual arts for those kick-in-the-pants moments – aka art that really makes you think – will not be fazed.  Coronae will be an undeniable pleasure.

‘Coronae’ is exhibiting in Toronto at Peak Gallery until June 11th. 

Review by Donia Almassi

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Toronto at a.centric.