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

Review: Workforce: Representing Labour in Chinese Propaganda Posters at UTAC.

March 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

Fa Tu Qiang Zi Li Geng Sheng Jian She Zu Guo, Chinese Cultural Revolution poster, Collection of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

UTAC’s current exhibition, Workforce: Representing Labour in Chinese Propaganda Posters, offers up a beautifully surreal portrayal of the indisputable connection between art and life. The show’s curator Elizabeth Parke brought together 16 posters from the Mark Gayn Collection, located in U of T’s very own Thomas Fischer Rare Books Library. These hand-selected pieces represent Chinese propaganda both before and after the country’s Cultural Revolution. However, while these 16 works are certainly bound through the fact that they are all examples of offset printing, they also aim to show the definite symbolic content behind the Chinese figure of the worker. « Read the rest of this entry »

“Photography Collected Us”: The Malcolmson Collection at UTAC.

January 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Embracing both pictures and documents, the photographic collection of Harry and Ann Malcolmson traverses the 19th and 20th centuries with remarkable inclusiveness. This exhibition, curated by Heather Diack, features 200 works and charts some of the major changes to have overtaken the medium. It includes pieces by Henry Fox Talbot, Eugene Atget, Robert Frank, Ian Wallace, Bill Brandt, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, André Kertész, Man Ray, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and John Vanderpant.

The show runs at the University of Toronto Art Centre from January 24 – March 10.

The opening will be on Thursday, January 26 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM.

Vertical Fictions at UTAC.

January 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

The University of Toronto Art Centre will be hosting the group show “Vertical Fictions.” The works in the exhibition were produced in Hong Kong from June – July 2011 and explore the multi-faceted and dynamic urban patterns of Hong Kong through drawing, sculpture, video and photography.

Artists in the show include Minhee Bae, Kevin Chai Kei Yan, Paul Tsang Tak-Shen, Lawrence Chow. Nikki Gelmanovski, Han Yating, Michael Huang, Hanieh Khosroshahi, Lily Kuo Chih Shan, Kimberly Kwan, Robin Li Ruo Bing, Oli Li Xiangkun, Nicholas Liang Jianhong, Alan Peng, Betsy Wang Bingye, Wang Yi Xi, Kevin Yu, Zhang Ling Yu. « Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Angela Grauerholz at UTAC.

November 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Angela Grauerholz Privation Logo Book No. 146 (front), 2001 Angela Grauerholz / Courtesy Art 45, Montreal Courtesy of Pamela Bryant and Jack Darville, Toronto © Angela Grauerholz

Angela Grauerholz: The inexhaustible image… épuiser l’image at the University of Toronto Art Centre (UTAC) provides a retrospective of Grauerholz’s photography over past twenty-five years. Curated by Martha Hanna, the show displays a range of works selected from the different stages of the photographer’s career, including portraits and landscapes, books and some key installations. « Read the rest of this entry »

Gallery Openings for the Week of October 31 – November 4.

October 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Coubot (Susan Hobbs)

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

Didier Courbot is showing new work at Susan Hobbs documenting his various recent experiments in ‘romantic Conceptualism’. Running from October 27 to December 3.

“Out of the Woods” is currently running at Rouge Concept Gallery.

“Open Water,” a group showing of watercolour paintings runs at John B. Aird Gallery from October 25 to November 18.

“Decisive Moments, Somewhere Else,” featuring six different video artists examines the nature of indexical markings at Trinity Square Video. The show runs from October 27 to December 9. « Read the rest of this entry »

A.centric Artist Profile: Shirley Mpagi.

October 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

Installation view, Shirley Mpagi, Well Endowed Imagination, October 4 - 29, 2011, University of Toronto Art Centre, photo: Toni Hafkenshied, 2011

Welcome to the A.centric artist profile. This time around, we have Shirley Mpagi. She is currently showing her work in the the UTAC Lounge and was gracious enough to answer some of my awkward questions. Here are the results.

You use a lot with transparencies in your work and you use them in a few different ways. I was hoping you could tell us something about why you chose to go in this direction and what advantages it has.

Usually when I make use of transparencies, it is to denote something that is intangible and in the mind; usually an idea, memory, mindset, a way of thinking…stuff like that. The ideas or themes behind those particular pieces are very layered and each viewer may have a different experience with that idea or theme. The main advantage to is that its is aesthetically appealing, to me at least…

Do you construct these pieces with the desire to take advantage of how they are altered by the shifts in natural light? Why do you so explicitly put into play the role of light after an image has been taken?

Nope, not at all. The use of light, in relation to the image, is simply for it to be seen. They are almost independent of each other. However, the use of light and the “see-through” nature of the image, is to denote the mind and our thoughts; sort of like a personal enlightenment (pun semi-intended, lol).
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