Date: March 7 – 31, 2017
Partner: John B. Aird Gallery
Venue: John B. Aird Gallery – map
Project Members: Taryn Foss and Kelly MacKenzie
Laugh / Think: Playful Contemplations posed the question: can humour in art be a conduit to contemplation and the cultivation of awareness? In this juried exhibition, we pondered this possibility by highlighting the work of five artists whose works deal in whimsy, curiosity, wit, and recontextualization, to evoke reflection and (re)evaluation of objects and values that we hold dear or take for granted.
This contemporary art exhibition was designed to appeal to a mass audience who may not connect with contemporary art as it is traditionally exhibited. Its audience included members of the Ontario Public Service who work in the building and also the general public.
The exhibition was held at the John B. Aird Gallery, located in the Macdonald Block provincial government building at 900 Bay Street in Toronto. The 2400 square foot space has movable walls, allowing curators the flexibility to configure the space in a way that best showcases the artworks.
The development of Laugh / Think began in October 2016. From November 2016 to January 2017, a call for artists was held, collecting submissions online. Artists were selected via jury panel in January 2017 with the aid of Dr. Matthew Brower (Director, UofT Master of Museum Studies program) and Robin Anthony (Art Curator of the Royal Bank of Canada). Specific artworks were selected for display by the curators through studio visits conducted in late January. The exhibition ran from March 7 to 31, 2017.
Laugh / Think showcased the work of five artists working in a diverse range of media. Valerie Carew uses body sculpture and performance in her exploration of our complex relationship with isolation and the natural world. Lauren McKinley Renzetti created her Unlikely Spoon Collection series to ask why we value certain materials over others. Miriam Grenville uses sculpture and textiles to explore our relationship with money. Izaak Sacrebleu questions our values through the re/de-contextualization of master paintings from the art historical canon. Tait Wilman’s practice explores themes of Canadian identity and gender through innovative sculpture. Together, these artists explore heavy and complex topics using curiosity, humour, recontextualization, wit, and whimsy to connect with the audience and convey their messages.
The interpretive elements included a large introductory panel at the gallery entrance and smaller artist statement panels near each artist’s section of the gallery. The varying forms of media and type of artists involved in the show allowed for the engagement of multiple learning styles and interests to enjoy the show and make it memorable.
The main promotions of the exhibition came from the social media accounts of the curators, artists, and the Aird Gallery. The Aird Gallery also sent out invitations to their members and to the members of the Ontario Public Service. The Laugh / Think website anchored all the exhibition’s promotional content, providing a place on the web where those interested in the exhibition could find relevant information and learn more about the show, the curators, and the artists.
Over the course of its run, an estimated 380 people visited the exhibition. The Artist Panel Discussion and Lunch and Learn Curators’ Tour had 15 and 16 attendees, respectively. Those who attended and signed the guest book enjoyed the exhibition and found it humourous and whimsical.
We would like to thank all our sponsors, especially the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information, Hogan Chevrolet Buick GMC Limited, and Roy Foss Motors. We also want to thank all who donated to our crowdfunding campaign for their support. Finally, many thanks to the John B. Aird Gallery and Director/Curator Carla Garnet for her unwavering support throughout the process.