Boxing: The Sweet Science

Entering the ring at the RMG just in time for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games is an exhibit that is sure to be a knockout.

Boxing is a metaphor for life, filled with battles lost and won. In Boxing: The Sweet Science, curator Linda Jansma captures this expression through pieces that convey the movement, power and elegancy of the sport.

Oshawa named as the host of the boxing events for the Pan Am Games served as the catalyst for the exhibit based around the sport commonly referred to as The Sweet Science (a term coined by the British journalist and sportswriter Pierce Egan in the early 1800s). The city has a rich history in the sport as home to three-time Canadian featherweight champion Grant O’Reilly who operated two boxing clubs here in Oshawa. The dramatic nature of this heavy-hitting sport has ignited a passion among artists throughout history, dating back to the Mesopotamian era that includes literature, art and drama.

A knowledge as vast as the Rocky series is not need in order to appreciate the works in Boxing: The Sweet Science. The exhibit features 12 artists whose works, spanning over 100 years, align with the centralized theme of the art and spirit of boxing.

In British photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s work Boxing, open hand printed in November 1887, the physical intensity and athleticism of boxing is captured in 16 separate frames. While this piece is more of a literal interpretation of the sport, John J. A. Murphy’s Shadowboxing, 1924 adorns an abstract vision of boxing.

In addition to history works, Boxing: The Sweet Science features contemporary pieces that capture the essence of the sport.

In Stop Beating Yourself Up, Montreal-based performance artist Coral Short addresses the stigma that boxing is a man’s game. For the video, created in 2013, Short is donned in a boxer’s uniform while beating herself unconscious using “semi-believable” moves she learned while training with boxers. The graphic nature of this video is hard to watch but contains a message with a powerful punch.

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Coral Short, Stop Beating Yourself Up, 2013, Video still

“I think [the work] is about learning to love ourselves more as women and queers. To bring awareness to the negative and damaging thought patterns that exist within us. Women often tend to make a sport of self-deprecation internally,” says Short. “I wanted to briefly jolt and re-hardwire our neutral pathways so they become less automatic habits. I want us all to move into a place of peace, self-acceptance and love.”

Similar to Short, Toronto photographer Pete Doherty uses boxing as a way to depict the war inside the artist. A part of the boxing scene for several decades now, the sport and its community helped lift Doherty out of years of depression. He began to photograph what he was experiencing as both the artist and the subject, giving viewers a look on the inside of boxing. The black-and-white photographs in Boxing: The Sweet Science depict a ringside and in the ring view including images of trainers and boxers alike, capturing the key moments of the sport.

Pete Doherty, The Docks Nightclub, Toronto, Ontario, Gelatin Silver Print, 2005. Photo credit: Pete Doherty.

Whether it is as an exercising method in World War I as depicted in an anonymous photograph or cubist depictions of pugilists, boxing depicts the exterior and interior battle we fight as humans.

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Anonymous, Boxing competition at Shorncliffe, Brigadier-General MacDonald, D.S.O. and Lieutenant-Colonel Mayes, inspecting classes, April 1918. Photograph.

 

Boxing: The Sweet Science is on from May 30 to September 13 with an opening at RMG Fridays, June 5 at 7-10 pm and a Talk and Tour on Sunday, June 28 at 1-3 pm.

 

By Raechel Bonomo

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an art enthusiast and writer from Oshawa, Ont.

 

Image at top: George Bellows, American (1882-1925), The White Hope (detail), 1921, Lithograph on paper, 48.5 x 60.8 cm, Collection of the Art Gallery of Hamilton; gift of Mr. and Mrs. J.A. McCuaig, 1965, Photo credit: Michael Lalich.

Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice

This month at the RMG, we are unveiling a new exhibit where the art will speak to you. Literally.

Popularized by the likes of the legendary Kermit and Miss Piggy from the gabbling crew, The Muppets, puppets have been a popular form of entertainment throughout history. This personification of an object dates back to Ancient Greece in 5th century BC where the oldest written documentation of puppets is in the works of historians Herodotus and Xenophon.  Puppetry ranges from different types of mediums and are used as a source of entertainment and education all around the world including the Bunraku puppet from Osaka, Japan (1684) to the common finger puppet style used today by children and adults everywhere.

Cantastoria, or puppet storytelling, is the theme of the latest exhibit at the RMG curated by Linda Jansma. Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice features marionettes from the Peterborough Museum & Archives collection whose historic puppets, retired from the Peterborough Puppet Guild, present as disturbing caricatures waiting to come to life once more. The exhibition, set to open May 23, also includes contemporary work from six artists. These puppeteers convey humanistic motifs of fear, manipulation, irony, humour and the battle between good and evil.

Among this work is a drawing by Coast Salish artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, graduate of the Emily Carr School of Art and Design. Threaded in his work are personal experiences and powerful socio-political messages used to document and promote change in Indigenous communities. Yuxweluptun sheds light on the diminution of the culture’s land and rights emulated through Native masks and imagery depicting environmental degradation.

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Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. Untitled, 1996. Ink and graphite on paper.

 

Diana Lopez Soto is a performance artist based in Uxbridge, Ontario. In Puppet Act, she uses sheep-headed dancers to portray the relationship between man and animal. Lopez Soto’s performance catalyzes on human experimentation in animal cloning and the use of human genes to develop sheep that produce clotting protein in its milk.

Despite the lack of Chuckie-esque puppets in this exhibit, there are metaphors treading on the darker side riddled within the subjects they convey.

“Taken together, the work in this exhibition strives through the inanimate, to ignite discussions that help reflect who we, the animate, are,” says Jansma.

Toronto-based Suzy Lake was one of a pioneering group of artists in the ‘70s to implement performance, video and photography as a means of human expression. For Puppet Act, Lake personifies herself as the marionette in her mid-1970s performance piece depicting powerlessness. Infused in her work is politics of gender, the body and identity.

Spring Hurlbut is another artist who articulates social presence throughout her work. Born in Toronto, Hurlbut studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and in 1988 completed a Canadian Council-awarded residency in Barcelona to study architecture. In this exhibit, Hutlbut emulates the human condition through vintage ventriloquist dummies. Catherine Heard’s skeleton sculptures dance to the artist’s fascination with the “strangeness of the monstrous form”. Including scenes of torture and rural history, the fabric curtain made from a mixture of antique redwork embroidery and “fake” redwork imitates the style of the antiques.

Like Heard, Tim Whiten, born in Michigan and resides in Toronto, is a sculptor who expresses both the sacred and the profane within his work. His glass sculpture Saga-Ra-M references the human experience of reality using puppets and their shadows.

Tim Whiten, Saga-Ra-M, 2013. Handcrafted crystal clear glass, sandblasted mirror, aluminum rods, stainless steel LED lamps, MDF plinth.

Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice is on May 23 until September 1 with a reception and Artist Talk on Sunday June 7. Come see the exhibit sure to get mouths moving.

 

By Raechel Bonomo

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an art enthusiast and writer from Oshawa, Ont.

 

Image at top: Spring Hurlbut, Dizzy, 2009-2010, installation of nine vintage amateur ventriloquist dummies circa 1930-1950. Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid.

 

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

There are few jobs in the world that require you to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week with no breaks. The candidate in question must be a multi-tasker, organized and have superhero-like powers. Did I mention this is an unpaid gig?

Mother’s Day is the perfect time to reward your mom for the chicken soup when you were sick, the priceless advice for your broken heart and the bedtime stories filled with princesses that rivalled the heroine who lifted those words off the page.

We may never be able to truly repay our mothers, but a unique present from the RMG’s gift shop is a great place to start. Check out our mother-approved gift ideas:

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A signature piece of jewellery

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Fantastic body products!

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A catalogue or art book

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Delicious tea

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A great card

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A mug for MOM!

– Raechel Bonomo

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an art enthusiast and writer from Oshawa, Ont.

Treat the special women in your life to our Mother’s Day Brunch on May 10th. In association with Pilar’s Catering, Arthur’s on the 4th (located in the upstairs of the gallery) will be filled with delicious signature dishes such as French toast with French vanilla whipped cream and raspberry maple syrup or a seared, slow roasted pork loin stuffed with hickory smoked bacon and aged applewood cheddar. Just as good as momma’s cooking!

mothers day menu

Tickets are $42.99 for adults, $29.99 for children and kids under four eat for free (gratuities and taxes extra). RSVP to Cheryl-Ann at 905-576-3000 ext. 103 or by email at czamulinski@rmg.on.ca.

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My Communications Placement at the RMG

Heather Bulman is a communications student at Durham College and this winter she completed her placement with the RMG. 

My grandmother loved the arts and exposed me to many forms at an early age. From visiting the Whetung Arts and Crafts Gallery in Curve Lake to the Tom Thompson paintings hanging on the walls of her condo or the great performers of 1930s musical productions. I always believed to have a deep appreciation and understanding of the arts.

Then I began my placement at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. As the Communications Intern, I am surrounded by individuals who live and breathe a passion for the arts. Through my time at the gallery, I have had the opportunity to attend artist and curator talks, which have given me a whole new level of appreciation for the behind-the-scenes efforts of these creative works. Whether listening to Margaret Rodgers’ interpretation of bystanders in the historic photos from the Thomas Bouckley Collection or imagining Senior Curator, Linda Jansma digging through vaults overseas for hidden Jock MacDonald gems. These stories help the viewer see beyond the medium, into the heart of the creator.

The history of our people, land and culture are captured in these works. They are preserved to inspire, teach or challenge the viewer’s understanding, both at the time of publishing and for generations to come.

I am so grateful for my time at the gallery. Not only has my position allowed me to use the skills I’ve acquired through the Durham College Public Relations program, I’ve gained experiences and relationships I’ll value for a lifetime.

– Heather

National Volunteer Week

It’s National Volunteer Week! #NVW2015

All of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery programs rely heavily on our volunteer program. We at the RMG value the importance of volunteerism and make it a priority to ensure all volunteers have an enriching and satisfying experience as they help to fulfill the needs of the gallery.

We thought it would be fun to share some of the reasons we LOVE our volunteers!

“The enthusiasm of our volunteers reminds me why this is a great place to work.” – Linda Jansma, Senior Curator

“Volunteers bring new ideas and a refreshing energy to everything that they do, I find it very inspiring!” – Megan White, Assistant Curator

“In my time at the RMG I feel I’ve learned just as much from our volunteers as they’ve learned from me.” Norah O’Donnell, Manager of Community and Volunteer Development, Manager of Community and Volunteer

“I love how eager our volunteers are to learn new skills and share their ideas.” – Sam Mogelosnsky, Communications Co-ordinator

“I love volunteering at @theRMG. I’ve learned so much from the passionate people that work here.” – Heather Bulman, Communications Intern

We are so grateful for our volunteers. Without them, we just wouldn’t be as awesome! Interested in volunteering, click here to get involved at the RMG!

Happy volunteering!

 

PS… Hey, did you hear? On 14 May, the RMG will be hosting a Volunteer Youth Leaders Symposium. Are you interested in exploring youth volunteerism in your organization? Register here.

 

Image by Ryan Cleary for snapd Oshawa from RMG Fridays March

 

Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form – A perpetual state of evolution

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an Oshawa native, art enthusiast and second-year Print Journalism student at Durham College.

There are not many rooms in Oshawa with totem poles, fish swimming through space, and rolling Canadian hills up on its walls. 

Evolving Form at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) is the first major retrospective of Macdonald’s work in more than 30 years. The exhibit gives a fresh look into his influential career as a Canadian artist. According to the exhibit’s curator Linda Jansma, the exhibit came together through a long process that began in spring 2011. “This exhibit traces the artistic transition [Macdonald] underwent,” says Jansma. “His career as an artist journeys in a perpetual state of evolution.”

In 2012, Jansma was in the process of writing a grant to receive funding from the Department of Heritage for the exhibit when she received an email from Jock’s nephew, Alistair Macdonald. During their correspondence, he notified Jansma about 40 letters written by his uncle stored in the Edinburgh Gallery’s archives. This was the missing piece to Jansma’s puzzle, she said. That fall, she took a five-day trip to Scotland to view the letters. The content of the letters led her to uncover the lost work of Macdonald. She explored the various styles and periods of Macdonald and brought back with her paintings, drawings and methods unseen before by Canadian audiences currently up at the gallery.

Macdonald was born in 1897 in Thurso, Scotland. After his time in the army, he studied design at the Edinburgh College of Art. Macdonald immigrated to Canada in 1926 to take up a teaching job as head of design at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts.  One of his greatest contributions is as a founding member of Toronto-based abstract group, Painters 11 formed in 1953.

In the early stages of his career, Canadian Group of Seven member Lawren Harris’s work inspired Macdonald to paint abstract landscapes. This influence is visible in his work In the White Forest, 1932. You can see in his work Drying Herring Roe, 1938 Macdonald was inspired by Canadian Aboriginal culture. The painting features large traditional totem poles and reserves. These pieces, among 91 other original works, are currently up in the RMG.

“Intuitively artists create within the structural forms of nature,” is a quote from Macdonald posted above his landscape works in the exhibit. There is a notable predominance of nature as his main influencer in the majority of his work. Jock always painted the fourth dimension of nature,” says Jansma. “It is how we’re suppose to feel about it, not how we see it.”

Even when Macdonald wasn’t painting landscapes this influence is evident throughout his career. More abstract style paintings such as Spring Awakening, 1936 represent a more nonliteral interpretation of nature. In his mid-career, Macdonald began to divert away from traditional ideals of art and began to explore modern concepts such as futurism and surrealism.

In the 1940s, Macdonald met British surrealist artists Dr. Grace W. Pailthorpe and Ruben Mednikoff. They taught Macdonald surrealist painting methods such as automatics, a technique that involves painting in quick-paced series, and dating work down to the very time it was created. During this time, Macdonald was diverting away from his traditional landscape work and started producing surrealist-style paintings.

“Never can you know how indebted I am to you both, the awakening and releasing of my inner consciousness,” wrote Macdonald in a letter to Pailthorpe and Mednikoff.

Vivid, colourful painting such as Fish Family, 1943 display Macdonald’s subconscious expressed on a canvas. This piece and other works from this period are included in the RMG exhibit to showcase the versatility and dimensions Macdonald was capable of as an artist. The exhibit does a superb job at collecting and representing various elements and the periods of Macdonald’s career.

Many art historians credit 1957 – 1960 as Macdonald’s pre-eminent years as a painter. He began exploring oil-based mediums such as Duco and Lucite industrial paints to produce abstract work such as Bearer of Gifts, 1952. You can see the transition as his work began to loosen up in 1958 with Clarion Call into the very fluid and almost whimsical Elemental Fury, 1960.

The RMG dedicated an entire gallery space to showcase the work from his final years as a painter. From 1957, he painted an average of 50 paintings per year until he died suddenly from a heart attack on Dec. 3, 1960. The work of Macdonald has and continues to influence Canadian and international artists. The RMG’s exhibit Evolving Form adequately demonstrates the versatility, aptitude and depth of Macdonald’s career.

 

Image: Jock Macdonald, Nature’s Pattern, 1954; Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

RMG paints a picture of Canada

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an Oshawa native, art enthusiast and second-year Print Journalism student at Durham College.

Rolling Canadian hills dominate the walls of Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s (RMG) main gallery space. In a corner, tiny fish can be seen swimming through space while totem poles hang on the opposite side of the room.

As part of the gallery’s Talk and Tour series, curator Linda Jansma took the public through a look into the career and life of one of Canadian’s prominent painters Jock Macdonald in Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form.

Jansma said the exhibit came together through a long process that began in spring 2011.

“This exhibit traces the artistic transition [Macdonald] underwent,” said Jansma. “His career as an artist journeys in a perpetual state of evolution.”

In 2012, Jansma was in the process of writing a grant to receive funding from the Department of Heritage for the exhibit when she received a strange email.

The sender was Jock’s nephew, Alistair Macdonald.

He asked Jansma about the collection of Macdonald pieces at the RMG for an exhibit he was curating at the Edinburgh Gallery in Scotland. During their correspondence, he notified Jansma about 40 letters written by his uncle stored in the Scottish gallery’s archives.

This was the missing piece to Jansma’s puzzle, she said. That fall, she took a five-day trip to Scotland to view the letters. The content of the letters led her to uncover the lost work of Macdonald.

She explored the various styles and periods of Macdonald and brought back with her paintings, drawings and methods unseen before by Canadian audiences.

Macdonald was born in 1897 in Thurso, Scotland. After his time in the army, he studied design at the Edinburgh College of Art. Macdonald immigrated to Canada in 1926 to take up a teaching job as head of design at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts.

One of his greatest contributions is as a founding member of Toronto-based abstract group, Painters 11 formed in 1953.

In the early stages of his career, Canadian Group of Seven member Lawren Harris’s work inspired Macdonald to paint abstract landscapes. This influence is visible in his work In the White Forest, 1932. This piece, among 92 other original works, is currently up in the RMG.

“Intuitively artists create within the structural forms of nature,” is a quote from Macdonald posted above his landscape works in the exhibit. There is a notable predominance of nature as his main influencer in the majority of his work, Jansma said.

“Jock always painted the fourth dimension of nature,” said Jansma. “It is how we’re suppose to feel about it, not how we see it.”

In the 1940s, Macdonald met British surrealist artists Dr. Grace W. Pailthorpe and Ruben Mednikoff. According to Jansma, they taught Macdonald surrealist painting methods such as automatics. This technique involves painting in quick-paced series, and dating work down to the very time it was created. Macdonald was diverting away from his traditional landscape work and producing surrealist-style paintings such as Fish Family, 1943 included in the RMG exhibit.

Many art historians credit 1957 – 1960 as Macdonald’s pre-eminent years as a painter. During this time, he painted an average of 50 paintings per year until he died suddenly from a heart attack on Dec. 3, 1960.

Jansma described Macdonald as the “pioneer of post-war abstraction in Canada.” According to her, he had a substantial influence on Canadian painters then and in future generations.

Pete Smith, Postscript, 2014

Pete Smith, Postscript, 2014

Bowmanville painter Pete Smith credits Jock Macdonald as one of his biggest influences and the catalyst to his current exhibit Postscript in Gallery A, located in the lower half of the RMG.

Smith told the RMG his exhibit is “an aesthetic research project into the work and life of Jock Macdonald. In this sense, it will function as a postscript: a sprawling, artistic labyrinth of additional information and my idiosyncratic response to the concurrently held exhibition, Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form.”

Evolving Form is the first major retrospect of Macdonald’s work in more than 30 years and can be viewed at the RMG until May 24.

 

Top Image credit: Jock Macdonald, Rim of the Sky, 1958; oil on canvas; Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.