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Exhibition lets you enter a world of material excess, accumulation, bravado and theatricality
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews without their Heads, 1998. Wax-print cotton costumes on mannequins, dog mannequin, painted metal bench, rifle National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa© the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photo © NGC.
EDMONTON, AB.- The Art Gallery of Alberta opens its Block III exhibition schedule with Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque, September 15, 2012-January 6, 2013.

The 18th-century art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann once chastised Bernini’s exuberant aesthetic as misguided, having been “misled by nature.” His critique stands as one of many that, until recent times, repudiated the ornate excesses of the Baroque period and its “deformed pearls” of art and architecture as a decadent, if not decayed, betrayal of Renaissance achievements and aesthetic values. For many scholars, the historical Baroque is of strong relevance today as the era that ushered in the truly modern world. It was a period in which religion and aesthetics were coming to terms with humanism, technology and the development of scientific inquiry. In his sculptures and architecture, Bernini sought against this backdrop to achieve reverence in viewers through a reconciliation of their emotional and tactile sensibilities. Centuries onward Baroque art and culture may shed light on our understanding of the way in which many artists today engage the increasingly technocratic present through a surprisingly curious over-abundance of the ornate along with an interest in formal and cultural hybridity, as well as mythological, religious or quasi-religious subject matter.

Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque proposes to examine a range of contemporary artistic production defined through an emphasis on material excess, accumulation, bravado, asymmetry and theatricality. The presence of neo-baroque affectation through processes of ornamentation, heavy glazing, the application of outdated techniques and the use of a myriad variety of curios and aestheticized found objects have been recurrent facets of contemporary production in Canada and internationally in recent years. Examples include David Altmejd’s large-scale installations that combine hybrid subjects and reflective surfaces with elements of the grotesque and the beautiful, as well as Korean artist Lee Bul’s re-assessment of a mystical Modernist vocabulary through cheaply made shiny plastic beadwork. In many cases, the impact of such art is decidedly visual and primeval, with artists creating powerfully immersive environments that are both cognizant of and reliant on the viewer’s own psychological experience and understanding of the signs and symbols of contemporary life.

Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque features works drawn primarily from the National Gallery of Canada’s permanent collections by internationally renowned artists: David Altmejd; Lee Bul; Bharti Kher; Yinka Shonibare, MBE; Sarah Sze and newly commissioned work by Tricia Middleton created specifically for this AGA exhibition.

Each of these artist’s practices covers a variety of media that is, in each case, strongly sculpture and material even as this extends into painting, works on paper and multimedia installations. It embraces the detritus of our so-called “post-industrial” world as a starting point for an aesthetically minded vision of life in late-modernity. In researching this exhibition attention will also be paid to neo-baroque tendencies on the part of artists working through such traditions outside of a Western art context.

Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque features works drawn primarily from the National Gallery of Canada’s permanent collections by internationally renowned artists: David Altmejd; Lee Bul; Bharti Kher; Yinka Shonibare, MBE; Sarah Sze and newly commissioned work by Tricia Middleton created specifically for this AGA exhibition. The exhibition has been organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta and curated by Catherine Crowston (Executive Director/Chief Curator, AGA), Josée Drouin-Brisebois (Curator of Contemporary Art, NGC) and Jonathan Shaughnessy (Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, NGC) as part of the “National Gallery of Canada at the Art Gallery of Alberta” program.






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