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The McMichael presents photographic works of Toronto's hip hop culture
Patrick Nichols (born 1965), 11112 Dream Warriors, 1996. 40 x 40 in. 120 mm. Colour transparency. Digital chromogenic print. Courtesy of the artist.

KLEINBURG.- For the fifth consecutive year, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection is partnering with Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, the world’s largest photography event, and will be a premier site for the Festival. The McMichael is presenting the exhibition …Everything Remains Raw: Photographing Toronto’s Hip Hop Culture from Analogue to Digital, featuring visual works—many of which have never been publicly displayed—of Toronto-based photographers in the 1990s and early 2000s who captured the essence of hip hop culture. The exhibition runs from March 3 to October 21.

“…Everything Remains Raw excavates the works of film photographers whose archives of images were essential to the growth of Toronto’s hip hop communities in the 1990s, and unequivocally critical to imagining an expanded notion of Canadian art and culture we are only now beginning to celebrate and enjoy two decades later,” said Dr. Mark V. Campbell, guest curator of the show and founder of Northside Hip Hop Archive.

Photographs by Craig Boyko, Michael Chambers, Stella Fakiyesi, Demuth Flake, Patrick Nichols, Sheinina Raj, and Nabil Shash portray the growth, vibrancy, creativity, and influence of the hip hop scene that Toronto has fostered since the 1980s. Depicting scenes of highly stylized trendsetters and dynamic performances, these ingenious analogue photographers engaged with urban communities and supported the rise of hip hop artists like Michie Mee and Maestro Fresh-Wes. Their photographs are not only artistically poignant but portray images of black life that deviate from the common, and often misrepresented, stereotypes. The photographers, guided by a sense of rawness and fearlessness, employed creative shooting techniques that defied the status quo.

The exhibition consists of three sections—Write Now: Intro to the Esoteric, Not Now but Right Now, and Emanate—highlighting the many aspects of hip hop culture including rhyming, breakdancing, graffiti, and DJing. Write Now: Intro to the Esoteric will feature three mesmerizing graph murals that each measure eight feet high by twelve feet wide, illustrating how the urban environment is both a canvas for visual exploits and home to a hip hop community. In this gallery the murals will remind viewers of how public space is creatively utilized by graffiti artists while commenting on our connections to land and space.

In Not Now but Right Now, visitors are immersed in photographs depicting scenes of live performance, portraiture and innovative conceptual works. The stage is where hip hop came alive, as artists connected with their fans and honed their craft, erecting moments of joy in now disappeared live music venues. The images in this gallery are evidence of excessive styling, a hallmark of hip hop’s boldness in fashion, marketing and visual aesthetics.

Emanate captures how magazines and visual art documented, archived, and made hip hop accessible to its growing global fanbase. Prior to the internet and smart phones, magazines like Word, Urbanology, Mic Check and Peace! were outlets for photographers to showcase their art, sources whereby fans learnt about emerging artists and read album reviews, and most importantly, “disseminated the ideas and consciousness of Toronto’s growing hip hop community,” added Campbell.

“This show will be particularly relevant to a younger audience,” said Dr. Sarah Stanners, Director of Curatorial & Collections at the McMichael. “That said, the visual culture of hip hop has a long history and will appeal to someone in their early forties just as much as someone in their early twenties.”

“Like Mark Campbell and I, virtually all the photographers in this exhibition belong to a generation that was exposed to new music through mixtapes and MuchMusic, yet also caught the wave of digital technology,” added Stanners. “Artists who have recorded or responded to hip hop in a meaningful way tend to be creatively ambidextrous—successfully navigating commercial, fine art and even musical careers, as this exhibition reveals. My hope is that …Everything Remains Raw reflects the fact that hip hop culture is a multidimensional and expressive force.”

Moreover, …Everything Remains Raw brings to life the spirit of hip hop and recognizes its significance as part of Canada’s cultural fabric. It sheds light on the role of photography in documenting the growth of hip hop from its inception as a fad in the suburbs of Toronto to this global cultural phenomenon.

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