A preview of the Agnes' winter exhibition

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre located on University Ave.
Journal File Photo

Located at the heart of Queen’s campus, the Agnes is showing another set of brilliant exhibitions that blend the new and the old.

The Agnes’ winter launch will be hosted at the gallery on the evening of Jan. 14. The launch, which lets gallery visitors meet the artists and curators behind the exhibition, also features a dance performance choreographed by Brendan Fernandes, the artist behind one of the new exhibits.  

The winter exhibition features contemporary and historical art as well as works that merge styles from past and present.

In an interview with The Journal, the Agnes’ director Jan Allen discussed the ins-and-outs of the gallery’s new shows.

Brendan Fernandes: Lost Bodies

Brendan Fernandes' piece titled Move in Place III. (Supplied by the Agnes) 

The gallery’s biggest show was created by internationally-recognized artist Brendan Fernandes.

The exhibit aims to represent the movement that is lost in collections of African art when they’re presented in presented as artifacts in Western museums, according to Allen.

“[Lost Bodies] refers to the kind of missing performative body that would, in its culture of origin, have been integral to the works in our collection of African art,” Allen said.

For example, pieces like masks, which were originally meant to be danced and worn, have become static in Western galleries, she said.

To breathe life into the artifacts, Fernandes created pieces full of movement, including a video filmed from the perspective of a ballerina dancing in a storage vault for artifacts. Fernandes also places the limbs of ballet dancers with traditional African artifacts in collage.

“It sounds complex, but basically he’s bringing a certain kind of life back to that collection,” Allen said.

With You and Others

With You and Others — curated by artist Kevin Rodgers — presents rare artists' books that were given to the Agnes by Kingston artist Ted Rettig.

Artists' books are typically self-published and rarely mass-produced. The books in the Agnes’ show are artwork themselves, as they adopt idiosyncratic forms, with some having fold-out pages while others are loose-leaf inserts. 

“Sometimes they include hand method, collage, objects added to the books,” Allen said. “But what they really have in common is that they work really playfully with form. And they become themselves works of art, essentially.”

The collection features books from major Canadian artists, including painter and filmmaker Michael Snow.

With You and Others will be accompanied by a series of talks about selected artist books once a month between January and March.

Singular Figures: Portraits and Character Studies in Northern Baroque Painting

Lambert Doomer's 1666 oil on canvas painting titled A Venetian Courtesan. 

The show, co-curated by Stephanie Hickey from the Department of Art History and Conservation and Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Bader Curator/Researcher of European Art, focuses on the significance of attire and objects surrounding people in portraits. Allen said she’s particularly excited for this show, because it allows the gallery to display the most memorable and important pieces from the collection.

“It’s a treat for me,” Allen said. “This theme has made an opportunity to bring out works we haven’t showed in a while, so I think that will be really interesting.”

The exhibition features two Rembrant paintings — Head of an Old Man in a Cap and Head of an Old Man in a Turban along with Pieter Nason’s Portrait of RenéDescartes, one of the few painted portraits of the philosopher that he actually sat for.

Renew: Indigenous Art from the Collection

Renew places contemporary and historical works together in an exhibit that displays a selection of works from the Agnes’ collection of Canadian Indigenous art.

Curated by professor Norman Vorano, curator of Indigenous Art, the vibrant exhibition raises questions about the ways that colonialism influenced historical and contemporary art.

The show features some of the collection’s earliest pieces from the late 19th century, such as beadwork and tusks. But it also showcases work collected just before the holidays, including a piece assembled from computer parts to resemble a Thunderbird, the traditional spiritual image in Anishinaabe and Saulteaux Cree cultures.

“It’s [a piece] that feels playful, but it’s actually quite powerful at the same time,” Allen said.

“[Vorano] looks at four things: one of them is the spiritual world that’s evoked, another is the use of textual language in art and artifact, the use of abstraction … and then repetition.”

Allen said through seeing the continuities, and differences, within these categories, Vorano forges connections between contemporary and historical Indigenous art. 

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