January in the Agnes

A rundown of new exhibits on campus this winter

Gershon Iskowitz's December No. 1 (detail).
Supplied by Katherine Yuksel

This month, the Agnes is welcoming eight new exhibits. These will highlight pieces from all of their Indigenous and contemporary European and African historical collections, as well as newly-acquired pieces. Interim gallery director, chief curator, and curator of Canadian historical art Alicia Boutilier led The Journal on a walkthrough of the new work on display in the Agnes this season.


Face of the Sky

Face of the Sky is exhibited in the Samuel J. Zacks gallery and features pieces from the Agnes’ contemporary and historical collections. This is the first exhibit people will see when entering the gallery. The works track artists’ fascination with the sky through metaphors, symbols, and spirituality.

“December No. 1” by Gershon Iskowitz is a large abstract piece that best takes shape through the story behind its creation. Iskowitz flew over Manitoba in the winter of 1967, and his view from the plane gave him a new perspective of the province. When he painted “December,” this birds-eye view is what inspired him most. The majority of the canvas is covered in purple, representing the body of Manitoba, and the edges are a grey-white, which Boutilier says represents either the snow or clouds.

Also in this exhibit is “Helmet Mask (Sowei or Ndoli Jowei)” by an unknown Mende artist from Sierra Leone or Liberia. This work was commissioned by the Sande society from Mende culture. The mask represents those worn by Sande women. Ndoli jowei means “the expert leader who dances.” The mask bears this title because only women were allowed to be in the Sande society, and they would wear these masks at masquerades. It’s meant to call on the society’s guiding spirit, Sande.  

The mask was donated to the Agnes in 1984 by benefactors Justin and Elisabeth Lang.

Continuing in the Face of the Sky exhibit, John Hartman’s “The Society of Jesus Brings Christianity to the New World” is hung with several others of his prints. This print—like his others—shows landscapes with colourful angelic figures in the skies. The theme of this exhibit offered a perfect opportunity for Hartman’s work to be shown with other complementary pieces by other artists with similar themes. The Agnes’ team had these works in their possession already, but many of them have been sitting in storage until this show. The aerial views and flying figures present a curious relationship between earth and sky, artist and landscape. As such, they fit into the broader exhibit seamlessly.


B-Side Agnes Etherington

Another exhibit on display this season at the Agnes is called B-Side Agnes Etherington. The art is the hyperrealistic work of photographer Paul Litherland. The photos depict the backs of paintings owned by the Agnes. Litherland has completed similar work at other galleries too, and titles those exhibits B-Side,followed by the exhibiting gallery’s name.

The photos quite literally show a side of famous artworks that viewers never otherwise get to see. In some, labels on the backs of the work are shown to be peeling off, marks and scuffs are apparent, proof of conservation work is evident, and nails, staples, and wooden frames are visible. There’s a story to these famous works, and Litherland captures them to share with his audiences.

For this exhibit, Litherland spent a day in the Agnes shooting the backs of famous paintings, then left to print and frame them. In total, the show has been in the works for half a year.


From Tudor to Hanover

In the Bader Gallery, the exhibit From Tudor to Hanover features a donation by Gerald and Helen Finley, Kingston residents. Gerald Finley was the first head of the Department of Art History in 1963. The work they donated is called Portrait of a Man by an unknown artist. They donated the piece in 2015, but this exhibit marks the first time it’s been hung in the gallery.

The rest of the works in this exhibit, including pieces by Peter Lely and Godfrey Kneller, focus on English portraitures from the 16th to the 18th century, which is the period considered to be a heyday for portraits in England. Portraits were popular in these centuries because people were able to own their own copies and hang them in their homes. The subjects were often royal figures.


Quest for Colour

In the Frances K. Smith Gallery, Quest for Colour shows work by Andy Warhol, Wassily Kandinsky, and Kent Monkman. The exhibit is curated by Professor Stephanie Dickey, Bader chair in Nothern Baroque art, and her students in the art history program.

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