The city’s art scene is in­creas­ingly a realm for more thought­ful di­a­logue com­pared with wider pub­lic spheres. As Premier Doug Ford em­u­lates the worst ten­den­cies of our U.S. neigh­bours, Toronto artists are fight­ing back by mak­ing art – some of it ex­plic­itl


1 IbrahIm ma­hama: rad­I­cal hIs­to­rIes, 2012-2018 NathaN PhilliPs square (sePtem­ber 29)

For Nuit Blanche, the Ghana­ian artist trans­formed the pedestal ramp of City Hall by wrap­ping it in a patch­work cur­tain of jute fab­ric that had pre­vi­ously been used in the trade of co­coa, cof­fee and char­coal. A thrilling, in­stantly read­able mon­u­ment to labour, colo­nial­ism and the hard truths of com­merce.

2 the Work of WInd: aIr, land, sea black­wood Gallery, mississauGa (sePtem­ber 14-23)

This mas­sive art project in Mississauga’s South­down In­dus­trial Area fea­tured 13 out­door in­stal­la­tions that vis­i­tors could tour us­ing a spe­cially com­mis­sioned MiWay bus. Many of the works cap­tured the event’s theme of stew­ard­ship in the face of en­vi­ron­men­tal cri­sis, while re­main­ing play­ful. A high­light was Tomás Sara­ceno’s gi­ant walk-in air bal­loon made from thou­sands of plas­tic bags.

3 re­becca bel­more: fac­Ing the mon­u­men­tal art Gallery of oN­tario (July 12-oc­to­ber 21)

For those who saw Bel­more’s ex­cel­lent 2014 show at the Justina M. Bar­nicke

Gallery, her AGO ex­hi­bi­tion was a rev­e­la­tion. This show fea­tured a dif­fer­ent but equally com­pelling range of works. Her mon­u­men­tal stack of shop­ping carts packed with fresh clay of­fered a con­cise state­ment about Indige­nous dis­pos­ses­sion. Just one of many works on view that com­bined cri­tique of so­cial and power struc­tures with strong emo­tional im­pact.

4 gta, gen­trI­fI­ca­tIon tax triN­ity bell­woods Park (fe­bru­ary 25); Pub­lic stu­dio (JuNe 1-July 30)

GTA stands for Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion Tax Ac­tion, an ad hoc artist group who – in dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of peo­ple – have made ac­tivist art since the 90s. Via a tem­po­rary bill­board in­stal­la­tion in Trin­ity Bell- woods Park and poster project, GTA pro­posed a prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion to Toronto’s gen­tri­fi­ca­tion prob­lem: a tax on real es­tate spec­u­la­tion, with the money redi­rected to af­ford­able hous­ing. Their work added much-needed nu­ance to the con­ver­sa­tion around our af­ford­able hous­ing cri­sis.

5 shan­non bool: bomb. shell. daNiel faria Gallery (Novem­ber 1-JaN­uary 12)

Canada pro­duces a lot of strong artists. Bool is a con­tender for one of the best. Her stun­ning photo col­lages and ta­pes­tries in this show com­bine the work of mod­ernist gi­ants like Le Cor­bus­ier with vin­tage post­cards of nude Al­ge­rian women, whom the ar­chi­tect also made sketches of in his off hours. A deft ex­posé of Ori­en­tal­ism and the darker un­der­pin­nings of mod­ernism.

6 shel­ley nIro ry­er­soN imaGe ceN­tre (aPril 28-au­Gust 5)

This was a wel­come sur­vey show for the 2017 Sco­tia­bank Pho­tog­ra­phy Award win­ner. Niro is skilled at bring­ing hu­mour to dark sub­ject mat­ter like the dec­i­ma­tion of her Indige­nous an­ces­tors by white set­tlers in Canada. The pref­er­ence for com­edy and a light touch on view in this ex­hi­bi­tion made clear her con­nec­tion to the so­phis­ti­cated craft-based work of artists like Gen­eral Idea and Allyson Mitchell.

7 be­lIeve mu­seum of coN­tem­Po­rary art (sePtem­ber 22-JaN­uary 6)

At­ten­dees at MOCA’s in­au­gu­ral ex­hi­bi­tion at its new home in the Lower Junc­tion Tri­an­gle were prob­a­bly as cu­ri­ous about the build­ing – five floors in all – as they were the art. This show is mul­ti­fac­eted and sprawl­ing, with tex­tile works sit­ting next to a playable and wildly dec­o­rated pin­ball ma­chine, ad­ja­cent to sculp­tures and video works. A to­tal ex­pe­ri­ence of art and space, its high­lights in­clude works by Di­neo Seshee Bopape, Tuan An­drew Nguyen and Ra­jni Per­era.

8 I con­tInue to shape

art mu­seum at uNi­ver­sity of toroNto (sePtem­ber 5de­cem­ber 8)

This group show fea­tures mostly First Na­tions artists tak­ing a non-di­dac­tic ap­proach to set­tler and Indige­nous his­to­ries. By com­bin­ing tra­di­tional First Na­tions and con­tem­po­rary art vo­cab­u­lar­ies – see Ni­cholas Galanin’s re-carv­ing of a tra­di­tional mask – the artists bring view­ers into a fresh di­a­logue with the sub­ject mat­ter. In a show of great works, Joseph Tisiga’s paint­ings us­ing Archie comic char­ac­ters as stand-ins for white obliv­i­ous­ness are stand­outs.

9 yoko ono: the rIverbed Gar­diNer mu­seum (fe­bru­ary 22-JuNe 3)

How calm­ing it was to visit the white en­v­i­ron Yoko Ono cre­ated in her three­part, ce­ramic-based in­stal­la­tion. Ono was part of the first wave of artists mak­ing in­ter­ac­tive (or in­struc­tional) art­works in the late 60s and 70s, and this re­cent work con­firms her pre­em­i­nence. Made with the help of mu­seum vis­i­tors – who re­assem­bled bro­ken china and threaded twine into a room-sized spi­der web – and prob­a­bly for that rea­son, the in­stal­la­tions evoked the time­less mark­mak­ing of artists like Cy Twombly.

10 dI­a­grams of poWer oN­site Gallery at ocadu (July 11-sePtem­ber 30)

This ex­hi­bi­tion ar­tic­u­lates the forms power takes in the 21st cen­tury through works that high­light how to­day’s geopol­i­tics are net­worked. We un­der­stand we live in a net­worked world and yet it re­mains in­tan­gi­ble in im­por­tant ways. The re­search-based works in this ex­hi­bi­tion, such as Bureau d’études’ map­pings of what they call “the World Gov­ern­ment,” cre­ate a vis­ual lex­i­con for grasp­ing ideas so­ci­ety has yet to fully grap­ple with. [email protected]­ | @rosemheather

Ghana­ian artist Ibrahim Ma­hama wrapped City Hall in jute fab­ric for Nuit Blanche.

Artist group GTA’s bill­board in Trin­ity Bell­woods Park called for a tax on real es­tate spec­u­la­tion.

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