THE KEEPER

Toronto’s Power Plant gallery DEVOTES its sum­mer EX­HI­BI­TION pro­gram to a CANADIAN art leg­end

S/ - - CONTENTS - BY NATASHA BRUNO

Canadian art leg­end Ydessa Hen­de­les and the Power Plant ex­hibit de­voted to her life and work

There’s no ques­tion that

artist-cu­ra­tor Ydessa Hen­de­les helped build the arts and cul­ture scene in her adopted home­land. Born in Mar­burg, Ger­many in 1948 to Pol­ishJewish Holo­caust sur­vivors, and mov­ing to Canada when she was six, the Toronto-based Hen­de­les has been on all sides of the arts spec­trum, from cre­ator to cu­ra­tor, gal­lerist and per­sonal col­lec­tor.

In the 1980s, she opened the Ydessa Gallery, a com­mer­cial space on Toronto’s Queen Street West de­voted to the pre­sen­ta­tion of Canadian con­tem­po­rary art. There, she helped pro­pel the ca­reers of Canadian artists like Jeff Wall and Rod­ney Gra­ham. But big­ger things were on the hori­zon, and in 1988, Hen­de­les turned a for­mer two-storey uni­form fac­tory in the city’s King West district into the Ydessa Hen­de­les Art Foun­da­tion.

The first pri­vately funded ex­hi­bi­tion space for con­tem­po­rary art in Canada, Hen­de­les be­gan cu­rat­ing and mount­ing theme-ori­ented ex­hi­bi­tions from art­works in her pri­vate col­lec­tion. She de­voted 25 years to the in­no­va­tive space be­fore clos­ing the foun­da­tion’s doors in 2012, and be­came in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned by art afi­ciona­dos as a pi­o­neer who helped turn cu­ra­tor­ship into an art form of its very own. Us­ing found ob­jects and arte­facts from vin­tage pho­to­graphs and toys to rare sculp­tures as her sto­ry­telling medium, Hen­de­les ex­plores no­tions of dif­fer­ence and diver­sity, and par­tic­u­larly the way rep­re­sen­ta­tion, ap­pro­pri­a­tion and as­sim­i­la­tion can sep­a­rate group and in­di­vid­ual iden­ti­ties.

Over time, Hen­de­les be­gan split­ting her time be­tween stu­dios in Toronto and New York, and started di­vest­ing her re­mark­able art col­lec­tion by do­nat­ing 32 art­works to the Art Gallery of On­tario.

In June, the Power Plant gallery gives over its two-floor art space to Hen­de­les’ “The Milliner’s Daugh­ter”. The ex­hibit marks not only the de­but sur­vey of Hen­de­les’ work in Toronto, but the first time in the Power Plant’s 30-year his­tory that a solo fe­male artist has taken over the en­tire gallery.

“I was struck by Ydessa Hen­de­les’ abil­ity to re­search, doc­u­ment and go to extreme lengths in or­der to de­velop a de­tailed project with all the care that makes up the core of cu­rat­ing,” says Gaë­tane Verna, the Power Plant’s di­rec­tor. “Her abil­ity to show dif­fer­ent ob­jects side by side, whether they are from dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods of time and from dif­fer­ent sources, is ex­cep­tional, strik­ing, un­prece­dented, and un­set­tling.” The sum­mer ex­hi­bi­tion in­cludes Hen­de­les’

From her wooden sleep… (2013), a largescale in­stal­la­tion built around a col­lec­tion of wooden artists’ manikins dat­ing from 1520 to 1930, and rang­ing in scale from palm to life-size. Sit­ting on benches ar­ranged on the gallery floor in­stead of on podi­ums, the manikins form a dis­tinct com­mu­nity with a col­lec­tive gaze. The in­tense sce­nario al­most casts vis­i­tors as out­siders, and chal­lenges them to de­code their re­la­tion­ship with the wooden fig­ures.

Also part of The Milliner’s Daugh­ter are The Bird That Made The Breeze to Blow (Ber­lin, 2012), a deeply per­sonal work that turns the spot­light di­rectly on Hen­de­les and her his­tory, and the un­veil­ing of Blue Beard (2016), a brand new piece com­mis­sioned by the gallery to act as a dra­matic en­try­way to the ex­hi­bi­tion.

“I felt that the is­sues of mem­ory, mi­gra­tion, dis­place­ment, racism, refugees, and ac­cep­tance were cen­tral to Hen­de­les’s many works,” says Verna. “And that el­e­ments of her per­sonal bi­og­ra­phy in re­la­tion to …her par­ents’ im­mi­gra­tion to Canada would strike a com­mon chord with many Cana­di­ans, as we all (those who are not Canada’s indige­nous peo­ple) are im­mi­grants to the coun­try,” says Verna. Ydessa Hen­de­les’ “The Milliner’s Daugh­ter” is on view at the Power Plant gallery from June 24th un­til Septem­ber 4th, 2017.

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT: FROM HER WOODEN SLEEP…, 2013 (DE­TAIL); HALLOWE’EN GIRL, 2006 (DE­TAIL) COLOUR PHO­TO­GRAPH OF AN ENAMEL PAINTED CAST IRON DOORSTOP, C. 1930; FROM HER WOODEN SLEEP…, 2013 (DE­TAIL); CHURCH & STATE (THE PUSS IN BOOTS PROJECT), 2008...

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