The Cool, Contemporary Curator
If the name Yayoi Kusama doesn’t sound familiar, you’d still probably recognize her work. Exuberant, multicolored dots and playful shapes define the Japanese artist’s aesthetic. If all this still isn’t ringing any bells—or it is, and now you’re wondering where you might be able to see some of her iconic creations—you’re in luck. The Art Gallery of Toronto (AGO) will host a major retrospective of her work next year, the exhibition’s only Canadian location.
As the AGO’s coordinator for this iteration, associate curator Adelina Vlas is busy. Plus, she’s keeping up with the work of contemporary artists worldwide. The accomplished art expert (she’s also worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’ and the National Gallery of Canada and has two master’s degrees in art history and curating contemporary art) took the time to answer a few of our questions. Be sure to check out the up-and-coming artists she mentions… One of them could be the next Kusama-level art phenom.
The AGO’s Yayoi Kusama show is shaping up to be a blockbuster. For old fans of the artist, what new perspective will this exhibition bring? For those who have never heard of her, why is this exhibition a great introduction?
Yayoi Kusama is an influential figure in contemporary art who has been actively engaged in a multi-faceted artistic production for decades. The exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors will offer both those familiar and unfamiliar with her work the opportunity to discover six of her unique experiential Infinity Mirror Rooms alongside a selection of her paintings and sculptures, and materials documenting her radical performances in the 1960s. This will be the only Canadian venue for the show and therefore a special occasion for our audiences, new and old, to experience the world of an extraordinary artist.
Who are some young, contemporary Canadian artists you’re particularly interested in, and why?
Nadia Belerique is a Toronto-based artist making compelling and beautiful work that engages with the complex nature of perception while questioning the role of images and their performativity in contemporary culture. A recent sculpture from the series Bed Island (Don’t Sleep), 2016 was acquired by the AGO last year. Belerique already has an international profile having been included in the most recent editions of the Gwangju Biennale and the Montréal Biennale.
Will Kwan is an artist also based in Toronto whose work examines the ways that inequality is created and perpetuated through economic systems and cultural narratives and has been presented in prestigious national and international events such as the Folkestone Triennial, the Liverpool Biennial, and the Montréal Biennale. Kwan is currently the Artist in Residence at the AGO where he is conducting research to explore questions of scale within sculpture and landscape paintings in the collection.
What drew you to contemporary art in particular? Any specific artists or movements?
I love working with living artists as it allows for stimulating critical conversations and creative thinking to happen in a way that feels immediate and relevant. Contemporary art exists and is made in the present in a post-movement moment. I like the work of artists who transcend the present and presciently point us to the future while experimenting with materials and technologies. Names that come to mind are Pierre Huyghe, Haegue Yang, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Philippe Parreno, and Geoffrey Farmer.
Which art-related events in Toronto are you looking forward to this spring?
I very much look forward to the 2017 Urban Field Speakers Series is programmed by Scott McLeod and Jayne Wilkinson and presented by Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art. Speakers this spring include the influential writer, curator and activist Lucy Lippard, internationally renowned contemporary artist Doris Salcedo (whose work from the collection will be on view at the AGO this summer) and Toronto-based, award-winning digital media artist David Rokeby.