Tuesday, February 14, 2012

RIC welcomes Berenice to Hogtown

I thought I had had enough of the hyped up art and archeological exhibitions that come Hogtown's way. There's the pushing, the shoving, the insultingly high ticket prices - $25 to see Rothko et al at the Art Gallery of Ontario last year ; there's the crass merchandising, the uninformed chatter about that this work or that object, the media trivialization. The list goes on and on.

And then up pops an email from the good people at the Ryerson Image Centre - part of Ryerson University - telling me that RIC and the Jeu de Paume in Paris, home to some of the most lustrous Impressionist paintings in the world, have co-organized an exhibition called
Berenice Abbott: Photographs. It's the first retrospective of the American photographer presented in France and Canada, and is curated by Dr. Gaëlle Morel at RIC. The exhibition will be presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario from May 23 to August 19 as part of the CONTACT Photography Festival. (Should you find yourself in Paris the exhibition runs February 20 to April 29 at the Jeu de Paume.)

Berenice Abbott, born Bernice Abbott, left the U.S. for Paris in the 1920s and attached herself to Man Ray, eventually becoming his assistant even though he told her he didn't want or need an assistant and would she kindly get lost. She also championed Eugène Atget, the French photographer whose pictures of Paris and elsewhere are an archival gold mine and an urban historian's dream. Eugène Atget's Paris (Taschen) is a good introduction to his work.

There will be more than 120 of Abbott's photographs from the various stages of her career, including documentary work done in New York City, on display at the AGO, as well as
never before exhibited personal documents such as letters, drawings and scrapbooks. I can only hope Morel or someone has thought to include any - especially later - correspondence there may be between the photographer and Man Ray. After all, it was at his developing tank that Abbott began to learn.

The RIC email didn't say what the AGO will charge to get in to the Abbott exhibition: of course entry should be free. Oh, one more thing. Perhaps RIC should consider a Lee Miller exhibition to follow the Abbott presentation. She too worked as Man Ray's assistant and became his model and lover before moving on to her own photographic career, which was a doozy. Ah, two more things, actually. How about a Man Ray exhibition to follow Abbott and Miller, RIC?

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