The top 20 photography shows at Contact 2014
The Contact Festival in Toronto is the largest photography event in the world, and 2014 marks its 18th annual art scene takeover in the city (good luck finding a free gallery space in Toronto in May). Installations showcasing the work of over 1,500 photographers will pop up in 175 different galleries and spaces across the city. Contact can be intimidating, but just do it your way: browse your must-see shows during quiet open hours, or attend films, lectures, workshops, and of course, boozy openings.
Contact will launch May 2 at MOCCA, who will show (gorgeous) pseudo-self-portraits by General Idea, Cindy Sherman, Sophie Calle, and more. The festival itself separates into Primary Exhibitions such as the MOCCA show which address this year's theme of Identity (portrait lovers, this is your year), Public Installations like billboard take-overs, Featured Exhibitions in established galleries by Canadian and international artists, and Open Exhibitions, a.k.a. the ones you can take in at small galleries, over pints of beer, or while browsing records. Open shows are the most hit and miss, but who could scorn this cute puppy?
To learn more about other scheduled programming, check out Contact's event listings and workshops. If you'd like to ignore our preview and go rogue (good on you), make a game plan via the Contact site here. And stay tuned to our arts section, as we'll be sharing more great exhibits as we discover them.
Here are 20 shows to skip out on lazy beach/patio hangs for at Contact 2014.
If you only hit up one Contact show that isn't just a bunch of questionably framed prints in your local pub, let it be the lead exhibition at MOCCA. The gallery has collected work from the National Gallery by avant-garde photographers Bill Burke, General Idea, Rafael Goldchain, Rodney Graham, Yasumasa Morimura, Shelley Niro, Cindy Sherman, and my personal favorite, Sophie Calle, together for a voyeuristic show subtitled "Self-Portrait of the Artist as Another." May 2 - June 1, National Gallery of Canada at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (952 Queen St W). Reception May 2, 7-11pm.
Steve Payne is obsessed by Newfoundland's architecture - and by Canada's changing landscape in general. While some photographers are chasing a certain moment, Payne is engaged in a race against time, trying to document the curious structures and landscapes that make up who we are before they fade away. May 8 - July 26, Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art (401 Richmond St W Ste 124). Reception May 8, 7-10pm.
Gordon Parks was the first African American on Life magazine's staff of photographers. This exhibit at BAND showcases his portraits: Park sought out the disenfranchised, from Harlem gangs to working class communities to civil rights rallies. Parks' work is also at Nicholas Metivier Gallery from April 24 - May 24. April 25 - August 3, Black Artists' Networks in Dialogue (BAND) (1 Lansdowne Ave 2nd Floor). Reception April 25, 6-8pm.
Winner of the Scotiabank Photography Award for his contribution in challenging the limits of photography, Vancouver's Stan Douglas plays with data loss and corruption, documentary vs. directorial photography, and the changing ways we interact with photos as technology makes images both more important and more disposable than ever. Hear him talk at Ryerson April 30 (free). May 1 - June 1, Ryerson Image Centre (33 Gould St).
The Sochi Project
The Olympics are great for page-views: some cheer on our athletes, while the less enthused are saturated with critical journalism (and Twitter round-ups) on the negative ramifications of the games. "Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus" could be the slow food to the quick news-bites of this past winter. Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen have been shooting in Sochi since 2009, and were eventually turned away from Russia. (Lead photo.) May 1 - 31, CONTACT Gallery (80 Spadina Ave Ste 310). Reception May 3, 2-5pm.
Through the Body
Eleven Chinese photographers will show at the U of T Art Centre for "Through the Body: Lens-Based Works by Contemporary Chinese Women Artists." As the work of male artists from China has received much more international attention than that of female artists, this exhibition aims to highlight their voices in what looks to be a diverse and strong group show. April 29 - June 28, University of Toronto Art Centre (15 King's College Circle).
The MOCCA courtyard will host a show of its own: Jim Naughten has captured the fashions of the Herero people of Namibia, from weddings and funerals to military parades and social gatherings. April 21 - August 18, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, courtyard (952 Queen St W). Reception May 2, 7-11pm.
Dana Claxton's billboards will appear not only along Dundas West but across Canada. Her larger-than-life works channel First Nation identity, racism, and North American history through Wild West iconography and motifs. Other locations include Montreal, Winnipeg, and Calgary. May 1-31, Dundas St W and Ossington Ave, Northwest corner; Dundas St W and Rusholme Rd, North side; Lansdowne Ave at Dundas St W, Northeast corner.
Remember when the subway flooded? Remember the sharks? Queen's Park Subway Station will host this show of Gideon Mendel's shots of people from various backgrounds who have been ravaged by Earth's great equalizer: water. May 1-31, Queen's Park Subway Station.
As a lover of kitsch (and sunny skies), this is one of the shows I'm most excited for. Montreal artist Mika Goodfriend headed to the Sunshine State, which is also, remarkably, the place where you'll find the most Quebecois people outside of Quebec anywhere in the world. Goodfriend sets his lens on Pompano Beach's Breezy Hill RV trailer park and things look a little Lynchian down there, but that could just be me not understanding what sunlight is. April 23 - May 25, Le Labo at Collège Boréal (1 Yonge St 300).
Prairie and Pavement
Ian Brown is a Toronto-based photographer who's been focusing his lens on the wilds of Detroit, along with ten trillion other photographers. But "Prairie and Pavement" isn't just a series of abandoned houses and desolation: Brown finds urban farming, repurposed neighbourhoods, and signs of a new future for the city. May 2 - June 2, Evergreen Brickworks - Kilns (550 Bayview Ave 300). Reception May 7, 6:30-9pm.
Joseph Hartman moved to The Hammer from small town Ontario in 2007, and became as fascinated by the city as a whole as I am by the sight of the fires roaring up from the factories (cliched, I know). Hartman's 4x5 view camera gets personal with the people and working-class neighbourhoods of Steeltown. May 10 - June 7, Stephen Bulger Gallery (1026 Queen St West). Reception May 9, 5-9pm.
40 Years Hip Hop
Rap fans will want to spend some time at the Gladstone Hotel this month checking out their Contact installation: they're showing large-scale prints of street culture and hip hop icons by Jamel Shabazz, Ernie Paniccioli, Jonathan Mannion, Nabil Elderkin, Che Kothari, Matt Barnes, Steve Carty, and more. May 1-31, The Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St W). Reception May 2, 7-10pm.
Though Andrés Marroquín Winkelmann is now based in Berlin, he born in Peru, where the rural Latin-American take on car culture can mean something very different, such as boxy cars from the 1970s serving as public transport. Winkelman looks at how the same modern conveniences can have different values in different locations. May 1-31, Corkin Gallery (7 Tank House Lane), Reception April 29, 5-7pm.
Do shots of libraries induce nostalgia because books contain pieces of the past, or because most people rarely set foot in them anymore? Elaine Chan-Dow's crisp, contemporary shots in "Evolution of Literary Spaces" might just make you want to spend an afternoon at your favorite places where IRL books live (quick, before Rob Ford closes it). April 25 - May 30, IX Gallery (11 Davies Ave 101). Reception April 25, 6:30-9pm.
Toronto's Maureen O'Connor works with a phrase I love - "transitional spaces" (deep sigh) - in this dramatic photo series where animals such as owls and foxes show up to challenge our boundaries, of which we have many. April 24 - May 31, Alison Milne Gallery (198 Walnut Ave 3). Reception April 30, 7-10pm.
Will Munro and Robert Flack (one of the founders of Art Metropole) will show together posthumously at Paul Petro for Contact 2014. While Munro might not be best known for his photographers, the two Toronto artists have a huge legacy both in Toronto's art scenes and queer scenes, and especially in the overlap between the two. May 2-31, Paul Petro Contemporary Art (980 Queen St West). Reception May 2, 7-10pm.
Stoking the Star
If music is more your thing than visual art, this exhibit on the history of Canadian music (not as dry as it sounds, promise) is one to hit up. There's something for fans of country, folk, rock, and punk - but probably no DJs?. May 6-19, Art Square (334 Dundas St W). Reception May 8, 6-9pm.
Light From Outside
If the above isn't enough, Brittany Lucas's exhibit at Sonic Boom will poke around Toronto's music scene through personal portraiture. Grip some records and gaze at some art at Boom's Kensington Market location. May 1-31, Sonic Boom (201 Augusta Ave East). Reception May 1, 9pm-12am.
For those who like brews with their photograph exhibits - and for history buffs, since we know a chunk of you only hang around here for the history posts - this group show at Junction Craft Brewery will showcase images from ten years of West Toronto - ten years of rapid redevelopment and shifts in the Junction Triangle and beyond. Word to the wise, there's always a ton of Contact shows up in the Junction, if you're into a walking tour of the hood. May 3 - June 30, Junction Craft Brewery (90 Cawthra Avenue, Unit 101). Reception May 3, 12-4pm.
Contact 2014 launches May 2 at MOCCA (952 Queen Street West) and runs in Toronto through May.
Photos in order: Yasumasa Morimura, To My Little Sister/For Cindy Sherman, 1998, Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photo © NGC; Gordon Parks, Husband and Wife on Sunday Morning, Fort Scott, Kansas, 1949, Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation. Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation.; Stan Douglas, Kung-Fu Fighting, 1974, Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York, London, and Victoria Miro, London; Jim Naughten, Herero Women Marching, 2012; Mika Goodfriend, Garage sale, 2012; Ian Brown, Cass ave., 2013; Joseph Hartman, Hamilton From Above Sherman Access, 2012, © Joseph Hartman / Courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery; Ernie Paniccioli, BIGGIE in his Jeep, 1996; Ladybird Theatre, Riding a Roller Coaster Flying into the Future , video still, 2013; Maureen O'Connor, The Visitation, 2013; Daniel Bray, Untitled, 2013.