Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Royal Ontario Museum

One of the perks of being a member of the AGO is the annual reciprocal visit to other galleries and museums.  Last Saturday was free ROM day.  As it turns out, it was also Korean Day so the first floor was filled with special Korean exhibits, live shows and movies.

We were most excited about seeing the gorgeous Art Deco sculptures, furniture and tea services belonging to the private collection of Bernard and Sylvia Ostry.  If we had infinite space and money, we would dedicate an entire room to Deco art.

This was part of the exhibit "The Art of Collecting".  Although we saw some interesting items, we found the curatorial quality of this exhibit to be lacking direction or focus.  A hodgepodge of European decorative arts were displayed without much description or visible organization.  Even the layout was awkward, forcing us to double back through rooms to get to the next part of the exhibit.

The "David Hockney's Fresh Flowers - Drawings on the iPhone and iPad" was a fascinating exhibit that shows a new drawing style and platform that could be a harbinger of future art movements.  Although flowers were a central theme for his drawings, he also created scenery and portraits.

Running applications made for the iPhone and iPad and using his finger or a stylus as a drawing tool, Hockney creates colourful drawings of whatever he sees before him.  The portability of the devices enables him to draw the sunrise that he spies from his bedroom window while lying in bed.

The exhibit is well laid out with actual iPhones and iPads hung on the walls showing his work, as well as larger scale images projected onto screens.  The iPad has a memory feature that recalls brush strokes which can be replayed to demonstrate stroke by stroke exactly how he created the drawing.  In his handout, he tells an amusing story about how he has always adapted his artistic techniques in line with changing technology.  He marvels at how he can now email his art to galleries around the world, but in the past, he used to fax his work.  This raises an interesting question about whether any piece of art can be considered "an original" or a "limited numbered edition" anymore when it exists in perpetually recreateable digital formats.

 Up in the World Cultures section, there is an interesting exhibit called "Proverbial Coffins" from Ghana.  Apparently the custom is to create beautifully painted wooden coffins shaped in forms that celebrate the lifetime achievements of the deceased.  On display were a Mercedes Benz (obvious status symbol of prosperity and progress) and a large fish, presumably for a fisherman.

Finally in the Fabrics section, the exhibit "Riotous Colour, Daring Patterns: Fashions + Textiles 18th to 21st Centuries" is in its last days.  Experimental dresses made of durable paper with bold prints were on display.  Also shown were fabrics with unusual designs such as 'Lil Abner cartoons, reproductions of famous tapestries and a zebra-striped suit that seemed to be designed for Starsky and Hutch's Huggy Bear.

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