Footprints of Expo ’67 at Glendon Gallery exhibits works spanning 40 years

Glendon Gallery’s final exhibition for 2007 traces the artistic trajectory of three Canadian artists over the last 40 years, from the time they exhibited their work at the world’s fair known as Expo ’67, to the present.

Footprints of Expo ’67 is a collection of sculptures, ceramics, paintings and drawings by Canadian artists Ann Roberts, David Sorensen and Tony Urquhart, which explores Expo ’67’s cultural impact. It includes pieces from the time of Expo ’67 to the current day.

Left: Histoire Naturelle, oil on canvas by Tony Urquhart

The exhibit evolved from the original concept to create a historical retrospective for Canada as well as for Glendon by drawing parallels between events and developments over the 40 years since the opening of Expo and Glendon. The brainchild of Glendon economics Professor Rafael Gomez, the idea was developed in collaboration with graduate research assistant Kirsten Greer and Glendon Gallery’s Marc Audette and Martine Rheault. 

The accumulated artifacts – Expo passports, programs, catalogues, pins, scarves, even a souvenir tray showing the most prominent pavilions – were displayed in the glass cases at the entrance to Glendon’s Frost Library earlier this year. For the exhibition at the gallery, however, the focus shifted exclusively to art.

Expo ’67 – known as Man and His World – was a coming of age for Canada, welcoming the countries of the world, their art, crafts, foods, fashions and their culture to this country for the first time. Long before the age of multiculturalism, this mix brought excitement and exoticism, and offered Canadians a unique opportunity to experience it first hand. That youthful optimism was also characteristic of a brand new institution at the time: York’s Glendon College, offering university-level bilingual liberal arts courses.

Right: Floating Woman, by Ann Roberts

Gomez often heard his parents talk about the impact Expo had on them, and he never forgot their enthusiasm.

"They were new immigrants from Spain and Expo allowed them to find a Canadian identity, which meant the world to them," said Gomez.

Greer, currently working on her PhD at Queen’s University, is the curator of Footprints of Expo ’67.

"As a historical-cultural geographer, I was interested in how objects bring people back to specific places and experiences," said Greer. "Through their work, these three artists returned to some of their early experiences and childhood memories, which clearly emerge from the art they have displayed."

Left: An early work by David Sorensen

A native of Vancouver, David Sorensen’s work reflects his deep connection to nature – mountains, water and a lifelong fascination with horizons. His early large stone sculptures were followed by colourful abstract canvases and a series of snowy landscapes in understated wintry shades reminiscent of works by Canadian painter David Milne. The Glendon exhibition also includes some of Sorensen’s black-and-white ink drawings on rice paper portraying hills and mountains in the style of the Japanese masters.

Born in Durban, South Africa, Ann Roberts migrated to Canada with her geologist husband in 1960. She has had a successful career as a ceramic sculptor, contributing to numerous exhibitions and museum collections. Her childhood associations with water, which is seen in many African cultures as a female entity, inform many of her sculptures, such as Floating Woman and Ice Floe with Immigrant Fruit, both at the Glendon Gallery.

"The theme of survival runs through my work, but is most clearly visible in the River Riders series," said Roberts. "The displacement of peoples, ethnic brutality and the intransigence of life were a visible part of growing up in South Africa."

Right: Ann Roberts (left), Tony Urquhart, Kirsten Greer and David Sorensen

Born in Niagara Falls, Ont., Tony Urquhart was initially a painter and later a sculptor. He was a pioneer of abstract art in the 1950s and 1960s, and his work evolved toward the creation of multidimensional pieces combining elements of the surreal, the mythic and the symbolic. For some time, Urquhart focused on creating articulated boxes, including one called Pile of Rocks 2000-2001 – currently at the Glendon exhibition – which is a magic castle of a box with doors opening in unexpected ways in a mixed media relief of oil on wood, with rocks.

Right: Dogfish, by Ann Roberts

In the background of the exhibition is the continuous screening of the official video of Expo ’67 interspersed with a home video of the Gomez family.

Footprints of Expo ’67 runs until December 21st. For more information, visit the Glendon Gallery Web site. To learn more about the artists, click here.

Submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny.