AGYU exhibits inspired by revolution and activism

The Art Gallery of York University’s current exhibit Revolutionary Sundays featured in the main gallery space and the associated Centre for Incidental Activisms in the gallery’s adjacent space will be on display only until March 13. Celebrating its official opening on March 2, from 6 to 9pm, is the gallery’s newest exhibit Lost and Found: (Finding) Hidden Beauty in the ‘Hood.

Inspired by the power of civic activism to make change (think of recent events in Egypt), each of the AGYU’s exhibits is informed by art, history, politics and revolution.

Revolutionary Sundays

Revolutionary Sundays offers a journey through the history and promise of the Cuban Revolution. Gilberto Ante (1925-1991) was a sugar cane worker who took up photography in 1950. He collaborated with Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement and became a photographer for the Presidential Palace press department on the success of the Cuban Revolution, where he was responsible for the official portrayal of the regime, such as photographing Castro’s speeches.

Above: A young Fidel Castro in a photo by Gilberto Ante from the La Central archive in Bogotá, Colombia

Curated by award-winning AGYU Director Philip Monk, the thought-provoking exhibit features some of the most vivid of the 28,000 images taken during a 30-year window of the Cuban Revolution. The images arise out of the Ante Archive and were lost from sight until they were discovered in a Mexico City antique shop. The archive is now housed in Colombia.

The exhibition presents an atypical view of the Cuban Revolution and its socialist iconography. One side reflects Ante’s official work depicting socialist leadership and labour. The other shows his off-time portraying daily life, with concentration on the activity of women both in work and in play. The exhibit concludes with a video that illustrates the lost promise of the revolution as Cuban youth talk of their lack of engagement.

Revolutionary Sundays is organized by La Central, Bogotá, with special assistance from the Familia Ante, Simon Hernández, Julian Lede, Héctor de la Cruz, Guillermo Santos, Francisco Toquica, and Katy Hernández and Beatriz Lopez, co-directors of La Central.

Centre for Incidental Activisms (CIA)

The Centre for Incidental Activisms exhibit blends art, activism and performance art. It is the creation of two artists collectives and features an ever-changing palette of activist-inspired work. Featuring Toronto artist Deanna Bowen and Mexican-born artist and former journalist Eugenio Salas, and the artist collective Public Studio comprised of York fine arts doctoral students Elle Flanders and Eshrat Erfanian, and Canadian artist Tamira Sawatzky. The CIA offers a thought-provoking and ever-changing palette of artistic and participatory projects.

Every Monday, Public Studio offers a screening of Flanders and Efanian’s short film Kino Pravda 3G, which features found footage obtained from YouTube and the cellphones of individuals involved in activist events taking place throughout the world, including Toronto’s G20 demonstrations, Thailand’s Red Shirts and most recently student protests in the United Kingdom over skyrocketing university fees.


Every Tuesday and Friday, Bowen and Salas bring their work to the CIA. Bowen’s work “Deconstruction of Political Engagement” is informed by her journey to Selma, Alabama this past summer. There she crossed the bridge to Selma that was the site of violent clashes between peaceful civil rights activists and state police. Her project examines the various narratives she uncovered during her journey to Selma and beyond.

For his part, Salas brings his ever-changing “Institute for Community Inquiry” to the AGYU. Featuring the work of activists, photojournalists, sound and video artists, the “Institute for Community Inquiry” draws visitors into collaboration with the artists and they in turn become part of the exhibit.

Every Sunday and Wednesday, the CIA offers an open day to view all of the works underway within its walls. For a complete list of all events, visit the CIA on the AGYU website.

Lost and Found: (Finding) Hidden Beauty in the ‘Hood 

Starting today and continuing until March 13, the AGYU and the CIA present Lost and Found: (Finding) Hidden Beauty in the ‘Hood, a group exhibition guest curated by The M.A.D. Poet (aka Melissa A. Dean), in the AGYU Special Projects Room. Produced with the support and mentorship of the Art Gallery of York University, The M.A.D. Poet’s first curatorial project features art works by Cade M. Davies, Che Kothari, Quentin “Vercetty” Lindsay, and SUN a.k.a The Real Sun.

Growing up in Jane and Finch had a formative impact on Dean’s artistic practice, strengthening her resolve to advocate on behalf of her community. Witnessing first-hand the devastating effects of youth incarceration and prophetic adult warnings that youth will not survive their 18th birthdays, Dean, who is a dub poet, showcases the potential of youth in the Jane and Finch community.

In Lost and Found: (Finding) Hidden Beauty in the ‘Hood, the M.A.D. Poet brings attention to artists-activists who are representing the untold stories of strength and empowerment that form the foundations of their respective Toronto and international communities. Their art deconstructs the one-dimensional portrayal of the inner city as “just a place of violence”, showing the viewer the other side of the story, the underrepresented aspects of the ‘hood.

Lost and Found: (Finding) Hidden Beauty in the ‘Hood is sponsored by the student group Jane and Finch at York. The official launch party will be held March 2, from 6 to 9pm. Admission is free and all are welcome.