Art Gallery of York University wins numerous OAAG accolades

From the Munro exhibit a man in only red underwear looking at art

The Art Gallery of York University’s (AGYU) 2011 exhibition celebrating the work of an iconic Toronto artist, Will Munro: History, Magic and Glamour, was awarded the top prize “Exhibition of the Year”, by the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG).

Thirty-two Canadian galleries were nominated, of which 16 Ontario galleries received awards. The AGYU was cited in four of OAAG’s top awards. The awards were presented at a gala celebration on Sept. 21 at Hart House at the University of Toronto.

Will Munro: History, Magic and Glamour was a posthumous exhibition showcasing the work of an iconic Toronto artist and curated by the AGYU’s Philip Monk and Emelie Chhangur. The 2011 exhibition concentrated on the multi-media work Munro produced after graduating from the Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCADU) in 2000, from his first exhibition Boys Do First Aid (2000) to his last, Inside the Solar Temple of the Cosmic Leather Daddy (2010).

room full of art From the exhibit Will MunroFrom the exhibit Will Munro: History, Magic, Glamour, installation view, AGYU. Photograph by Cheryl O’Brien, courtesy Art Gallery of York University

It also captured his various signature underwear work (his handcrafted underwear made from heavy metal concert T-shirts); the banners of legendary queer performers such as Klaus Nomi and Leigh Bowery; his stitching collaborations with West Side Stitches Couture Club, Jeremy Laing, and others; his experimental films; the multitude of hand-made silkscreen posters that accompanied his DJ and music promotions at his nightclub venues Vazaleen, Peroxide, No T.O., and Moustache. The dynamic exhibition was punctuated by a collection of never before seen ephemera and archival material that stitches together the many vibrant activities of this non-stop artist.

The artist’s parents were in attendance for the presentation of the award. “We loved Will. This exhibition was a labour of love and it was a display of love. We think Will would have loved winning this award, ” said Monk in his brief acceptance speech.

Phillip Monk and Emelie Chhangur at the 2012 OAAG AwardsPhillip Monk and Emelie Chhangur at the 2012 OAAG Awards. Photo by Roberta Baker

The jury’s comments were simple: “This memorial exhibition at the Art Gallery of York University was a celebration of Will Munro’s work and his impact on the arts community. It honoured the artist, his work, and his creative peers in an engaging and collaborative way.”

The OAAG Public Programs Award was awarded to Chhangur for her role as curator of The Awakening, a large-scale participatory performance collaboration between Panamanian artist Humberto Veléz and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and Toronto’s Urban Runners (parkours) from the Monkey Vault Gym presented in Walker Court at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Velez’s work explored the ethics around collaboration and the art institution’s willingness to open itself up to new aesthetic traditions as well as to non-artists. Through an extended period of development and a final performance, his projects proposed different concepts of culture, power, and ethics that counter those found in mainstream art institutions. In 2011, the artist and the AGYU supported the collaboration of a multi-generational mash-up of artists, Toronto athletes from the Monkey Vault Gym and elders, dancers and band members of the New Credit First Nation, as well as youth council members from New Credit and the Art Gallery of Ontario. The performance was the result of a Humberto Velez, The Awakening, students cultural dancingthree-year process with AGYU supported residencies with Velez in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Humberto Velez, The Awakening, 2011. Photo: Len Grant

The jury praised the collaboration in its comments: “This project lives up to the very best that Public Programs can offer. Make it big, make it long-lasting, make it meaningful! The Awakening brings together a diverse array of players/participants and partners. This project created a sustained space for audiences and participants to get acquainted over a long period of time.

Ken Ogawa's poster for the AGYU exhibit“We are all really honoured that The Awakening, which, over a three-year long process, brought together young urban athletes in collaboration with the original inhabitants of this land (Toronto), the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, has been acknowledged with the public program award this year,” said Chhangur. “It signals the importance of collaboration, of working across time and space, of the coming together of tradition and new trajectories, and of course the power of contemporary art in the shaping of our collective consciousness of Canadians.”

Ken Ogawa’s poster for the AGYU exhibit The Awakening

The AGYU received a Design Award for The Awakening Poster and newsletter by designer Ken Ogawa. “This piece successfully draws from the concepts of Humberto Veléz’s artistic practice to convey a large amount of information about the gallery’s public programs in an accessible and holistic format,” wrote the jury in their comments about the poster and newsletter.

Lisa Kiss Design received an OAAG Design Award for the art book Diane Borsato, authored by Borsato and published by the Art Gallery of York University in 2012. The jury in its comments cited the book for its “true and comprehensive insight into the artist’s practice through photography and the artist’s own words.” They described the book as a “beautifully made and solid book” and praised the quality of materials used in the book and its thoughtful design.

Diane Borsato posterKiss thanked the creative team at the AGYU “for being so dedicated to publishing beautiful books on contemporary art”.

The OAAG Awards recognize artistic merit and excellence in nine major categories: Exhibition, Curatorial and Art Writing, Public Program, Education, Art Publication, Design, Partnership, Colleague and Volunteer. The program is one of the most comprehensive and best known among Ontario’s art awards.

This year’s jurors included visual art professionals Alexandra Badzak (The Ottawa Art Gallery), Marlee Choo
(Harbourfront Centre), Patricia Deadman (Woodstock Art Gallery), curator Andrea Fatona (Toronto), Nancy Gareh-Coulombe (Art Gallery of Sudbury), Srimoyee Mitra (Art Gallery of Windsor), Valentine Moreno (Koffler Centre), and Olexander Wlasenko (Station Gallery).