AGYU exhibition celebrates York prof’s prolific career

students walking in hallway

This month, the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) launches its new exhibition, Tim Whiten: Elemental Fire, celebrating the prolific career of the York University professor emeritus.

The exhibition, on display from Sept. 15 to Dec. 3, brings together more than 14 cultural objects from the past four decades of Whiten’s distinguished career, including works in glass and on paper, and a new installation created specifically for this exhibition.

Guest curated by Liz Ikiriko, former AGYU curator and the inaugural curator of collections and art in public space at the University of Toronto’s Art Museum, Elemental Fire considers how the material transformations of fire appear in Whiten’s work as forms of alchemy, risk, play and energetic power. Often alluding to notions of time and faith through histories of storytelling and spirituality, Whiten’s work asks observers to consider primary questions of their bodies, their presence and their value in the current moment.

Tim Whiten wide portrait courtesy of Mehraban Mehrabani
Tim Whiten, photo courtesy of Mehraban Mehrabani

Elemental Fire is part of a multi-venue retrospective, running from 2022 to the end of 2023, celebrating Whiten’s extensive career, developed as a partnership between the Art Gallery of York University, the Art Gallery of Peterborough, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery and the McMaster Museum of Art. This series of exhibitions shares the nomenclature “elemental” and is thematically united by the classical elements of air, water, earth and fire – a reference to Whiten’s interest in alchemical practices.

The Elemental Fire opening reception takes place on Sept. 14, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the AGYU. The exhibition’s other events include the following:

  • Curatorial walk-through with Liz Ikiriko: Saturday, Sept. 16, 3 to 5 p.m., AGYU.
  • Curatorial panel with Pamela Edmonds, Liz Ikiriko, Chiezda Pasipanodya, Fynn Leitch and Leila Timmins: Wednesday, Oct. 18, 3 to 4:30 p.m., online.
  • Respondent talk and spatial audio experience with Nehal El-Hadi and Zoma Tochi Maduekwe, with Liz Ikirko: Thrusday, Nov. 14, 7 to 9 p.m., offsite at Arraymusic (155 Walnut Ave., Toronto).
  • Elemental reading group with Farhia Tato: Oct. 24 to Nov. 28, 7 to 8 p.m., online.

Whiten was born in Inkster, Mich., in 1941. Self-described as an image maker and creator of cultural objects, his practice spans five decades. After receiving his master of fine arts from the University of Oregon in 1966 and serving military duty from 1966 to 1968, he immigrated to Toronto and began his teaching career in the Division of Humanities in York University’s Faculty of Arts.

For 39 years, Whiten inspired thousands of students in their creative pursuits. As an award-winning educator and Chair of York’s Department of Visual Arts, he has contributed to generations of the Toronto arts ecology. His work has been exhibited across North America, from MOCA, Toronto, to ICA, Boston, and the Colorado University Art Museum, with his work in public collections at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Art Gallery of York University and the de Young Museum in San Francisco, among others.

Of his many accolades and awards, he is the recent recipient of the 2022 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the 2023 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for Artistic Achievement.

For more information about the exhibition, visit Tim Whiten: Elemental Fire | Art Gallery of York University (