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Broken Steps and Haunted Screens

Collage of images of TV screens

Broken Steps and Haunted Screens

April 28–May 30, 2015

With a project by Penelope Umbrico

Curated by David Winter

This exhibition is organized in partnership with Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

University of Toronto Art Centre

Presented in two separate but interrelated parts, this exhibition explores the widths and depths of vernacular photography. Since the beginnings of photography, the camera has been used in service of a wide range of scientific pursuits, including medicine, physics, forensics, criminology, and botany. It has brought the news of the world and the glint of ice in a glass of whiskey. It has mapped every crater on the moon and spotted the Loch Ness Monster. None of this was done with the intentions of fine art, but contemporary artists have been deeply influenced by the tropes of vernacular photography.

The first part of the exhibition offers a look at the astonishing panoply of this photographic genre. Drawn from flea markets, personal albums, and private collections, the exhibition presents several coherent groupings of pictures, such as mugshots, insurance evidence, amateur self-portraits, psychic research, UFO sightings, and many others.

The second part presents a series of recent works by Toronto-native, New York-based artist Penelope Umbrico, who uses photographic imagery downloaded from the internet. Intimately involved with current vernacular photography, Umbrico employs traditional photographic techniques and methods of appropriation, extraction, multiple production, and intervention to explore how people, as a culture, make and use images.

Together, the two parts of this exhibition present a certain arc across the history of vernacular photography. When culled from the proliferating archives—at the curatorial hand of the artist or the artistic hand of the curator—the compulsion toward photographic evidence that underpins this history comes up haunted by the vicissitudes of time, belief, prejudice, and ultimately, the betrayal of control and intention.

Curator’s Tour with David Winter

Wednesday, April 29, 6pm
University of Toronto Art Centre

Opening Reception:

Wednesday, April 29, 6:30–8:30pm
University of Toronto Art Centre

Artist Talk

Thursday, April 30, 5–6:30pm
Featuring Penelope Umbrico
University of Toronto Art Centre

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, with additional project support from Manulife Financial.

Title Image: Vintage photograph from the archive of Tony Oursler.

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