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Drive By: A Road Trip with Jeff Thomas

Metal statue of kneeling man, and woman in the distance looking at far away statue

Drive By: A Road Trip with Jeff Thomas

May 1–June 28, 2008

Curated by Anna Hudson and Jeff Thomas

University of Toronto Art Centre

Jeff Thomas’s photographs explore the symbolic juxtapositions of past and present, historical imagery and contemporary reality, in the relationship of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in North America. Drive-by is a road trip of inter-cultural exploration with Thomas at the wheel.

Drive By: A Road Trip with Jeff Thomas and Jeff Thomas: Don’t Mess with the Pediment to be held at the University of Toronto Art Centre and the Stephen Bulger Gallery respectively are feature exhibitions of the 2008 CONTACT Photography Festival.

Drive By, comprised of approximately 80 photographs and 2 video works, is curated by Anna Hudson in conjunction with Jeff Thomas. Hudson stages the artist’s public images of “Indian-ness” to invite debate about how cultural identities are made and can be remade in the urban context. She describes all of Thomas’ work as tied to his experience as an Onondaga man living in the city and between cultures.

Tricks of scale and illusions of time, where history collapses into the present, are central to Thomas’ more recent work in which he frames an Aboriginal perspective within the side-view mirror. Thomas uses the car to circumscribe questions of place, time, history, and identity. What he finds reflected in the mirror and photographed out of the car window is a drive-by shooting. This scenario echoes back the violence that pervaded the history of colonial settlement, but Thomas’s images are all about recovery.

Thomas describes his current fascination for scenes in which there is no obvious Aboriginal presence as the “freest” he has produced. He continues to carry the burden of bridging the Reserve and the city, but feels relieved of the explication of his task, resting instead on the power of the photographic medium.

The Toronto Transit Commission’s Wellesley subway station will be the site of a public installation of Thomas’ photographs from May 5 to June 2 during the CONTACT Festival. “As a transportation hub,” states Hudson, “the subway station is a perfect example of how urban spaces simultaneously belong to everyone and to no-one.” “Here is a place where any cultural division –‘us’ versus ‘them’ – is blurred. When Jeff Thomas isolates the central figure of his son or a toy/souvenir image of the Brave against the backdrop of the city, he describes the experience Torontonians share, as individuals, of a collective urban life. How do I fit as one of many? Telling that story is an intimate practice of communication”.

Concurrent Exhibition

Jeff Thomas: Don’t Mess with the Pediment
Stephen Bulger Gallery, Saturday, May 3-Saturday, June 7, 2008

Opening Reception

Thursday May 1, 2008, 6-8pm
University of Toronto Art Centre

Panel Talk

Whose History?
Wednesday June 11, 2008, 7-9pm
Featuring Susan Dion, Richard Hill, Shelly Niro, and Jeff Thomas
Moderated by Anna Hudson
University of Toronto Art Centre


Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the project support of The Abraham and Malka Green Foundation, Manulife Financial, and Jason and Susan Martin for their contributions to The Wellesley Subway Station Project.

Title Image: Jeff Thomas, Former Bank of Montreal, London, Ontario, 2002. c-print photograph. 50.8 x 40.5 cm. Acquired with funds from Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation and Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Committee.

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