Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Words and Pictures: Recent Acquisitions in Context

A woman riding a horse in a garden

Works by:

Micah Lexier, Ian Carr-Harris, Greg Curnoe, Joyce Wieland, Douglas Walker, Lynne Cohen, Scott McFarland, General Idea, Nathalie Melikian, Janieta Eyre

Words and Pictures: Recent Acquisitions in Context

August 10–September 2, 2007

Curated by Aileen Burns and Barbara Fischer

Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

How do words relate to pictures, and how much of looking at pictures involves words? How many words does it take to describe a picture, or how many pictures does it take to elucidate a word? In the 1960s, artists sought to usurp the place of the critic and, at the same time, put into question the idea that art was a purely optical experience beyond the realm of language or linguistic apperception. Words became the material for visual art, to the point of artists abandoning visual representations altogether, or rather, making the written word itself into a carrier of visual meaning. At the same time, any form of visual representation came under scrutiny as a construction. The visual was seen as fully informed by language and concepts, instead of a matter of pure optics. Propelled by the revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s—feminism and gay liberation, anti-war protests and civil rights movements—artists put into question the “truth” or representational value of words and images, while drawing on their power to create new meanings and alternative ways of looking.

Signaling a new direction and to capture some of this important history, over the past few months the Hart House Art Committee has acquired works by artists who have contributed in important ways to the critical engagement with the power of language and pictures, including Toronto-based Ian Carr-Harris and Montreal artist Lynne Cohen, as well as a group of younger artists such as Doug Walker, Micah Lexier, Nathalie Melikian, and Scott McFarland. These new acquisitions span the developments of several generations of artists who worked at the same time, or directly built on the achievements of such internationally renowned Canadian artists as Joyce Wieland, Greg Curnoe, and General Idea, whose work had entered the collection intermittently over the last forty years.

Opening Reception

Friday August 10, 2007, 1pm
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the project support from Canada Council for the Art, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council.

Title Image: Scott McFarland, Reverse Horse. Digital C-print. 102 x 127 cm. Purchased by the Hart House Art Committee, 2006.

  • logo_canada_council_arts
  • logo_ontario_arts_council
  • 2007_tac_logo

Upcoming Exhibitions