A good art curator can expose the hidden meaning behind even the most complicated photo, painting or sculpture. He or she is able to ascertain the unseen significance of a piece of art in ways an average observer would miss completely.
That was the focus of Thursday’s Noon Time Collection Talk at Ryerson University. The talk, which was held in the Peter Higdon Research Centre, discussed the importance of art curation.
Curation is the act of revealing of the essence of a collection, artist’s work or scene. Doina Popescu, founding director of the Ryerson Image Centre, said it’s the process of turning someone’s art into a new reality.
“You put together a concept from a body of work that has an effect on a visitor,” said Popescu.
“Things begin to change once the pieces of work come together. It is a change that can be extremely subtle, without the viewer noticing, but can make a big difference in terms of visual effect.”
The Archival Dialogues, an exhibition that showcases readings of the famous Black Star Collection, was used as a case study for the talk. The collection showcases more than 292,000 photos of 20th century photojournalism, including events such as the First and Second World Wars, the Vietnam War and images of famous figures such as Marilyn Monroe and Fidel Castro.
Eight Canadian artists were asked to make work inspired by the Black Star Collection, and the Archival Dialogues is the response to that.
“These are vibrant and exciting collections. Not just boxes and boxes of photos,” said Popescu. “The Black Star was a black hole.”
Steven Andrews, one of the artists who responded to the Black Star Collection, decided to look at the relationship between still and moving images. By doing so, Popescu said he was drawn most to the Kennedy Assassination.
As he went through the boxes he pulled 11 portraits of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assassinated then-U.S. president John F. Kennedy some 50 years ago.
After compiling images and visual content, he created what Popescu has described as a “film sequence” and ultimately, a completely different take on the collection.
Vera Frenkel, an artist and recipient of the Governor General’s Awards in visual and media arts, was the special guest at the Noon Time Collection Talk. She emphasized the importance of what she says is the underappreciated art of curation.
“The curation of photos helps shape the way we see the world; it’s essential,” Frenkel said.
She also discussed the process of having art curated and how intimate it can be.
“There’s always a moment of uncertainty when you give someone permission to shape your work.” Frenkel said, adding that the process requires profound trust.
“We get this lifetime bond because the curator has taught me something about my work and I will always be grateful.
The Noon Time Collection Talks are free, open to the public and provide an intimate setting to talk about art collections.
“This kind of accessible and critical analysis to themes can benefit students from all faculties,” said Popescu.
There will be two more Noon Time Collection Talks before the semester ends with different speakers and discussion topics, which can be found on its website.