Tag Archives: Patti Smith: ‘Camera Solo’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario (February 9

Patti Smith: ‘Camera Solo’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario (February 9, 2013 – May 19, 2013)

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It’s exciting to see that the AGO is trying its best to encourage a younger crowd into its space while also ensuring their more dedicated members are just as welcome.  With the success of 1st Thursday’s (an event night featuring art, artists, live music, food, drinks and you on the first Thursday of each month) – the AGO certainly has their finger on the pulse of hipsterdom while generating a buzz towards a new generation of gallery goers. 

Enter Patti Smith.  The 66 year old Queen of poetry, spoken word, punk rock, antiestablishment by way of Chicago.  A perfect match of the vintage vs. au courant.

This winter the AGO offers a glimpse into the world of legendary musician and artist Patti Smith through an intimate exhibition featuring photographs, personal objects, and a short film. Patti Smith: Camera Solo provides a rare opportunity to experience a different side of this rock icon – best known for her profound influence on the nascent punk rock scene in the late 1970s and 80s – through her poetic expression in the visual arts.

A first for a gallery in Canada, this exhibition highlights the continual connections between Smith’s photography and her interest in poetry and literature.  The ghost of Walt Whitman, Frida Kahlo and Robert Mapplethorpe’s haunt this exhibit.  For more than four decades, she has documented sights and spaces infused with personal significance.   One cannot help but get lost in the beauty of each image and marvel how at times bleak images are married together in its solitude. 

The 75 works, a number of its 70 photographs from local collectors include of vintage Polaroid camera, presented as gelatin silver prints, alongside personal objects.  They are dreamy, hypnotic and chock full of emotion.  At times I felt like I was wafting through a My Bloody Valentine vs. Mazzy Star musical loop.  The images are stopped in time in places such as Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris in 2008, Europe and the United States.

The AGO is also speaking ‘the kids’ language by popping up a toll-free telephone in front of every installation that you can dial to hear a brief synopsis of each piece.  This plays into a nice juxtaposition to Smith’s use of a vintage Polaroid Land 250 and Gelatin Silver Print processing tools used to fashion her art. 

The exhibition also features Equation Daumal, a film directed by Patti Smith and shot by Jem Cohen on 16mm and super 8 film.  You can watch the film in church pews that were assembled to give a place of worship or pay respect as one would during a funeral.

A quote in Patti’s word on an installation wall read “I get pleasure out of having their things and sometimes photographing them. I’ve been like this since I was young. It’s part of who I am.”  For Patti it’s about paying these pieces gratitude and bringing significance to her daily life.  For you and I – perhaps the same motif.  Do we not dwell on the same album covers, books, jewellery pieces or even mementos from past loves and family for moments of pleasure and joy? 

Smith and her band are to perform two shows, called An Evening of Words and Song with Patti Smith, in the AGO’s Walker Court on March 7, 2013  as part of the March lineup for the AGO’s 1st Thursdays.  Which as you can imagine sold out immediately.  Looking at the Facebook and Twitter fury of the unavailability of tickets selling out in a matter of minutes, the AGO’s website allegedly being ill-equipped to handle the pandemonium of interest – the feedback was intense and was not only voiced by ‘Just Kids’.  Since it is now too late to catch  her performances at the AGO – this exhibit is a perfect way to enjoy a winter day inside with Patti.

This exhibition was organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut.