Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d'histoire de l'art canadien

Archive of past issues

Vol. XXXI:2 (2010)

Editorial

Martha Langford

Professor James Elkins, E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, came to Canada last fall to give the keynote address at the University Art Association of Canada conference, hosted in 2010 by the University of Guelph. His lecture was smart, polished, ‘on message’ as media pundits like to say, but it left me very puzzled. Elkins drew a grim portrait of Art History in the academy, as a discipline drowning in a wave of Visual Culture. He argued that Art History’s narrowness, inflexibility, orthodoxies, and inability to fight for or even recognise the threat to its survival, virtually guaranteed its early demise. The difficulty for me was that Elkins’s description matched no Department of Art History that I could think of – most damningly, given where Elkins was lecturing, it spoke not at all to the way we think, teach, and produce Canadian Art History. Since its inception, some thirty-five years ago, the Journal of Canadian Art History has represented our field’s ways and means. Yes, the two-screen compare and contrast pedagogical method continues to be employed in some classrooms, but Canadian art historians and theorists have also had both eyes open to new approaches that pertain to our field and the role of these developments in the broader culture. Add to that the diversity of topics broached in our community of scholarship, and the tide grimly forecast by Elkins seems already to have turned.

Essays

Words and Pictures

Writing Atrocity into Canada's First World War Official Photographs

Laura Brandon

The Canadian War Museum (CWM) possesses a little-known photography collection of some 80,000 catalogued images. About 40 percent of this collection relates to the First World War (1914–18). With the exception of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) albums, which contain some 6,800 official prints, and a considerable number of black and white professional portraits, the bulk of the images are the work of regular soldiers, nurses, and other military personnel. In recent years the collection has increasingly become a source of illustrations for books, films, documentaries and, more recently, web and internet projects. Deserving of thoughtful interpretation, it has not to date been the subject of any extensive academic exploration.

Articles

Iain Baxter&

The Artist as Drop-in

Adam Lauder

Information, an exhibition organized by the Museum of Modern Art (moma) in 1970, is central to an emerging literature that situates Conceptual art as labour. Though not the first exhibition of Conceptualism in North America, Information has always been recognized as having had greater impact than contemporary shows, according to Ken Allan, due to its unprecedented international scope and geopolitical focus, its singular catalogue, and, above all, its innovative curatorial strategy. As curator of Information, Kynaston McShine (1935– ) adopted the strategy–unusual for a group show at MOMA–of soliciting proposals from artists for site-specific works. Challenging the connoisseurial convention of selection, several works by invited artists were accepted sight unseen (Hans Haacke's notorious MOMA Poll being the most conspicuous example).

Introduction à l'archimur

Réflexions sur la voix et le commissaire (autour de l'exposition As Much as Possible Given the Time and Space Allotted)

Eduardo Ralickas

Dans Détruire la peinture, Louis Marin évoquait les thèses d'Émile Benveniste sur la distinction entre histoire et discours, dans les termes suivants :

L'histoire est donc caractérisée par un mode spécifique d'énonciation consistant à effacer, à exclure les marques de l'énonciation dans l'énoncé : dans l'histoire, l'énonciation ne s'énonce pas. Le récit est un discours à narrateur absent. Les événements de l'histoire semblent se raconter eux-mêmes dans le récit sans renvoyer à l'acte producteur du récit.

translated summary:

Introduction to the archimur

Reflections on the Curatorial Voice (with reference to the exhibition As Much as Possible Given the Time and Space Allotted)

This essay addresses the practice of exhibition curating from a narratological point of view. Based on the research of Émile Benveniste and Louis Marin on the enunciatory parameters of linguistic and iconic narrative structures, Eduardo Ralickas contends that, in the narratological sense of the term, an exhibition curator's voice is subject to a process of spatialization that ultimately affords it a material presence within the shape of the exhibition it authors. This paper thus aims to determine which of the elements that constitute the act of exhibiting carry an enunciatory charge. It thereby seeks to make a contribution to the emerging field of the narratology of exhibitions and to shed new light on the nature of curating.

Homer Watson's The Pioneer Mill

The Making and Marketing of a Print in the Canadian Etching Revival

Rosemarie L. Tovell

In 1890, while living in England, Homer Watson (1855–1936) made an etching after his most famous painting The Pioneer Mill, which, as part of Queen Victoria's collection, hung in Windsor Castle. Watson undertook the whole process of making the print, from drawing a copy of the painting, to etching and printing the plate in a limited edition on a hand operated press. In terms of printmaking at that date, it was a hybrid, part reproduction, part artist's print – a not uncommon aspect of printmaking which Sylvester Koehler, the influential American writer and curator of prints, termed "replicas."

Reviews

Painters Eleven: The Wild Ones of Canadian Art

Iris Nowell

Graham Broad

This is the first book devoted to Painters Eleven, a collective of abstractionists who worked out of Toronto and region from 1954 until the group's dissolution in 1960. Art by members of the group remains a staple of many commercial galleries in central Canada and is often found on display in public buildings in Ontario. At least three members of the group, William Ronald, Harold Town, and Jack Bush earned some measure of international acclaim and Clement Greenberg once described Bush as among the best painters North America produced in the twentieth century. However, published studies of Painters Eleven have been limited to exhibition catalogues, book chapters, and Ronald Belton's Theatre of the Self, a short but good biography of the group's mercurial founder, William Ronald. By itself, then, the fact that this is the first work of its kind makes it a welcome addition to Painters Eleven literature.