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AGO to present career-spanning survey of influential photo-based artist Suzy Lake

Exhibition includes more than 50 compelling works by one of Toronto’s leading contemporary artists; marks debut of two new series

TORONTO — A provocateur behind and in front of the lens, internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lake has been examining and critiquing ideals of the body, gender and identity since the late 1960s. In her photographs, videos and performances, Lake draws attention to social norms and constraints and aims to diminish the barrier between the viewer and the artwork. Despite Lake’s significant international success, her work has yet to receive a career-survey exhibition — until now. Introducing Suzy Lake opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Nov. 5, 2014. Filling the entire fourth floor of the AGO’s contemporary tower, the exhibition runs to March 22, 2015.

Born in Detroit in 1947, Lake studied at Wayne State University before immigrating to Canada in 1968. The exhibition follows the artist in images from age six to 66, as her political ideals are forged in Detroit’s civil rights movement in the late 1960s; as she realizes her first successes in Montreal’s artist-led cultural boom of the 1970s, the post–Expo 67, post-Duplessis era; and her years in Toronto since 1978, as she finds her home and hones her artistic vision. Every work in the exhibition features Lake as the sole model, as she dismantles and reworks the way photographs build identity, reflect experience and address the viewer.

Co-curated by Georgiana Uhlyarik, associate curator of Canadian art and Sophie Hackett, associate curator of photography, the exhibition includes several works from the AGO’s collection as well as numerous loans. Lenders include the National Gallery of Canada and the Canada Council Art Bank in Ottawa, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, among others, as well as from private collections and the artist herself. To mark the occasion, the AGO has purchased two important works from Lake’s Extended Breathing series (2008–2014), with funds generously donated by Donna G. Billes and Diana Billes. The exhibition marks the public debut of one of these works as well as the premiere of two works from a brand new series, Performing Haute Couture (2014), created specifically for this exhibition.

Introducing Suzy Lake also includes a recreation of one of Lake’s most significant works, Are You Talking to Me? (1979), an installation of more than 80 photographs made shortly after Lake’s arrival in Toronto. With the intention of creating intimacy between subject and viewer in an artwork, Lake references Robert De Niro’s famous scene in the 1976 film Taxi Driver by performing her own confrontational self-confession. This work has not been seen in its entirety since the early 1980s.

“We are the daughters of Suzy Lake’s generation,” said Uhlyarik. “Throughout her career, Lake has asserted her independence and singular vision rooted in the strength of her convictions. Her courage, sense of humour and impressive technical skill make her works compelling, inspiring and immediate. At the core of Lake’s approach are serious contemporary questions about self-empowerment, self-awareness and self-examination. These ideas are as relevant today—in this age of digital self-expresssion—as they were when Lake began her practice.”

“The evolution of Suzy Lake’s practice is at the heart of this exhibition,” said Hackett. “She steps in front of the camera in the 1970s, adopting various guises and staging situations, to defy the social values and visual culture of her upbringing. These confrontations become more contemplative over time, as she challenges her aging body in her recent series. Lake’s bold, honest explorations of our shared history through photography have created a rich legacy. We invite AGO visitors to experience the work of this trailblazing feminist artist who has inspired so many over the decades of her career.”

A companion catalogue, published by Black Dog Publishing (U.K.), will feature texts by artists, curators and scholars, including Allyson Mitchell, Robert Longo, Elizabeth Smith, Michelle Jacques and Sara Angel, with a foreword by Tavi Gevinson, founder and editor-in-chief of Rookie magazine. Also entitled Introducing Suzy Lake, the catalogue will be available for purchase at shopAGO in November. 

Lake will deliver a public lecture on Nov. 12, 2014, at 5:30 p.m. in the AGO’s Jackman Hall. The lecture will be followed by a free public opening in Walker Court. 

Introducing Suzy Lake is included with the price of general admission and is free to AGO members. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at

This exhibition is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Generously supported by:
Cecily & Robert Bradshaw
The Delaney Family Foundation
Ira Gluskin and Maxine Granovsky Gluskin Charitable Foundation
Rosamond Ivey
Penny Rubinoff

Publication supported by:
Sorel Etrog Publication Fund
with assistance from Leslie Gales

The AGO acknowledges the generous support of Aimia, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program.
Contemporary programming at the AGO is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

With a collection of more than 80,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002 Kenneth Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program offering great value, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit to find out more about upcoming special exhibitions, to learn about eating and shopping at the AGO and to register for programs and to buy tickets or memberships.

Aug. 23, 2014 – January 4, 2015: Alex Colville

Oct. 18, 2014 – Jan. 11, 2015: Michelangelo: Quest for Genius

Feb. 7 – May 10, 2015: Basquiat

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.


For press inquiries, please contact:

Andrea-Jo Wilson; News Officer, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 403,

Caitlin Coull; Manager, AGO Communications
416-979-6660, ext. 364,

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