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The Bigger Picture

Contemporary Photography Reconsidered

November 30, 2000 to February 18, 2001

The Bigger Picture

Jeff Wall
Canadian b.1946

The Goat 1989
cibachrome transparency, fluorescent light and display case
229.0 x 309.0 cm
Purchase, 1989
© 2000 Jeff Wall

The status of photography as art has been contested since the invention of the medium in 1839. In today''s image-saturated culture, distinctions between the art of photography and photo-based works by artists are both fiercely guarded and increasingly irrelevant. The Bigger Picture explores the breadth of photographic practices exemplified in works by Canadian and international artists from the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario and several private collections in Toronto.

If photography was once held to the standards of painting, arguably art today has been redefined through innovations in photography. In the 1960s artists began to use photography to document fugitive art forms such as performance and site-specific projects. Independent pieces often emerged from the conceptual processes facilitated by the camera. By the 1980s the artistic appropriation of found images from the mass media had become one of the hallmarks of artistic practices known as post-modernist. During this period Canada''s Jeff Wall was first recognized internationally for his large back-lit photographic works that refer to the history of representational practices, particularly painting. The American artist Cindy Sherman''s photographic compositions in which she plays various stereotypical female roles that make reference to film and advertising have also become icons of our times.

In the 1990s a proliferation of large-scale photographic works and related video projections has dominated major international exhibitions. Indeed, photography is the medium shared by some of today''s most celebrated artists. Among these, the work of Gillian Wearing (Britain), Willie Doherty (N. Ireland), Stan Douglas (Canada), Geneviève Cadieux (Canada), Sharon Lockhart (USA) and the Germans Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky and Thomas Ruff is testimony to photography''s broad potential. As the title The Bigger Picture implies, this exhibition invites a reconsideration of the meanings that reside in this expanded field of photography while describing the recent tendency toward large-scale images. Toronto and the AGO are fortunate to have collectors and collections that allow us to present an international range of current work that confirms the significance of photography within artistic practice today.

Yasumasa Morimura
Portrait (9 faces), 1989
chromogenic print
196.7 x 250.9 cm
©2000 AGO collection, gift of Vivian and David Campbell, 1998

Genevieve Cadieux
Blues, 1992
chromogenic print
160.1 x 231.2 cm
©2000 AGO collection, gift of Alison and Alan Schwartz, 1997

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