Black Ice at the AGO

Cape Bonavista, Bonavista Peninsula, Eastern N...

Image via Wikipedia

David Blackwood is one of Canada’s most popular artists and a leading printmaker and best of all he is STILL ALIVE!! He was on-site at the opening of this exhibit at the beginning of February in order to promote this exhibit and sign books, however his show remains at the
AGO until June 12, 2011.
Featuring Black’s iconic visual narratives depicting the struggle for survival between humans and nature in one of the most exposed and hostile environments on the planet, the AGO really manages to bring his stories to life by contextualizing the prints through the medium of historically significant displays, consisting of the prints themselves (sequenced in a way that made sense to me anyway) and supported by artifacts; letters and notes from the author to and from mentors; show and tell side displays and  a  highly informative background film featuring Blackwood himself. The exhibition also draws heavily on childhood memories/dreams/superstitions/legends, the oral tradition (ie. The traditions of “visiting” and Mummering ) and the political realities of the Wesleyville community in Bonavista Bay where Blackwood grew up.
I can’t express it any better than the words of one of the promotional spurges on the AGO website ……..
“He depicts a town and a centuries-old way of life that has disappeared. His dramas encapsulate class, gender and intergenerational issues that can only be understood in the context of the formation of the landscape, its natural resources, immigration and settlement, religious and political debate, economic and social conditions, and the environmental threat to the survival of traditional lifestyles”
My favorite Blackwood print in the exhibition is – surprise, surprise………Fire Down on the Labrador – 1980 (aquatint on wove paper). The great thing about this evocative piece is that there is a little side exhibit depicting each layer of the process used to produce this print. It’s no “walk in the park” that’s for sure. The unique print process Blackwood uses is laborious and time-consuming.
The atmosphere exuding from the collection of largely black and white prints is astonishing; the hardships, toil and emotional events leap out of the prints and into the soul. Blackwood’s work is rooted in both myth and realism and that’s what makes it so haunting.
My only criticism is that there wasn’t enough explanation besides each print so before you even start moving around the Blackwood gallery, watch the film first which gives an insight into the  artist – his background and the thought process behind the production of this body of work – and equips you with historic perspective. Also the Museum usually has one or two “gallery” copies of Blackwood’s book lying about the exhibit so grab one of these when viewing the prints as they will give you a better understanding of the depth of the artists message in each piece.
AGO rocks – another brilliant exhibit….
newfoundland christmas mummers

Image by giveawayboy via Flickr


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s