FEBRUARY 8 TO APRIL 6 It seems that to call a work of art “Baroque” in the Baroque era was actually to give it a negative label. This was the case, at least, during the fledgling years of the period that spanned much of the 17th and 18th centuries: early works were derided as being overly fanciful and inappropriately indulgent—particularly in the opinion of those critics beholden to the “sacred norms” of classicism.
Viewers today could conceivably have the same reaction, in thrall as many of us are to the modern minimalist aesthetic. But there are artworks that are needlessly ornamented and unsubtle in their intent, and then there are works that use maximalism to their advantage, their visual largesse encompassing an array of influences and themes, and encouraging a multiplicity of interpretations.
The latter are brought to the fore in Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque, a special presentation by the National Gallery of Canada in collaboration with Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. Featuring six large-scale pieces by the likes of Yinka Shonibare, Bharti Kher and David Altmejd (whose contribution alone takes up about a third of MOCCA’s 6,000 square feet), the exhibition showcases contemporary interpretations of the Baroque period—commenting on its preoccupation with material excess and complexity in art, while simultaneously referencing its socio-political landscape to highlight historical and present-day concerns. Click on the gallery below for a peak at some of the exhibition’s ambitious works. —Craig Moy