National Gallery of Canada and Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography commemorate A Day Without Art
Ottawa, Canada - November 30, 2000
« Le Musée des beaux-arts du Canada et le Musée canadien de la photographie contemporaine commémorent Un jour sans art »
We need to remember that the diseased, the disabled, and yes, even the dead walk among us. They are part of our community, our history, our continuity. - AA Bronson
A Day Without Art is an international day of action and mourning in response to the AIDS crisis. Every year on 1 December, World AIDS Day, art institutions around the world commemorate visual artists who live with or have died of AIDS. This year, the National Gallery of Canada pays tribute to the work of the contemporary artist group General Idea with AA Bronson's Felix, June 5, 1994. The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography commemorates A Day Without Art with two photographs: David Rasmus's Untitled (Tim), 1988 and Robert Flack's Untitled, 1992 from the series Love Mind.
General Idea, founded in Toronto in 1968, plays an important role in the Canadian and international art world. In the spirit of the collective, each of the three artists adopted a pseudonym and forged a new identity. Their work comments on mass media, advertising and popular culture. Two of the members, Felix Partz (Ronald Gabe) and Jorge Zontal (Slobodan Saia-Levy), died of AIDS-related illnesses in 1994. Surviving member AA Bronson (Michael Tims) courageously continues despite his great loss. The National Gallery of Canada owns a number of major works by General Idea including Evidence of Body Binding (1971), Reconstructing Futures (1977) and One Year of AZT (1991). As well, General Idea's self-portrait photographs "P" is for Poodle (1983), Night School (1989), Playing Doctor (1991) and Fin de Siècle (1992) are in the CMCP collection.
Felix, June 5, 1994 is a photograph of Felix Partz, a few hours after his death. This powerful portrait is the size of a billboard and symbolizes the passing of General Idea as an entity. Documented by AA Bronson, this scene recalls the art historical tradition of the memento mori (remember that you must die) where a portrait of death serves to remind the viewer of the transitory nature of life.
The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography draws attention to two works from its current exhibition, From the Collection: Flowerpieces. David Rasmus's photograph Untitled (Tim), 1988 is one of a series of photographs made by the artist in his attempt to come to grips with the loss of friends to AIDS. In this composite portrait, the colour flower is a frail and tenuous lifeline. The black and white portrait that it covers becomes indistinguishable, as the ghost-like image of the individual fades into memory.
Artist Robert Flack was diagnosed as being HIV positive in 1989 and passed away in October, 1993. Untitled (1992) is part of a series of prints entitled Love Mind which describes Flack's interest in the role of chakras as centres of psychic energy. In this series, the artist combined mystic images with photographs of the body and then projected onto them a wash of sensuous colour.
The National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography are open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, Thursdays to 8 pm. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission to the permanent collection is free.
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