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Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness
At the National Gallery of Canada
October 18, 2013 to January 5, 2014
A Canadian photographer for 30 years, Robert Burley has been documenting the demise of film-manufacturing facilities and industrial darkrooms in North America and Europe since 2005. From October 18, 2013 to
January 5, 2014, the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) presents Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness, an exhibition that speaks to “the dizzying moment in photography’s history in which technological changes redefined the medium forever” (Burley).
Produced by the Ryerson Image Centre, Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness addresses the abrupt breakdown of a century-old industry. Burley’s colour prints, reunited by curator Gaëlle Morel, visually record the major economic impact caused by the shift away from analog photography to digital technology. Burley has been both an observer and a participant in this radical transition.
The exhibition showcases around thirty large-format prints of deserted industrial spaces, including the Kodak Canada plant in Toronto and other factories that closed over time, such as Kodak France, Agfa-Gevaert, Ilford, and Polaroid. The large colour photographs are accompanied by Polaroid prints of the same deserted spaces, offering a striking contrast between two scales of representation. The faded colours and delicate composition of the Polaroid prints heighten the feeling of melancholic nostalgia conveyed by this project.
As well, the artist embraces the infinite possibilities of digital technology, re-appropriating videos and photographs found on YouTube and Facebook to strike a subtle balance between commemorating the demise of now-obsolete materials — film-based photography — and celebrating cutting-edge visual technology.
Burley’s photographs speak to the artist’s interest in the compact nature of the buildings, whose unique architecture allowed large quantities of photographic products to be fabricated in darkness. The exterior views reveal monolithic windowless structures devoid of people and movement.
About the curator
Dr. Gaëlle Morel is Exhibitions Curator at the Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto). She received her PhD in the History of Contemporary Art from Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her research deals with the artistic and cultural recognition of photography from the 1970s, and photographic modernism in the 1930s.
In 2009, Dr. Morel served as the guest curator of the Mois de la Photo in Montreal on the theme of The Spaces of the Image. She has written essays that have appeared in a number of magazines and books. In 2012, Dr. Morel curated the Berenice Abbott exhibition at the Jeu de Paume in Paris and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, as well as edited the accompanying publication. She has also taught the history of contemporary art and the history of photography at the university level in both France and Canada.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue entitled Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness. The 175-page hardcover book comprises 65 colour illustrations. Published by the Ryerson Image Centre and Princeton Architecture Press, it features several essays, including one by National Gallery of Canada Associate Curator of Photographs Andrea Kunard. Available in English only, for $57 + taxes at the NGC Bookstore and online at www.ShopNGC.ca.
Robert Burley and Michel Campeau in conversation with Marc Mayer
On Saturday, October 26, come listen to Robert Burley and photographer Michel Campeau speak on their respective exhibitions addressing the disappearance of analogue photography. Hosted by NGC Director Marc Mayer. At 2:30 pm in the Auditorium. Free admission.
NGCmagazine.ca, the National Gallery of Canada’s online magazine is a frequently updated source of information on the Canadian art world and the goings-on at the National Gallery of Canada. Correspondents from across the country provide engaging and exclusive content on historical and contemporary art in Canada. This online magazine includes exclusive interviews with artists. This month, read the article Requiem for film: Robert Burley and Michel Campeau and an interview with the artist.
Connect with Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness
The NGC regularly publishes information about the exhibition on its social media networks. To find out more, connect with:
Tickets. Adults: $12. Seniors and full-time students: $10 Youth (12-19): $6. Families (two adults and three youth): $24. Admission is free for children under the age of 12 and for Members. Includes admission to the NGC Collection.
The NGC is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. Closed Mondays, including Remembrance Day, November 11. Open on Thanksgiving Day (Monday, October 14), and between December 26 and 31. Closed on December 25 and January 1. For more information call 613-990-1985 or 1-800-319-ARTS.
About the Ryerson Image Centre
The Ryerson Image Centre (RIC), a new Toronto cultural destination, is a centre of excellence for the public exhibition, research, study and teaching of photography and related disciplines, including new media, installation art and film. International in scope, the Ryerson Image Centre features three interrelated areas of activity: an exciting program of public exhibitions where innovative work by professional Canadian and international artists addresses social, cultural, historical and aesthetic issues; a world-class research centre that conducts research into the history of photography and documentary media, and offers an array of workshops, conferences and publication programs; and the collection, which is home to the famous Black Star Collection of black and white photojournalistic prints, as well as important fine art photographic holdings and artist archives. The new museum-standard facility consists of approximately 4,500 square feet of exhibition space; a Great Hall for lectures, conferences, screenings and receptions; a glassed-in entrance colonnade with the Salah J. Bachir New Media Wall, a 16-foot new media wall visible from the street; a temperature and humidity controlled vault for the growing collection; and a state of the art, professionally staffed research centre. Click here to view a short video about the Ryerson Image Centre. The public can find more details, and subscribe to the Ryerson Image Centre email newsletter, at www.ryerson.ca/ric.
About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains an extensive touring art exhibition programme. For more information: www.gallery.ca
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Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada
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Ryerson Image Centre