Art and hockey have merged, changing the stereotypical ways media culture has shaped and integrated the game into Canadian identity, in the Art Gallery of Windsor’s new exhibit, “Power Play: Hockey in Canadian Contemporary Art.” The exhibit opened this weekend, along with “Johan Grimonprez: Dialogues” film exhibition, as part of the AGW Winter / Spring 2019 Exhibitions. Through the lenses of hockey and film, both exhibitions challenge popular perceptions in contemporary society.
Eyes On Windsor was invited to a media preview of the two exciting exhibitions on Thurs. Feb. 7. The Power Play exhibit should shape up to become a popular, yet perhaps unorthodox, display themed around nationalism and equality inspired by the idea that hockey is an inclusive sport.
45 works by 14 contemporary artists with several memorabilia contributions from the Hockey Hall of Fame make up the Power Play exhibit. It is organized into four sections: hockey jerseys, hockey masks, hockey cards, and hockey equipment.
The hockey world has embraced the Power Play exhibit, brilliantly put together by Dr. Jaclyn Meloche, AGW Curator of Contemporary Art, including the Hockey Hall of Fame. Hockey fans will enjoy viewing items such as a 1960’s goalie mask worn by Jacques Plante (the first NHL player to wear a goalie mask), and a 1995 Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cereal box featuring Gordie Howe. Meloche worked closely with Hockey Hall of Fame curator Izak Westgate to bring these items to Windsor. The items serve as a reference point in the exhibit representing popular ways hockey is integrated into Canadian culture.
But It’s the artists’ and their works that bring a new perspective to challenge this view by recognizing that people from many identities play or are involved in hockey. Exploring themes of nationalism, gender, race, equity, sexuality, physical and mental health, and self-esteem the artists are proposing revised histories, alternative narratives, and provocative power plays within the game of hockey. “Three of the women artists in the exhibition are actually hockey players, so they really do blend their practice on the ice with their studio practice,” Jaclyn Meloche recently told CBC Windsor in a radio interview.
Featured artists include: Judy Anderson, Scott Conarroe, Adrienne Crossman, Barrie Jones, Cyndra MacDowall, Hazel Meyer (with the Canadian AIDS Society), Laura Millard, Kent Monkman, François Morelli, Didier Morelli, Marc-Antoine Phaneuf, Liz Pead, Liss Platt, and Victor Romao.
During the media preview event several artists took the time to speak with Eyes On Windsor about their works on exhibit including Victor Romao, Liz Pead, Marc-Antoine Phaneuf, and Hazel Meyer.
Windsor’s Victor Romao is a multi-disciplinary Canadian artist who strongly focuses on drawing but has chosen to create a series of small vintage style looking hockey player portrait oil paintings. Romao plays hockey, a goaltender, and his portraits feature people from the Windsor Essex area who he has played with over the years. Eyes On Windsor immediately recognized local photographer Trevor Booth among the portraits.
“These are a small portion of a larger body of work, there will be about 140, that will include the lettering, this is meant to spell out a quote once the work is completed,” explained Romao. Each portrait features a letter on the hockey jersey each subject is wearing. “It’s very much based on the quote and the whole theme is really based on my research into various aspects of rural community with a strong emphasis on how males identify themselves within rural communities.”
When the 140 hockey portraits are complete, “they will be displayed as an uncut hockey card sheet,” says Romao. He can’t reveal what the quote is, but he will once all the work is complete, but he did say, “it’s from one of Sigmund Freud’s essays.”
Artist Liz Pead says, “they have a feeling of an old hockey card,” to which Ramao responded the patterns are based off of old traditional wool hockey jerseys.
Liz Pead is a Toronto-based artist and hockey player, a goaltender, with an interest in textile art and the landscape painting style of Canadian Group of Seven, Scandinavian, and Icelandic artists. This has contributed to the works she creates from recycling hockey gear in an effort to depict Canadian history.
“I recycle what I find in garbage cans in hockey arenas,” explains Pead. “I was looking for really Canadian materials to make paintings out of. Tada, hockey gear,” says Pead pointing to her art hanging on the walls of the Art Gallery of Windsor. “And it’s never going to break down. If you look at all the plastic, it’s pretty stable, it’s not going to rot, so that was another consideration.” Pead’s environmentalist side also influences her art.
Pead’s large landscape work, Saving Tom Thomson and Shut Out Canoe, is one of several on display at the Art Gallery of Windsor as part of the Power Play: Hockey in Canadian Contemporary Art exhibit. “It is where Tom Thomson (20th century Canadian artist) died on Canoe Lake (Algonquin Park, Ontario),” says Pead. Thompson died at 39 years old just before the formal establishment of the Group of Seven but he is considered an unofficial member. “I like this one because it’s got a canoe too, it’s kind of cool. These are (goalie) pads from friends of mine.” Her Shut Out Canoe is made of the goalie pads.
In addition, the goalie stick Pead used her first time playing goaltender, is the Shut Out Canoe’s orr. Pead started playing hockey, as a forward, at 28 years old after her husband gave her hockey gear and skates as a wedding gift. “At 36 I became a goalie,” says Pead. During a hockey tournament one goaltender was on maternity leave, and two others were injured. “So I said give me the big stick, that was (the start of) my career as a goaltender.”
Pead did play hockey when she was younger, in figure skates and using broken hockey sticks, but because of her gender it was not acceptable in her community. “I was a strong skater,” says Pead. “I grew up on the lakes and rivers of New Brunswick skating, and in the York Arena where Willie O’Ree (Canada’s first black hockey player) played. Girls weren’t allowed to play hockey where I grew up.” Fast forward to today and Pead travels the world playing hockey, encouraging other women to do the same along the way.
Pead’s large artwork begins as smaller sketches and paintings. Talking specifically about Saving Tom Thomson she says, “I went out into Canoe Lake in my little kayak and I painted what I saw on my oil panels and I took it back to the studio. I do little sketches and then I work up to doing a bigger piece. It continues that tradition of the artist painting outside in that romantic plein air, and then taking it back into the studio and working it up.”
Quebec City based artist Marc-Antoine Phaneuf’s artwork featuring 2500 hockey cards, placed to mimic the 1940’s painting style of Quebec artist Jean-Paul Riopelle, is on display at the Art Gallery of Windsor as part of the Power Play: Hockey in Canadian Contemporary Art exhibit.
Phaneuf explained, Riopelle smashed a palette knife knife loaded with several colours onto large canvases to create powerful abstract works. “I realized if I do the same with hockey cards, I can add five or seven colours in one shot, just by gluing a hockey card to the wall,” says Phaneuf. “This gave me the idea to make a fake painting with hockey cards. I’m really happy to show it here, Jaclyn invited me and she gave me a large wall to set it up, so it’s the largest version of this work to date, it’s really exciting.”
Phaneuf played hockey as a kid from 12 to 15 years old but became bored with the game. About eight years later his passion for hockey returned as a spectator. “The thing that really interested me, when I was a kid, was all the colourful team logos and jerseys,” says Phaneuf. “Today, I’m really interested in the politics of hockey.” He is interested in how the NHL works as a league, including how it develops markets. “I’m from Quebec City and we talk a lot about the comeback of the Nordiques, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen because we’re a small market.”
Los Angeles based Canadian artist Hazel Myer, recently relocated from Toronto, is known for her works centred around sports and queerness, team sports in particular, and how it is an opportunity for worldmaking as if often talked about in queer theory. Her art aims to recover the queer aesthetics, politics, and bodies often erased from the history of sports.
Although Meyer is a sports enthusiast who has created several sports related works, she had a difficult time coming up with one for hockey when invited to take part in the Power Play exhibit. “For 2 months I was having a hard time, I don’t play hockey, I never have, I’m not a very good skater, so I was having a hard time figuring out a relationship to hockey,” explained Meyer.
“Then one day by chance I came across an article about how the Canadian AIDS Society has all of the Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt being kept in hockey bags (donated by Molson Brewery). Right then and there I was like that’s the project.” The Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt is a massive, community-made textile project comprised of more than 600, 3’ X 6’ panels that began in 1989. Each represents a Canadian who has died from AIDS and related illnesses since the 1980s.
“It’s a bit funny and ridiculous even that this really important piece of Canadian HIV AIDS history is being kept in hockey bags,” explained Meyer. “It’s a weird juxtaposition, hockey and AIDS, this quilt, this piece of activism, this monument to these people who have died. So I was like I would love to show these bags in the context of this show, so that’s where the project came about.”
Meyer reached out to the Canadian AIDS Society and they agreed to collaborate with her.
Meyer’s work is called, Container Technologies, and features 22 hockey bags on display with the actual Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt panels inside. “It felt very important that the quilts section wasn’t showing along with the bags because a part of the piece is how we hold things that are too big, and too important, and too heavy for us but need to be taken care of,” says Meyer. “I thought with having the quilt hung it would take the attention away from that, but I also want the quilt to be honoured because it deserves that and it requires that. So that’s why on Saturday (Feb. 9) we’re having an unfolding ceremony which is going to be myself and seven other people taking a section of the quilt from a bag, unfolding it, and reading the people’s names.”
“So I thought there was a nice kind of balance between the two things, also by not having the quilt displayed along with the bags, it spoke more about material cultural, in Canada. If you’ve got something large to hold you go to Canadian Tire and get a goalie bag or a hockey bag, it speaks to the very specific nature or material culture in Canada.”
Showing these bags in the context of Power Play: Hockey in Canadian Contemporary Art invites dialogue about the relationship between hockey’s material cultures, queerness, and Canadian nationalism—weighty concepts that also resist containment. Container Technologies asks how to hold objects that are too big, too devastating, too heavy, but in need of protection and care.
Michael Brennan, Executive Director of the Windsor AIDS Committee, and Gary Lacasse, Executive Director of the Canadian AIDS Society were both in attendance during the exhibits media preview event. Lacasse stated, “I would like to acknowledge that this the first time that our Canadian AIDS Quilts, which would fill up a hockey arena, are being so well taken care of and showcased. It’s important to talk to our youth about HIV and the AIDS epidemic, and acknowledge that we’ve lost millions of people worldwide to this epidemic that’s not stopping.”
Lacasse told the media that Canada is facing the highest rates of HIV since 2004. The last two years successively have seen the highest rates of new HIV cases among youth (26%) and seniors (25%).
Lacasse and the Canadian AIDS Society were excited when approached by Meyer to be involved with the Power Play hockey exhibit because he feels AIDS has fallen from public awareness. “People think HIV was settled and packaged up like our hockey bags here, and we could forget about it, but we can’t because there’s over 1000 people who died represented in these bags.”
Lacasse is calling upon the government for funding to help bring treatment and awareness about the increasing AIDS epidemic, and medication available to stop HIV transmission to the public. “Our government doesn’t seem to understand how to help but we know how to get there, we just need the funding from them.”
Johan Grimonprez: Dialogues
Similar to the Power Play Hockey exhibit, AGW curator Jacyln Meloche said, “in keeping with the themes of nationalism and equity, the exhibition Johan Grimonprez: Dialogues questions the boundaries of self identity. And the roles that media culture played in the construction of the self in contemporary society. In the three feature films, Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, Blue Orchids, and Raymond Tallis: On Tickling, Johan has deployed the dialogue as a structural component that echos the unique conversations between two opposing sides, two political oppositions, and two different perceptions of truth,. In the context of Windsor’s cross border geography and it’s dialogical relationship with Detroit, Michigan, The Art Gallery of Windsor is the ideal platform on which to stage Johan Grimonprez’s cinematic dialogues.”
Johan Grimonprez: Dialogues is the Belgian multimedia artist and filmmaker Johan Grimonprez’s first solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Windsor. Through a cinematic lens, he provokes daring conversations that challenge notions of globalization, and the political relationships between people and their governments on the big screen.
The AGW Winter / Spring 2019 Exhibitions, “Power Play: Hockey in Canadian Contemporary Art,” and “Johan Grimonprez: Dialogues” will be on display from Feb. 9 to May 12, 2019. All ages are welcome.
For more information please visit https://www.agw.ca