As Ryerson Image Centre director Paul Roth spoke to the crowd that had packed into the gallery, there was a buzz of excitement for the opening of the new galleries that Roth described as being “the biggest spectacle of an exhibition at Ryerson to date.”
On January 21, the Ryerson Image Centre debuted its latest exhibits, including two curated by Gaëlle Morel, exhibitions curator at the Ryerson Image Centre. The exhibits, Anti-Glamour: Portraits of Women and Burn with Desire: Photography and Glamour, showcase two very different sides to how women are portrayed in photography.
On Anti-Glamour: Portraits of Women, Morel says, “This exhibition brings together seven artists from various backgrounds and nationalities whose work addresses female representation.” The works featured often depict women in non-conventional settings and styles which allow for consideration of the expectations placed on women in society today. Katherine Lannon, a Ryerson alumni, showcased a photographic series featuring several topless women posed in helmets and masks.
Burn with Desire: Photography and Glamour is a complete contrast to the former exhibit, featuring portraits from Hollywood’s golden age alongside magazine and photography pieces from recent years. Focusing on traditional ideologies of beauty in Western culture, the exhibit features many iconic photographs and pieces including Andy Warhol’s prints of Marilyn Monroe.
Morel also took the opportunity to incorporate pieces from the Black Star collection, which was anonymously donated to Ryerson in 2005.
“Many pieces in the Burn with Desire gallery are from Ryerson’s own Black Star photography collection,” Morel said. “It was quite a long process and it took close to three years to go through and find all of the photos we used. It started with me looking through the collection we already had at Ryerson, and since it’s not entirely catalogued and digitalized that took a bit of time.”
The event was attended by a large crowd of artists, students, faculty and members of the community, with introductory remarks given by Roth, who thanked many groups and individuals for their support, including Ryerson president Sheldon Levy.
“He [Levy] came to us and asked if our mission and critical focus could lead to this gallery, and through his encouragement we got it done,” said Roth. He also spoke of the size and importance of the exhibit. “There are over 130 artworks between the two exhibits, which explore and attempt to understand the role of women and glamour in photography,” said Roth.
Morel believes the exhibits are important for the public, and especially students, to see.
“I think it’s a nice way to provoke critical thinking and since we’re embedded within a university, it’s very important to try and reach out to and talk to younger generations,” she said. “Since they are being trained and educated it’s the right moment to talk to them. We also want to be fun and entertaining so we’re always trying to have that balance between being smart and being fun so that people can engage.”
On what visitors might take from the galleries she says, “The student gallery is great for students who are young emerging artists to see and imagine that one day they can have their own show. That is the idea we’re trying to convey with these galleries – to offer opportunity, celebrate who we are, recognize the diversity at Ryerson and be exposed to other people and artists from other schools and places. That’s what we do,” Morel said.
Anti-Glamour: Portraits of Women and Burn with Desire: Photography and Glamour will be on display at the Ryerson Image Centre, located in the University Gallery and Main Gallery, respectively, until April 5.
Gallery images are credited to Anti-Glamour: Portraits of Women (installation view), 2015 © Eugen Sakhnenko, Ryerson Image Centre, and Burn with Desire: Photography and Glamour (installation view), 2015 © Eugen Sakhnenko, Ryerson Image Centre.