Born in Springfield, Ohio, Berenice Abbott spent the early part of her artistic career studying sculpture in New York, Berlin, and Paris. Her introduction to photography came when she made contact with the famed Surrealist Man Ray, who hired her as a darkroom assistant. Upon return to New York, Abbot began documenting the city in the manner of one of her major influences Eugène Atget. She is best known for her series Changing New York (1936–1938), which captured the architecture and shifting social landscape of New York during the Great Depression as a part of the WPA’s Federal Art Project. These images were both critically and commercially successful and remains a classic text for historians of photography today.
Celebrated for her highly detailed drawings and fantastical subject matter, Shuvinai Ashoona is a third-generation Inuit artist living in Kinngait, Nunavut. Her dream-like imagery erases the distinctions between the natural and spirit worlds, and between the real and imagined. Many of the artist’s images highlight the dramatic changes in the North; the shift from life on the land to settled communities and access to popular culture. While many of Ashoona’s drawings contain traditional Inuit motifs, she is best known for the imaginative way that she incorporates these and other cultural references to develop her own sophisticated and highly personal iconography which overturns stereotypical notions of Inuit art. Known for her aerial perspectives and cropped compositions, Ashoona’s carefully executed drawings and prints are often marked by a cinematic sensibility.
Bertram Charles (BC) Binning was one of Canada’s foremost modern artists, architectural innovators, and educators. His early work from the 1940s was characterized by elegant, expressive yet controlled line drawings, often with nautical themes, using brilliant colour to express the painting’s flatness as a structural element and emphasizing a strong sense of order and composition. In 1941 Binning designed and built his flat-roofed, post-and-beam home in West Vancouver, which became the key example of West Coast modernist design, shaping the area’s architectural landscape for the next decade. His interest in architecture led to the design of large mosaic murals for public buildings, including the British Columbia Electric Building (1955). This interest also informed his paintings from the 1960s and 1970s which gradually evolved to purely abstract forms and explorations of clear colour and form.
Alexander Calder changed the course of modern art by developing an innovative method of manipulating wire and sheet metal to create three-dimensional drawings in space. Calder redefined sculpture by introducing the element of movement, first through performances and later with motorized works, and, finally, with hanging works called “mobiles”; a term coined by Marcel Duchamp to describe his work. His mobiles consist of abstract shapes made of industrial materials that hang in uncanny, perfect balance. In addition to his mobiles, Calder also created static sculptures called stabiles, as well as paintings, theater sets, costumes, and monumental outdoor sculptures that grace public plazas in cities throughout the world.
Vivian Maier was an American street photographer whose body of work was only discovered after her death. Maier was a nanny and caregiver with a hidden passion for photography that resulted in over 100,000 negatives depicting moments and images of her urban surroundings in Chicago and New York. She captured each city’s pedestrian culture and architecture on a Rolleiflex camera as she walked the city on her days off. Her work has been recognized for her spontaneous shooting style and for her fascination with human behavior. Maier would further indulge in her devotion to documenting the world around her through homemade films, recordings and collections, assembling one of the most fascinating windows into American life in the second half of the twentieth century.
Mary Pratt’s (1935-2018) work addresses the everyday objects of domestic life. By depicting them close-up and in detail, she suggests a larger symbolic meaning, enhanced by the way light plays upon her subjects. This celebration and re-contextualization of the ordinary has earned Pratt a national reputation.
Her work is held in many public collections including the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. In 1996, Pratt was named Companion of the Order of Canada, and in 2013 she was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Greg Murdock studied ceramics, sculpture, and drawing at the University of Saskatchewan before traveling to Mexico to study bronze at the Instituto Allende. Murdock later came to Vancouver to study at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, where he expanded his architectural vision and imagery, created installations, and discovered the potential of spackle as a medium and surface in his two- and three-dimensional works. Murdock’s work has continually explores processes that mediate between drawing and painting. Combining many methods such as fresco, encaustic and oil paint, the activity of drawing and mark making is always present in his work. His imagery deals with ideas of implied ritualized space in architecture and landscape, as well as the intersections between them.
Eadweard Muybridge, originally a landscape and architectural photographer, is primarily known for his groundbreaking images of animals and people in motion. In 1872, a racehorse owner hired Muybridge to prove that galloping horses’ hooves were never all fully off the ground at the same time, a proposition that Muybridge’s images would disprove. One of his main working methods was to rig a series of large cameras in a line to shoot images automatically as the subjects passed by. Viewed in a Zoopraxiscope machine, his images laid the foundation for motion pictures and contemporary cinematography.