The work of legendary New York artist Patti Smith will be featured at the Art Gallery of Ontario next February. Patti Smith: Camera Solo will highlight the artist's passions for poetry, photography, and visual arts.
The exhibit is a travelling exhibition that received a highly-regarded reception earlier this year at the Detroit Institute of Arts; Toronto is set as its final stop in February 2013.
AGO Director Matthew Teitelbaum said in a prepared statement that "Camera Solo is a collection of works that pay homage to a variety of artistic traditions and figures, while remaining staunchly original and personal." He added that "(t)his highly nuanced and intimate exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to peer through the unique lens of the multi-talented Patti Smith."
Many of the more than 70 gelatin silver prints included in the exhibition are from Smith's own collection. Along with photos, the exhibit will feature objects from her personal archive, including her Polaroid land 250 camera and a pair of slippers from Pope Benedict XV. In addition, there will be screenings of the short film Equation Daumal, directed by Smith and Jem Cohen, and shot on 16mm and Super 8 film.
Though a lifelong fan and practitioner of photography, Smith recently told the Globe and Mail's James Adams that her passion for the art deeply intensified following a quick succession of deaths over a five-year span; her good friend Robert Mapplethorpe (in 1989), her original pianist Richard Sohl (in 1990), her husband Fred “Sonic” Smith (founder of rock band MC5, in 1994), and Smith's brother Todd (also in 1994).
“I was so exhausted from grief, I suppose, and from having two small children that I found myself unable to do much of anything except take care of them. Yet I found the desire to animate my creative impulse was still there and the Polaroid was perfect for that because I could see what I’d done pretty much instantly and if it was good, even if it was just one picture a day, I felt I’d accomplished something of worth.”
Smith has received numerous accolades in recent years, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and an honorary doctorate from The Pratt Institute. In 2010, she won the National Book Award for Just Kids, the much-loved memoir of her life with Mapplethorpe. This past June, Smith released her eleventh album, Banga, which was the first album of new material in eight years.
When it reaches Toronto, Camera: Solo might just be graced by the presence of Smith herself. She told Adams she would like to do "something connected with the gallery and the exhibition … I like to be a part of the experience and find how I can do something that will resonate with the space and the city.”