November 12, 2014 - Art Gallery of Ontario - Suzy Lake
November 12, 2014

Suzy Lake

Suzy Lake, Miss Chatelaine, 1973. Gelatin silver print, 50.5 x 40.7 cm, printed 1996. Purchased with funds donated by AGO Members, 1998. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. © 2014 Suzy Lake.

Introducing Suzy Lake 
November 5, 2014–March 22, 2015

Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Ontario
M5T 1G4

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“I don’t try to say what my identity is. I’m not some heroine recounting my life. I use myself as a model because I need a constant, a vulnerable subject as a reference point.” – Suzy Lake

The Art Gallery of Ontario is pleased to present Introducing Suzy Lake, the first large-scale exhibition to comprehensively address the influential artistic production of Detroit-born artist Suzy Lake. Lake has been examining and critiquing ideals of the body, gender and identity since the late 1960s, often using herself as a model. In her photographs, videos and performances, Lake addresses the relationship of the self to larger social forces—such as gender and class—and reveals the constructions and restraints we all experience.

Introducing Suzy Lake explores the political and conceptual intentions of Lake’s work, and at the same time, it acknowledges one of the distinguishing characteristics of her practice: her persistent attention to the technical and expressive possibilities of photography. It showcases Lake’s unique, at times prescient, contributions which are rooted in the artistic experimentation of the 1960s and 1970s; second-wave feminism and the politics of representation; and the language of conceptual art.

Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1947, Lake studied at Wayne State University (1966–1968). While her professional career evolved entirely in Canada, her early experiences in civil rights-era Detroit were fundamental to her development as an artist. During her youth, Detroit was a city in transformation, shifting from its position as a manufacturing-rich city to a markedly post-industrial one. It was during this time that Lake’s political convictions were forged, and arguably it was this environment of change that fed her then somewhat instinctive and now so remarkably astute understanding of power dynamics.  After the Detroit Riots, Lake immigrated to Montreal in 1968, where she became a catalyst for artist-run initiatives. The city’s well-established abstract painting scene and its burgeoning new media and conceptual art scenes formed the backdrop against which photography became Lake’s chosen medium. Moving to Toronto in 1978, Lake’s practice matured within an influential critical discourse taking hold in the city’s artistic community, fueled by the writings of Marshall McLuhan, Jacques Derrida and Susan Sontag among others.

Co-curated by Georgiana Uhlyarik, associate curator of Canadian art, and Sophie Hackett, associate curator of photography, the exhibition includes significant works from the AGO’s collection, as well as numerous major loans. The exhibition features two new important works from Lake’s Extended Breathing series (2008–2014) and premieres two works from a brand-new series, “Performing Haute Couture” (2014), created specifically for this exhibition. It also includes the full installation of Are You Talking to Me? (1979), her most ambitious work of nearly 90 photographs made shortly after Lake’s arrival in Toronto, that has not been seen in its entirety since the early 1980s.
A companion catalogue, published by the Art Gallery of Ontario and Black Dog Publishing (U.K.), features three critical essays each rooted in the three cities framing her career: Detroit, Montreal and Toronto, written by the co-curators and Michelle Jacques, Chief Curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. In addition, the publication includes a foreword by Tavi Gevinson, founder and editor-in-chief of Rookie magazine, contributions by artists, curators and scholars, such as Lorraine O’Grady, Robert Longo, William A. Ewing, Gabriele Schor, Elizabeth A.T. Smith, and Ruth Noack, as well as an illustrated chronology. Introducing Suzy Lake is widely available for purchase.

Artist talk: November 12, 5:30–6:30pm

Public opening: November 12, 6:30–8:30pm

Film screening: November 21, 5:30–6:30 pm, Suzy Lake: Playing with Time (a film by Annette Mangaard)

Generously supported by

J.P. Bickell Foundation

Cecily and Robert Bradshaw / The Delaney Family Foundation / Ira Gluskin and Maxine Granovsky Gluskin Charitable Foundation / Rosamond Ivey / Penny Rubinoff


Suzy Lake at Art Gallery of Ontario
Art Gallery of Ontario
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