Until October 21st at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), multidisciplinary artist Rebecca Belmore is showcasing her thought-provoking exhibition Facing the Monumental. The exhibit features various forms of visual and auditory art including installations, sculptures, audio recordings, videography, and photography. Belmore reflects on women’s rights, injustices toward indigenous people, and land and water rights. The pieces in Belmore’s exhibit are bold, persistent, and intentional in commenting on current and pressing social issues.

Facing the Monumental is not your traditional art exhibit. Belmore exceeds expectations of what it means to be an activist and an artist. Through her artwork, she raises awareness of violence against women, issues regarding homelessness, and cultural inequalities. The work featured in this exhibit showcases 30 years of her storytelling and commentary on controversial social and political topics.

The ground floor of the AGO features Belmore’s audio-visual piece, “Wavesound,” that will leave you intrigued to go upstairs to her exhibit, as the piece is daring. Upon exiting the elevator, you are greeted by the sound of a heavy rainstorm. The installation, “Fountain,” begins with a powerful statement in regard to land and water rights that prepares visitors for an exhibit that is nothing short of confronting the truth. Following this bold introduction comes the rest of the exhibit in which pieces of various styles and techniques intermingle and come together in a cohesive and visually pleasing way. Amongst the visual art pieces are recordings of performance art and public activist demonstrations by Belmore. Most notable for me was an emotional and different vigil for indigenous women who have gone missing from the streets of Vancouver. To honor their lives, Belmore shouted each of their names and stripped a flower off its stem with her teeth. This meaningful part of Belmore’s demonstration acts as an embodiment of the exhibit as a whole: full of raw emotion and persistence for justice.

Rebecca Belmore’s intriguing and purposeful use of colour will help you develop a greater understanding of the experiences of women and indigenous people whose stories are oftentimes swept under the rug. The exhibition follows a neutral colour palette with interesting choices in pops of colour to serve as symbolism and assist in storytelling. Meaning demonstrated through colour can be found all throughout the exhibit from bright orange spray paint to red thread.

The majority of the pieces in this exhibit are accompanied solely by their names. Belmore allows visitors the opportunity to spend time with her work in order to arrive at their own interpretations of the pieces. While this format for an exhibition can be interesting for viewers to determine intents of the artist themselves, it would have been nice to have Belmore’s poetic pieces, such as “Tarpaulin” (2018), “Tower” (2018) and “X mark” (2018), accompanied by a small description.

The exhibition is true to its name in that each piece pushes forth a narrative that speaks to the experiences of those who have been stripped of their voices and dehumanized by society. Belmore is a defiant voice that stands for justice and has created a groundbreaking exhibit that shouldn’t be missed.

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