A hit and a miss

The Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario is spectacular. Organized by the Tate Modern in collaboration with the AGO and Bank Austria Kunstforum, the exhibit includes not only eighty works by O’Keeffe but also photographs by her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, and her good friend Ansel Adams.

By far the best are her giant flowers, especially the Red Amaryllis, Oriental Poppies and Jimson Weed. The time she spent in New York in the 1920s produced some excellent urban abstractions; her later years in New Mexico yielded everything from horse skulls to mountain landscapes.

As with any groundbreaker, O’Keeffe took risks. “It takes courage to be a painter. I have lived on a razor’s edge,” she once said. “So what if you fall off? I’d rather be doing something I really wanted to do. I’d walk it again.”

A less successful exhibit, ReBlink, combines technology with some of the AGO’s masterworks. If you use a smartphone app and look at Paul Peel’s “After the Bath” showing two children before a fireplace, suddenly they’re in front of a television screen showing all manner of nonsense. Or the Marchesa Casati in Augustus John’s magnificent portrait is seen holding a selfie stick. If the AGO thinks this will attract young people, my grand-daughter, soon to be twelve, was not impressed. “It’s not real art,” she said. “You can’t learn anything from it.” Amen to that.


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