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Ron Terada: Who I Think I Am

January 20 to March 20, 2011
Reception: January 19, 7:00 to 9:00 pm

Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
Hart House, University of Toronto
7 Hart House Circle
Toronto, ON

Free and open to the public


Ron Terada, Jack, 2010. Acrylic on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver

The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery is pleased to announce the first major Toronto exhibition of the work of Vancouver-based artist Ron Terada.

Ron Terada has come to international attention for his deadpan appropriations of vernacular texts typically drawn from street signage, popular music, television and advertising. Through their reproduction in media such as painting, graphic posters and video projections, Terada's work harkens back to the cool, language-based formats of 1960s conceptual art but elicits decidedly contemporary questions. Does the name of a city confer its meanings to those who live there? Do the sponsors of an exhibition inform the identity of the artist? Is the play-list on his iPod a cue to his generational alignments or an expression of his most intimate longings? Just how, or even whether such circumstantial evidence can become an index of subjectivity, these are some of the constant puzzlements in Ron Terada's propositions. The evidence may seem to deliver the 'artist' as a definable entity to the world around him – but in actuality it comes in the form of provocative passivity, itinerant chains of references, and comedic displacements, such as in Terada's appearance as a poster boy in the form of a modular stack of cardboard boxes that contain multiple copies of his exhibition catalogue Ron Terada: Who I Think I am.

Comprehensive in scope, Who I Think I Am examines Terada's practice through distinct groupings in four separate venues. The exhibition at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery follows the exhibition's different iterations at the Ikon Gallery (Birmingham, England), the Hayward Gallery (London, England), and Walter Phillips Gallery (Banff) in 2010. Drawn together within the accompanying publication – which itself meticulously maps Terada's work into the format of other, appropriated art catalogue designs – the exhibition at the Justina M. Barnicke includes works from nearly twenty years (1993 – 2010), tracing linkages in the artist's production from his early Ad Paintings to posters designed in conjunction with or in place of exhibitions, as well as the 2010 video installation Soundtracks for an Exhibition. The exhibition concludes with a new series of text-based paintings that narrate the life and career of artist Jack Goldstein. Terada again lifts his subject matter directly from an existing source, this time the final chapter of Goldstein's autobiography. At once grandiose and pathetic, self-pitying and contradictory, Goldstein comes across as fixated on the past and resentful over the success that his contemporaries unfairly enjoyed. Presented in the first-person singular, the paintings entangle Ron Terada within the quintessential narrative of the modern artist, who, after years of obscurity, drug addiction, and bouts of depression, chose to end his own life. Terada's interest in Goldstein was in part the artist's choice of suddenly switching from film and performance-based practice to painting, a move Terada has duplicated to produce the canvases in this exhibition, and thereby marking Terada's own return to painting after a ten-year hiatus.

Ron Terada, the artist, is not easily found against the apparent, straightforward declaration of the exhibition's title, Who I Think I Am. He does not leave his audience with a clear picture of himself, but instead offers new insights into the complex relationships between the contemporary, individual artist's practice and the social institutions, semiotics of advertising and marketing strategies, myths and storytelling that envelop and produce it.

Curated by Helen Legg, Barbara Fischer, and Kitty Scott, the exhibition is organized in collaboration with Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK; the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre, and the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Hart House, University of Toronto, Canada.

Ron Terada is represented by Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.

Supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Toronto Arts Council, and the British Columbia Arts Council. Special thanks to Bruce Bailey.