Moyra Davey: The Faithful

by Photo Life

From October 1, 2020, to January 3, 2021, the National Gallery of Canada presents Moyra Davey: The Faithful, the Gallery’s first-ever exhibition devoted to one of Canada’s most innovative conceptual artists, the internationally renowned, New York-based photographer, filmmaker and writer, Moyra Davey.

In the exhibition, visitors will discover the subjects that have attracted the lens of her camera, the readings that have marked her, and the artists, philosophers and writers who have inspired her.

Part of the challenge was installing the show virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The exhibition curator, Andrea Kunard, Associate Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Canada worked with Davey, her assistant Nicolas Linnert and the exhibition team at the National Gallery of Canada using digital technologies to collaboratively realize the exhibition.

Covering four decades of artistic production, Moyra Davey: The Faithful is shaped by themes that animate Davey’s work: commuters in the New York subway, the city’s disappearing newsstands, representations of the body, and the daily accoutrements of urban and domestic environments. In her writing and films, she combines images and texts from a variety of sources, such as literature, philosophy and politics. Moyra Davey talks about her artistic approach in this video.

“One of my earliest art experiences was seeing Joyce Wieland’s solo exhibition True Patriot Love, at the NGC in 1971. I would have been 12 or 13, and I went by myself to the old building on Elgin Street and took in her giant quilts, and thought about the stories associated with them, in particular Reason Over Passion, a tacit message to Pierre Trudeau. Now, five decades later, in the midst of the global pandemic, I am having a solo show of my own at the NGC, and included in it is Wieland’s 16 mm film Pierre Vallières. None of this was planned, but it is the kind of serendipitous incidence I prize and welcome in my work, and it was made possible because the film was collected by the NGC in the 1970s. Every aspect of my involvement with the museum, from making a book to hanging a show while remaining offsite, has been conferred with this same unanticipated good fortune, goodwill and support from the entire team.” — Moyra Davey, artist

In her article published in NGC Magazine, exhibition curator Andrea Kunard talks about her discovery of Davey’s work in 1999 in Montreal, and offers insights into the artist’s work.

From her very first images in the late 1970s to her works produced in recent years, the exhibition brings together 54 photographs—in small and medium sizes presented by themselves, in groupings or juxtaposed to form large murals—and seven films. The artist and the exhibition curator have also added a dozen works by artists who fascinate Davey—Eugène Atget, Julia Margaret Cameron, Bruce Davidson, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Gabor Szilasi, and Joyce Wieland—from the Gallery’s national collection.

A highlight of the exhibition is an intimate portrait of the events that shaped Davey’s youth in Ottawa and Montreal in the 1960s and 1970s. i confess, created in 2019, is a personal voyage of discovery for the artist whose father was one of Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s advisors at the time of the October Crisis. The nearly one-hour film connects the famous American novelist James Baldwin—author of Another Country—with the Quebec revolutionary nationalist Pierre Vallières, and political scientist Dalie Giroux, currently an Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa. A highly topical film, the work intertwines stories and images that address the subjects of poverty, racism, and language in North America. Davey also evokes her childhood memories from this pivotal moment in Quebec’s history.

“Moyra Davey is one of the world’s most prominent photographers, but she is also a poet and author. With her camera, she has captured subtle scenes from her daily life and documented moments in society that affect us all. Her work reveals the beauty and complexity of the human condition. This exhibition is very timely, especially to see the October Crisis through the eyes of a young woman who becomes an adult as an anglophone in Quebec in the late ’60s and early ’70s.”—Dr. Sasha Suda, Director & CEO, National Gallery of Canada

The book titled i confess accompanies the exhibition Moyra Davey: The Faithful. It includes an essay by the artist Moyra Davey that relates her childhood memories during the October Crisis and the years that followed. Political scientist Dalie Giroux and exhibition curator Andrea Kunard also contribute essays that shed light on the artist’s artistic practice and approach.

The exhibition Moyra Davey: The Faithful will travel to the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, where it will be on view from April 22 to July 11, 2021.

Moyra Davey The Faithful (detail), 2013 12 chromogenic prints, tape, postage, ink; 30.5 × 44.5 cm each Collection of the artist; courtesy greengrassi, London, and Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York © Moyra Davey Photo: courtesy the artist

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