Toronto artist Suzy Lake has been exploring issues relating to the body, gender and identity since the 1970s. Throughout her prolific career working with video, performance and photography, she has consistently used herself as a model to transform into characters, like Miss Chatelaine, a Spice Girl or Dirk Bogarde, that examine representations of femininity, desirability and ageing.
In Rhythm of a True Space, a site-specific installation created for the Art Gallery of Ontario in collaboration with CONTACT, Lake revisits a 1997 photographic concept in response to the museum’s transformation, now in its last months of construction.
Lake’s “sweeping figures” evoke Cinderella, a fairytale character whose story has long been embedded in our collective memory. Absorbed in their task, these figures transcend mere servitude. Their larger-than-life scale recalls the caryatids of ancient architecture, while the strength of their determined gestures suggests the preparation of something new. Discontinuous bands of green wall reverberate between the figures to create a dynamic rhythm. Not only does the simple act of sweeping come alive, in this way, it becomes generic and metaphorical, linking private work and public work. Sweeping no longer simply stands in as a routine chore; it augurs a new moment.
Rhythm of a True Space transforms the AGO’s static construction hoarding into a space of activity and creativity, at once personal and public, one that heralds momentum and anticipates the realization of a true space.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Suzy Lake immigrated to Montreal in 1968 after the Detroit race riots. There, as a socially and politically active artist, she became a founding member of Véhicule Art, a pioneering artist-run gallery. Since 1978, Lake has been teaching in the Studio Art program at the University of Guelph. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, most recently in the landmark exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York. She lives and works in Toronto and is represented by Paul Petro Contemporary Art, Toronto.
Presented in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario.