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Art Gallery of Burlington fires up new ceramics exhibit

The Weight of Clay features 40 works from 40 artists amassed over the gallery’s 40 years.

Forty works by 40 artists will commemorate the 40 years of the Art Gallery of Burlington.

A new retrospective exhibit called The Weight of Clay 40 Years of the Collection opens June 16 and runs to Oct. 8 in the Lee-Chin Family Gallery.

The exhibition represents a broad selection of works in the collection, ranging from functional ware to sculptural installations that together illustrate the intersection of technical proficiency and artistic expression, featuring artists from across the country.

Over the last 40 years, the AGB has amassed the largest comprehensive collection of contemporary Canadian ceramics in the world, totalling more than 4,000 works. The Weight of Clay exhibition and accompanying programming series honours the artists, curators, educators, volunteers, and donors who have built the gallery’s holdings and contributed to the intellectual growth of ceramics in the country.

Brendan Lee Satish Tang's Manga Ormolu Version 4.0r is featured in the Art Gallery of Burlington's The Weight of Clay exhibit.

“The Art Gallery of Burlington is paying homage to our ruby anniversary by acknowledging our unique past and celebrating our tremendous success within contemporary Canadian ceramics,” says Suzanne Carte, senior curator.

“Our previous exhibition titled The Weight of Clay, From Collector to Collection, championed our beginnings with the 1984 Herbert O. Bunt donation, which aided in establishing the focus of our collection. Now we are acknowledging the testimonials, stories, archives, and energies of the artists, curators, gallery staff, collectors, committee members, and clay communities who have, over the decades, demonstrated that the collection truly is a sum of its parts.”

At the centre of the exhibition is the selection of 40 works by 40 artists representing each year of the AGB’s history. Looking at the archive of work from 1983 to 2023, AGB’s curator emeritus Jonathan Smith compiled a timeline of works illustrating the growth of the collection. From Jim Hong Louie to Brendan Lee Satish Tang, the assembly of works reflects a history of burgeoning techniques and acknowledges each artist’s contribution to the rise of clay in the country.

Functional forms are also in the spotlight drawn from two subsections of the collection, mugs and place settings.

For decades, artists have been commissioned to dream in the Dan Lawrie Courtyard to create site-specific installations. Many of the artworks taken into the collection were from the courtyard commission, including those from Sally Michener, Susan Low-Beer, Sarah Link, Aleksandr Sorotschynski and Magdolene Dykstra, which have been reinstalled for The Weight of Clay.

Throughout the building’s corridors, AGB is also debuting some of its newest acquisitions, to celebrate their addition to the Canadian ceramic narrative at the AGB and to ensure that they have their moment to shine.

The exhibition’s public programming series will feature hands-on workshops and courses for clay artists to build a greater personal connection to their craft and experience professional growth by learning new techniques, discovering other artists’ practices, and understanding contemporary art in greater depth. 

A digital program with panel discussions and artist talks will accompany the series to transport the exhibition to national and international audiences.

The Art Gallery of Burlington at 1333 Lakeshore Rd. is open Tuesday and Wednesday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Thursday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.