September 2nd, 2017 – June 8th, 2018

John Abrams, Canadian Landscape Combine; 1999-2000, oil on canvas and panel. Gift of Carla Garnet and John Abrams, 2002

“Contemporary” art is an ever-moving target. What was contemporary in 1960 is now considered historic. For the purposes of this exhibition, we have defined contemporary as works of art from the past thirty years. Of its collection of over 4600 works, that makes just over 670 works from 1987-2017.

A consistent theme that has emerged in the RMG’s contemporary collection is concepts of identity. Questions present opportunities for exploration and discovery about identity:

  • Does a single name create identity within a group of those with the same name?
  • Do we change our own narratives by incorporating past narratives of others?
  • Can the memory of names once spoken over radio waves be resurrected and reimagined?

And questions of how we identify also arise as we examine many of these works:

  • When our own history/identity has been adapted for commercial purposes, can it be reclaimed through artistic mediation?
  • Do we identify with the land on which we live, and whose land is it?

Contemporary artistic practices often touch on topics relevant to today’s society. Issues important to our personal lives and beliefs, as well as responses to subjects that have universal impact such as environmental, technological, and cultural concerns are addressed through various mediums.

This small selection of contemporary work from the RMG collection is indicative of approaches to art over the past thirty years by artists across the country. When these works slide into the “historic” category of art history, we will continue to discuss their impact on society both past and present.