Oh, Canada does not pretend to define a country as expansive and intricately layered as Canada, though it provides insight-through more than 100 artworks-into some of the country’s most noteworthy art practices and ideas, including, among others, a deep and continuing interest in the land, craft, and identity politics. Over 800 artists from every province and territory were initially considered for Oh, Canada. Following 400 studio visits, 61 artists and collectives were selected, focusing mostly on those less known outside of Canada. These artists hail from as far west as the Yukon, north as Nunavut and east as Newfoundland and Labrador, cross multiple generations, and work in all media, from painting to performance.
Now after a 10-month long run at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, Oh, Canada has come home. Given that the last formal biennial of Canadian art was more than two decades ago, it is only fitting that Oh, Canada has the chance to be taken in by Canadian viewers and processed, allowing them to decide for themselves what the lasting impact of the project will be, while providing a perfect excuse for a home turf celebration. There are a number of new works in the traveling version of Oh, Canada, including new commissions at certain venues, as well as crowd favorites to either discover or revisit. Additionally, since the original exhibition was roughly 18,000 square feet, in order to keep the show intact, it was necessary to divide the works among multiple venues. This allows visitors the unusual experience of traveling to several galleries, and sometimes across provinces to view a single exhibition, while also providing multiple venues the opportunity to work together in the effort.
In the end, Oh, Canada is but one snapshot among many possibilities, which has and will hopefully continue to encourage dialogue, debate, and a deeper exploration into the breadth and excellence of Canadian art today.
DENISE MARKONISH, CURATOR