The Commissioning Program at The Power Plant is an ambitious ongoing program to develop and premier major new works by the most exciting Canadian and international artists at work today.
The commissions reflect international, national and local dialogues. This has occurred in terms of the content of the commissions, which have referenced the specificity of Toronto’s historical past and a more global cultural present, and through their production, which has involved the local arts community and the general public.
Our past commissions have attracted thousands of visitors to The Power Plant and have created tremendous excitement around contemporary art in Toronto. Commissioned works have been acquired by local collecting institutions where they will be seen by hundreds of thousands, tour to significant galleries around the world, and make a lasting contribution to the cultural life of the region.
Derek Sullivan: Albatross Omnibus
The Power Plant’s 2011 commission Albatross Omnibus
by Toronto-based artist Derek Sullivan involved new artist books, and a drawing and installation project. The commission’s core was a series of 52 limited edition books produced through print-on-demand technology. The project drew on the history of artists’ book production to examine its relationship to the larger art economy, while also exploring an interplay between book, furniture and garden design; concrete poetry; minimalism and conceptual art; authorship and appropriation; and the idea of reading as a stand in for interpretation. Ultimately the physical form of the book both supported and was the artwork.
Ian Wallace: Abstract Paintings I–XII (The Financial District)
The Power Plant commissioned a suite of twelve large-scale photo-lamination paintings by senior Vancouver artist Ian Wallace titled Abstract Paintings I–XII (The Financial District)
. The commission formed the centrepiece of Wallace’s exhibition The Economy of the Image
, a major multi-part installation of past and present work. The commissioned paintings reference photographs taken by the artist in the heart of Canada’s most important financial district in downtown Toronto. With this project, Wallace continues his ongoing examination of the aesthetic and social legacies of modernism, reflecting specifically on the context of Toronto (as previously commissioned artists have before him) in a manner that resonates both nationally and internationally.
Pae White: Sea Beast
The Power Plant commissioned a new monumental tapestry, Sea Beast
, from the acclaimed Los Angeles artist Pae White. White began creating tapestries in 2004, ambitious undertakings that use digitally manipulated photos of crumpled aluminum foil, plumes of smoke and dynamic image collages as their content. Sea Beast
is a large-scale image of a found macramé wall hanging. The commission signals a new visual direction in White’s work while representing her continued practice of blurring materials and appropriating scraps and ephemera. The commission was the centrepiece of the survey exhibition Pae White: Material Mutters
, which contextualized her new work with several of her past tapestries of epic scale, as well as video animations and works on paper.
Candice Breitz: Factum
The Power Plant commissioned a series of seven multi-channel video installations entitled Factum
by the South African-born, Berlin-based artist Candice Breitz. Referencing Robert Rauschenberg’s 1957 set of near-identical paintings, Breitz finds in identical twins a fascinating case study of how we negotiate the "script" of genetic inheritance and social conditioning. Interviewing the twins – and one set of triplets – in Toronto, each separated from their sibling but asked the same questions, Breitz created a series of dynamically edited video portraits exploring the myriad ways that the twins differentiate and distinguish themselves in a world that often values nothing more than the individual. Factum
was the centerpiece of Breitz’s survey exhibition, Same Same
Lawrence Weiner: CUL-DE-SAC
The Power Plant commissioned a text-based installation by the pioneering New York conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner. Spanning both sides of The Power Plant’s skylit clerestory, CUL-DE-SAC
responded to the forty-foot-high walls of the space. The piece was one of five text-based works in Weiner’s exhibition THE OTHER SIDE OF A CUL-DE-SAC
, each functioning as a fragment of a whole. The lobby of The Power Plant created the entrance to the exhibition with FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE
(2001), while the LePage gallery contained MORE THAN ENOUGH
(1998). This alchemical work culminated in the fragment MORE THAN ENOUGH
, commissioned expressly for the smokestack of The Power Plant.
Scott Lyall: The Power/Color Ball
The Power Plant commissioned the Toronto artist Scott Lyall’s largest solo exhibition to date. The new installation, The Power/Color Ball
, was named after a fictitious gala party reminiscent of the gallery’s annual Power Ball. The Power/Color Ball
drew from seven previous projects where Lyall used the figure of dance (and, partly, lyric poetry) as an empty sign for material production. The result was an exhibition that fell somewhere between a survey of past work and an entirely new assemblage. Strange and surprising connections also emerged from the artist’s placement of seemingly disparate shapes, forms, surfaces and images in physical space. The effect was one of improvisation and incompleteness married with calm predetermination.
Simon Starling: Infestation Piece (Musselled Moore)
The Power Plant commissioned a new work by the British artist Simon Starling, Infestation Piece (Musselled Moore)
. The work alludes to the close relationship between Henry Moore and the city of Toronto. Moore’s bronze Warrior with Shield
(1953–54) provided a jumping off point for Starling’s commission, as did the invasion of the Eastern European zebra mussel throughout the Great Lakes. Starling combined his interests in Moore and the zebra mussel by creating a steel copy of Warrior with Shield
and submerging it into Lake Ontario for 18 months where it was gradually colonized by zebra mussels. The removed sculpture is now covered with dried mussel shells, and formed the centrepiece of Starling’s survey exhibition, Cuttings (Supplement)
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse Front
The Power Plant commissioned a new large-scale interactive installation, Pulse Front (Relational Architecture 12)
, by the Montreal-based artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer – his first major light sculpture in Canada. Pulse Front
featured a matrix of light over The Power Plant and Harbourfront Centre, made with light beams from twenty of the world's most powerful robotic searchlights. Ten metal sculptures with embedded sensors and computers were placed along the harbour. The sculptures detected the pulses of people who interacted them and converted them into light pulses. With 200,000 watts of power and fifteen kilometres of visibility, the work blended the intimate with the spectacular in one of the most emblematic public spaces in Toronto.