highlights of chagall and the russian avant-garde @ the AGO

I love going to the AGO's big exhibitions! Busy as they may be, they're always full of inspiration and unexpected surprises.

I really wanted to check out the Chagall show because I find his paintings so free and gutsy, especially in terms of colour - I'm a big chicken when it comes to colour. I need to learn from these guys. I was also very interested in the show's focus on the influence of Chagall's origins on his work. A nostalgic, even sometime idealized view of my own hometown and culture is something that has unexpectedly crept up on me while living in Toronto, and that I feel I need to tackle through art as well.

That, and I've been reading a lot of Joann Sfar this year.

Did I mention the chickens? I love the fun, happy chickens and goats and cows that pop up here and there, and even in the most sober of his pieces.

See the chicken?
("Newspaper Vendor", Marc Chagall, 1914)

...and the Russian Avant-Garde. It's not all about Chagall, guys! Some of my favourite stuff in the show wasn't Chagall at all, but of other Russian born artists. I really fell for this one:

A little boar and a whacky bird AND a freaky naked lady? I was all over this!
("Spring", Mikhail Larionov, 1912)

I was also floored by this collection of lithographs by Natalia Goncharova. So graphic, so direct, so creepy, and so beautiful.

(Portfolio cover from Misticheskie obrazy voiny, 14 litografii - Mystical Images of War: Fourteen Lithographs, Natalia Goncharova, 1914)

(Bratskaya Mogila - A Common Grave, Natalia Goncharova, 1914)

This documentary by Dziga Vertov was projected on a wall, and I was completely mesmerized. Man with a Movie Camera is a depiction of everyday life for people in Russia in 1929. There's some elements of stop motion in there, along with other fancy camera tricks for the time. 

Once you're done with Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde, don't miss Constructing Utopia: Books and Posters from Revolutionary Russia (1910-1940) on the first floor. Propaganda leaflets and posters with beautiful, constructivist design. I love that stuff.

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