New AGO exhibit by a Toronto artist explores meaning of the American flag

June Clark: Unrequited Love, now on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), brings together nine works by one of Toronto’s leading artists.

June Clark. Dirge, 2003. Oxidized metal on canvas, 94 × 160 × 1.8 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Purchase, with funds by exchange, and funds from Joyce and Fred Zemans, 2021. © June Clark, courtesy of the artist and Daniel Faria Gallery. Photo: LF Documentation. 2020/137 (Image source: AGO)

An exhibition that explores the meaning and possibilities of the American flag is now on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

The exhibition, called June Clark: Unrequited Love, brings together nine works by one of Toronto’s leading artists.

June Clark’s attempt to decipher the patriotic rhetoric of the country she was born in has resulted in her re-considering and re-imagining the flag over the past three decades.

The exhibition is being curated by Julie Crooks, AGO curator, arts of global Africa and the Diaspora, and will be on view in the Murray Frum Gallery of African Art until January 2025.

Clark, who is a celebrated multimedia artist, is known for her creative use of materials. Growing up in Harlem, Clark remembers being told that she was lucky to live in “the greatest, strongest, most compassionate and free country in the world,” according to the AGO.

“Bringing together works from the past three decades, this exhibition not only explores the role that the symbolic plays in shaping us, but it also charts Clark’s material investigations over time, as each work reflects a moment in time,” said Crooks. “The genesis of these works is deeply personal, but Clark’s capacity to reconfigure and re-imagine her optimism that we might reclaim the flag is one of the qualities that makes these objects so powerful. My hope is that visitors will spend time with these works to contemplate, reflect and question the values we embed in ubiquitous national symbols such as flags — particularly during a US election year.”

The exhibition was first mounted in 2020, at Daniel Faria Gallery in Toronto. Each of the nine works on view in the exhibition showcase Clark’s ability to harness the aesthetic qualities of a material, whether it is rust, tea leaves or velvet.

According to the AGO, Clark dedicates the exhibition to the “indomitable spirit” of African American football player and activist, Colin Rand Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem in 2016 to bring attention to the violence towards and oppression of Black people in America and worldwide.

Admission to June Clark: Unrequited Love is free for all Indigenous Peoples, AGO Members, Annual Passholders and visitors aged 25 and under. Same day tickets can be booked in person and online.

For more details on how to book your tickets or to become a Member or Annual Passholder, visit AGO.ca.