Play: the word and related concepts yield a dizzying array of meanings, activities and states of mind. In considering this thicket of meanings one might enact a behavior, fulfilling a role in a single event (play) that might be both sporting match and theatrical performance, or indeed part of a constructed persona played out in the real world. Play therefore can mean that we remove ourselves from our conventional contexts, refashion ourselves and our usual roles. But just as one might actively participate in play, the term can also denote a less active time spent in leisure, one more cerebral than physical.
In this special exhibition, the flagship presentation of the 2013 theme World at Play, historic and contemporary artworks present these variations in tandem. An 18 foot salon-style installation of 19th-century paintings redolent of the Parisian Salon—the epitome of period spectacle—will be juxtaposed with a dramatic, oversized black and white film devoted to chess by contemporary Canadian artist Marcel Dzama. Portraits of sports players, and memorable moments in sports history, as well as a contemporary sculpture by Graeme Patterson depicting Daryl Sittler’s famous 10-goal hockey game in 1976 will take us into the heart of the most literal meaning of play: the sports world.
The notion of chance, integral to another facet of play—the gambling table—will be represented by such works as Canadian artist Barbara Steinman's Roulette, an etched glass and brass sculpture in the shape of a roulette table.
In all, the exhibition will range across a multitude of contexts, as well as media, to have us ponder anew the relationship between art and 'play.'