Toronto Biennial of Art Presents Judy Chicago Smoke Sculpture in June

The renowned American artist will create her first Smoke Sculpture on Lake Ontario, releasing white, yellow, green, blue, and purple pigments from a structure on a barge.

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A Tribute to Toronto, 2022, Judy Chicago's latest site-specific pyrotechnic display, will take place on June 4, 2022 at Sugar Beach on Toronto's waterfront as the grand finale celebrating the conclusion of the second edition of the Toronto Biennial of Art (the Biennial/TBA).

The renowned American artist will create her first Smoke Sculpture™ on Lake Ontario, releasing white, yellow, green, blue, and purple pigments from a structure on a barge. In the air, the pigments mix with the wind and sunset light to create a myriad of changing colourful effects until dissipating. In line with the artist's long history of being a passionate advocate for the environment, Chicago and her collaborators-husband and photographer Donald Woodman, Chris Souza of Pyro Spectaculars and Maude Furtado of GFA PYRO-only use non-toxic materials that meet environmental safety standards to create temporary forms that, for several minutes, transform sites into an immersive experience for viewers. The electronic ignition that sets off the smoke emits little or no sound during the presentation.

"The Toronto Biennial of Art is thrilled to present A Tribute to Toronto by Judy Chicago, the legendary feminist artist, art educator, and writer who will create her first project on water and her first Smoke Sculpture™ presentation in Canada. Judy has been a long-time fan of our city having first exhibited her iconic The Dinner Party installation at the Art Gallery of Ontario in the 1980s. Her return to Toronto with this work provides an exciting opportunity for our community and the art world to experience art history in the making," said Patrizia Libralato, Executive Director of the Toronto Biennial of Art.


A Tribute to Toronto is commissioned by TBA and made possible with the generous support of Menkes Developments, ArtworxTO: Toronto's Year of Public Art 2021-2022, the Delaney Family Foundation, Waterfront Toronto, the Waterfront BIA, and the Women Leading Initiative.

Chicago first turned to pyrotechnics as an artistic material in the late 1960s in an effort to feminize the atmosphere at a time when the California art scene, where she was active, was male-dominated. Between 1968 and 1974, she executed a series of increasingly complex firework pieces that involved site-specific performances around California. Chicago began to create more ambitious projects and, over time, has created over fifty such works to impermanently transform beaches, parks, forests, deserts, construction sites, and museum exteriors with whirling plumes of brilliant pigments, guided by her principle that colour is a metaphor for emotive states. "Colour is the through line in my work, whether ephemeral or explored in more tangible forms such as paintings or sculpture. Colour is a doorway to many aspects of the human condition," said Chicago.


Chicago's experiments with pyrotechnics emerged in parallel with the rise of Land Art in the 1960s and 1970s, a movement that the artist's work implicitly critiqued as being hyper-masculine and founded on large-scale interventions into the earth. Her fireworks archive is now housed at the Nevada Museum of Art which has resulted in exhibitions and presentations on her unique form of Land Art.


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