Luis Jacob is in the midst of putting on a touring mid-career retrospective show, and he has been thinking. Not reminiscing, or indulging in navel-gazing nostalgia, but thinking: about pictures and about exhibitions. After all, the Toronto stop of his retrospective, at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MoCCA), is called (aptly enough) Pictures at an Exhibition.
“It’ll be almost like a bookend,” he says of its curation. “Work that’s 20 years old, work that’s very recent and nothing in between.”
It’s a wise move for Jacob. He’s so omnipresent in Toronto, and as such, local viewers are likely familiar with his recent work. He’s been making art in this city — photography, performance, all with a heavily conceptual bent — for the better part of 20 years. Take his 2005 Flashlight installation at the Toronto Sculpture Garden: an interactive installation inspired by the community-creating powers of funk and disco (a theme he revisited in his 2009 curated show Funkaesthetics at the University of Toronto’s Barnicke Gallery).
His international reputation got a shot in the arm in 2007, when his work was included in Documenta 12 in 2007. The Documenta exhibitions, which take place once every five years in Kassel, Germany, are one of the most important global surveys of contemporary art. His video in Documenta, A Dance for Those of Us Whose Hearts Have Turned to Ice, was shown at Toronto’s Birch Libralato, which partly explains why he’d want to surprise his hometown with never-before-seen work.
This touring retrospective is unlike most, in that it’s constantly shifting and city- and venue-specific.
“The idea of the survey show is that it would show new work, old work, work made especially for the exhibition. But at each venue, it’ll be completely different work than the other venues. So each venue would be a completely different show with completely different work, but the whole cycle of exhibitions would constitute a survey show. It’s a different model of what a touring survey show is.”