10 Artists You Didn’t Know Were Canadian

Artsy Editorial
Oct 24, 2013 2:22PM

“It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw.” —Emily Carr, Canadian artist and writer

When you think of Canadian art, the names that come to mind are probably Jeff Wall, David Altmejd, maybe Stan Douglas or Rodney Graham. But sprinkled throughout the global contemporary art scene are artists in all disciplines who call (or have called) Canada home. Here are some Canucks whose heritage you might not have known—and, even if you did, who are still worth mentioning.

1. Agnes Martin: Though she became an American citizen at the age of 20, the late Martin grew up in Vancouver. Her subtle-toned gridded paintings are some of the cornerstones of Minimalism.

2. Laura Letinsky: The Winnipeg-born photographer has made a name for herself with carefully composed still life photographs. Influenced by 17-century Dutch painting, Letinsky’s tabletop compositions imply ambiguous narratives despite the lack of human presence.

3. Gary Taxali: Taxali is of the most in-demand illustrators working today, and you might recognize his works from such publications as The Rolling Stone, GQ, Newsweek, and The New York Times. In 2012, the Canadian government minted quarters with six of his designs.

4. Marcel Dzama: Dzama’s small-scale, surrealistic drawings in ink and watercolor are some of Canada’s most celebrated contemporary art. In 2010 he had a major retrospective at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montréal, one of the country’s premier institutions.

5. Cosimo Cavallaro: In the vein of Dieter Roth and Janine Antoni, Cavallaro makes food-themed sculptures, from cheese installations and a chocolate Jesus to the giant Jellybeans currently sprinkled throughout the L.A. Given his technicolor palette, you might be surprised to learn he’s from Montréal (pardon the stereotype, ahem).

6. Jon Rafman: Rafman is at the forefront of a handful of digital artists culling imagery from Google Street View. His best known works capture the quirky (and sometimes disturbing) roadside happenings picked up by Google’s cameras around the globe.

7. Marco Brambilla: Although born in Italy and now based in New York, Brambilla grew up in Toronto; his video installations have been shown and celebrated the world round, in museums, fairs, biennials, and film festivals alike. He got his start making commercials for Canadian television, including a million-dollar spot for Pepsi.

8. Barbara Astman: Astman was born in Rochester, N.Y., but emigrated to Ontario during the Vietnam War. Her practice is a distinctly feminist take on Canada’s rich photo-conceptual tradition, mixing photography with other media and focusing on her own body as subject.

9. Terence Koh: A mainstay in the downtown Manhattan circle of artists that’s also included Dan Colen, Dash Snow, and Ryan McGinley, Koh mixes a range of mediums in his bold practice. Known best now for works that examine queer and punk youth cultures, Koh was born in Beijing and raised in Ontario.

10. Edward Burtynsky: A native of St. Catharine’s and now based in Toronto, Burtynsky has photographed the perverse beauty of industry, pollution, and human intervention on the natural landscape around the globe. He began his career photographing quarries throughout Ontario and Québec.

Discover more Canadian artists and explore Art Toronto on Artsy.

Artsy Editorial