Organized by curators Cassandra Getty and Toronto scholar Adam Lauder, this exhibition stages an encounter between historical and contemporary visions of environmental and social crisis. At the heart of this dialogue is 19th-century painter Joseph Légaré (1795-1855), a Quebec artist whose work challenges common-sense notions of landscape, time and adversity by re-engaging with scenes of calamity. Légaré’s striking disaster paintings, presented for the first time as a focus of a museum exhibition, set the stage for contemporary artists’ interventions within the imagery of catastrophe and activist calls-to-arms.

Political upheaval and public anxiety inform artistic depictions of nature’s wrath; likewise art documents emergencies that are man-made. Far removed from the heroic and pristine Canadian landscapes of the Group of Seven, the imagery assembled for Imaging Disaster―including works by contemporary artists such as Martin Golland, John Dickson, Fern Helfand, Iain BAXTER&, Kelly Wallace, and several others―projects a vision of landscape that is thoroughly mediated by technology, distribution networks, and the perpetual threat of tragedy posed by human intervention in the environment.