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June Clark explores the meaning and possibilities of the American flag in solo exhibition at the AGO

Dedicated to Colin Rand Kaepernick, installation highlights Harlem-born, Toronto-based artist’s use of found and re-purposed materials

TORONTO — On view now at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), June Clark: Unrequited Love brings together nine works by one of Toronto’s leading artists. June Clark’s attempt to decipher the patriotic rhetoric of her birth country has led her to re-consider and re-imagine its most revered object – the flag – repeatedly over the past three decades. Curated by Julie Crooks, AGO Curator, Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora, the exhibition is on view now in the Murray Frum Gallery of African Art through to January 2025.

A celebrated multimedia artist, Clark is known for her inventive use of materials. As a child growing up in Harlem, the idea that the American flag is an object to be revered was instilled at an early age. Clark remembers being told that she was lucky to live in “the greatest, strongest, most compassionate and free country in the world.” A fixture in the Toronto art community since the mid-70s, Unrequited Love highlights an artist who seeks to unleash the hidden potential in objects.

“Bringing together works from the past three decades, this exhibition not only explores the role that the symbolic plays in shaping us, but it also charts Clark’s material investigations over time, as each work reflects a moment in time,” says Julie Crooks, AGO Curator, Arts of Global Africa, and the Diaspora. “The genesis of these works is deeply personal, but Clark’s capacity to reconfigure and re-imagine her optimism that we might reclaim the flag is one of the qualities that makes these objects so powerful. My hope is that visitors will spend time with these works to contemplate, reflect and question the values we embed in ubiquitous national symbols such as flags — particularly during a US election year.”

Materials, Clark writes, “are the grammar of my visual language,” and in her flag works, as in her sculptures, installations, and photographs, the handmade and the found intermingle, as new and old, personal, and mass produced, collide to simultaneously look forward and back. Varying widely in composition and presentation, each of the nine works on view in Unrequited Love, demonstrate Clark’s capacity to harness both the resonant and aesthetic qualities of a material – be it rust, tea leaves or velvet.

Made of salvaged metal from car mufflers collected over the course of years, Dirge (2003) is a recent AGO acquisition. First shown at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1997, From Harlem depicts a cotton flag, found by Clark in her childhood neighbourhood, which she has deconstructed and allowed to float to the floor of the Frum Gallery. A combination of red wine and tea are used to paint a version of the flag in Alas… (2006). In A Family Secret (1991) a flag – a family heirloom and the earliest work in this series, is carefully packed into a black wooden box to hold on to and contain Clark’s conflicting feelings of its symbolism of liberty and freedom.

Unrequited Love was first mounted in 2020, at Daniel Faria Gallery in Toronto. Clark dedicates the exhibition to the indomitable spirit of African American football player and activist, Colin Rand Kaepernick. Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem in 2016 to call attention to the continued violence towards and oppression of Black people in America and around the world.

Admission to June Clark: Unrequited Love is free for all Indigenous Peoples, AGO Members, Annual Passholders and visitors aged 25 and under. Same day tickets can be booked in person and online. For more details on how to book your tickets or to become a Member or Annual Passholder, visit

Opening this May at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery is June Clark: Witness, a solo exhibition organized in tandem with Unrequited Love.

June Clark (b. 1941, Harlem, New York; Lives and works in Toronto) is a Toronto-based artist working in photography, sculpture, and collage. Best known for her photo etchings and sculptural assemblages, Clark’s autobiographical practice investigates themes of black diasporic identity, exile, and memory work through reflections on her Harlem childhood and subsequent migration to Canada as a young adult. She began developing her early photography work through the Baldwin Street Gallery of Photography, co-founding The Women’s Photography Co-op there in the early 1970s. Since then, her work has been exhibited in Toronto, Oakville, Burlington, Guelph, Montréal, New York City, Paris, Kiev and Quito, Ecuador. Recent solo exhibitions include: June Clark: Photographs, Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto (2023); June Clark: Harlem Quilt, The Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL (2022); Unrequited Love, Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto (2020); JUNE CLARK, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2018).

June Clark: Unrequited Love is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario in tandem with The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.

@AGOToronto | #SeeAGO

Contemporary programming at the AGO is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts


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