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AGO presses play on Bright Signs, a dazzling new exhibition of large-scale video art

Khalil Joseph’s tribute to an African American rodeo makes its AGO debut

Bright Signs: Spotlight on Video Art opens July 3, 2024


Through light, sound and moving image, video artists create powerful multisensory experiences. Opening on July 3, 2024 at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Bright Signs: Spotlight on Video Art presents 11 large-scale works from the AGO’s collection of contemporary art, highlighting video art’s technical sophistication and varying formats, from large-scale environments to projections and moving sculpture. Filling Level 5 of the AGO, the exhibition features artwork by Alexandra Bachzetsis, Iain Baxter&, Trisha Donnelly, Theaster Gates, Laurent Grasso, Jenny Holzer, Khalil Joseph, Taus Makhacheva, Christian Marclay, Lisa Reihana and Sarah Sze.

“Harnessing state-of-the-art technology, video art has the capacity to make moments in time – be they real or imaginary, past or present – feel startlingly immediate. In doing so, these artworks raise powerful questions about memory, history and visibility,” says exhibition curator Debbie Johnsen, Manager, Modern & Contemporary Collections, AGO. “Incorporating staging, high-definition multi-channel videos, vintage and digital media players and audio – it is an exciting challenge to present video art and all time-based media. The AGO’s conservation and installation expertise mean that these works can be brought so powerfully to life here.”

Offering visitors the unique opportunity to encounter multiple worlds and scenarios – from the summit of a mountain in Southeastern Russia, to an intimate dance performance, the exhibition is anchored by two large-scale immersive environments. 

On the eastern side of Level 5, video, neon, and sculptural artworks by American artist Theaster Gates come together under the title Progress Palace to pay homage to an influential 1970s Chicago nightclub and it’s DJ, Frankie Knuckles.  An artist whose practice focuses on preserving, building, and honouring culturally significant sites, he identifies nightclubs as historical places of sanctuary for queer and Black bodies, and invites visitors to find liberation in music. Behind reclaimed doors, the ghostly frame of a DJ booth stands, illuminated by flashing lights, while a two-channel video portrays bodies in motion,  as his iceberg shaped disco ball, Houseberg, slowly turns.

Also shown in darkness, on the western side of the exhibition, filmmaker and artist Khalil Joseph’s three screen homage to African American rodeo culture Wildcat (Aunt Janet) (2016) hangs, suspended above three inches of topsoil. Filmed on location in the sparsely populated Oklahoma town of Grayson (formerly called Wildcat) and recounting the origins of the town’s annual rodeo —  one of the last surviving African American rodeos in the American mid-west — Joseph’s ethereal black and white images of bull riders and cowgirls are set to a score composed by the artist Flying Lotus.

Bright Signs: Spotlight on Video Art marks the first time AGO audiences will see several recent acquisitions, including Alexandra Bachzetsis’ intimate dance performance Chasing a Ghost (2019) and Laurent Grasso’s neon sculpture Visibility is a Trap, a work commissioned by the Toronto Biennial of Art, in 2021.  Returning to view following extensive conservation is Jenny Holzer’s electronic advertisement sign and granite bench, part of her 1986 series UNDER A ROCK (You create an incident...).  

On view through October 14, 2024, Bright Signs anticipates the forthcoming Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery, which is currently in the initial stages of construction. When completed in 2027, the expansion will increase exhibition space for the museum’s growing modern and contemporary art collection.

Bright Signs opens to AGO Members on Wednesday, July 3, and to Annual Pass holders and the public on Saturday, July 5. Admission is free for all Ontarians under 25, all Indigenous Peoples, AGO Members and Annual Passholders. Same day tickets can be booked in person and online. For more details on how to become a Member or Annual Passholder, visit

Additional programming – including talks and courses – will be announced in the autumn.

Bright Signs: Spotlight on Video Art is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Contributing Sponsor
IG Wealth Management

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

@AGOToronto | #SeeAGO    

Located in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario is one of the largest art museums in North America, attracting approximately one million visitors annually. The AGO Collection of more than 120,000 works of art ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art to significant works by Indigenous and Canadian artists to European masterpieces. The AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, including solo exhibitions and acquisitions by diverse and underrepresented artists from around the world. The AGO is embarking on the seventh expansion it has undertaken since the museum was founded in 1900. When completed, the Dani Reiss Modern and Contemporary Gallery will increase exhibition space for the museum’s growing modern and contemporary collection.  With its groundbreaking Annual Pass program, the AGO is one of the most affordable and accessible attractions in the GTA. Visit to learn more.

The AGO is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts, and generous contributions from AGO Members, donors, and private-sector partners.


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