Beginning September 2018, artist Will Kwan’s new public commission, A Park For All, is visible along the stretches of the industrial retaining wall of Toronto’s Don River, south of Riverdale Park. Kwan’s hand-painted text installation speaks to the endlessly differing, and at times opposing, constituents of Toronto’s public spaces, to community expectations for urban parks in general and for the Don River Valley Park in particular.
Kwan’s artworks always begin with research into his surroundings, leading to projects that examine the dominant institutions and systems that shape economic and cultural realities. In this case, Kwan has reflected on the transformation of the Don River Valley and its surrounding neighbourhoods over many years, looking closely at the area’s rapid development and re-naturalization efforts.
In A Park For All, Kwan uses language to explore the power of naming in urban development, unpacking the expectations that come with the recent designation of the Don River Valley Park. Asking who a park is for in an increasingly stratified city, the project foregrounds the human impact of development in an area that has long been an intersection between divergent sections of society. The resulting commission suggests the complexity of this site: the project troubles the nature of “publics” and the utopian conception of a homogenous public park space; through Kwan’s extensive listing of Toronto’s constituents, we are likely to find ourselves represented, and implicated, in multiple overlapping and perhaps conflicting categories.
A Park For All will be on view for five years. The installation can be seen from the Lower Don Trail in two section: between Riverdale Park south to Gerrard Street East, and between Dundas Street East and Queen Street East. The closest access points to the Lower Don Trail are from Riverdale Park or from Queen Street East. Accessible entry to the trail is available from the eastern edge of Corktown Common Park.
A Park For All was made possible with the generous support of Richard Ivey and the Toronto Arts Council.
Installation: Cosmo Dean and Trevor Wheatley
Will Kwan (b. Hong Kong, 1978) is a Toronto-based artist whose work examines diverse cultural practices as impacted or resurrected in the flows of historical and contemporary economic relations.
Kwan received his MFA from Columbia University in 2004 and from 2004 – 2006 was a research fellow at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, The Netherlands. His work has also been exhibited at the 2010 Liverpool Biennial; the 2007 Montreal Biennial; the 2003 Venice Biennial; P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center; Art in General and Cooper Union in New York; the Zendai Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai; the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin; the ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art in Karlsruhe, Germany; the Contemporary Art Center in Vilinus, Lithuania; the Polish National Museum in Poznan; The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and the Power Plant in Toronto; and the Western Front in Vancouver.
Kwan has been an artist-in-residence at numerous institutions including the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto in Biella, Italy, the Duolun Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai, and recently at the Center for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester, England. His work is held in the collections of the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and the Doris McCarthy Gallery in Toronto, and the M+ Museum of Visual Culture in Hong Kong.