First shown at the Carmen Lamana Gallery in Toronto in the early 1970s, his early sculpture took the influences of Minimalism and Conceptualism in a new direction for Canadian art. He incorporated humble furniture, photographs and text, thus staging the collision of formal and informal systems of knowledge: personal and public, documentary and interpretive. In his later installations such as "After Durer" (1989) Carr-Harris provides a critique of the cognitive process by building a full-scale symbolic dramatization, complete with lighting, narrative soundtracks, props representing found objects and a rationalized cultural end product. The series of book works from the mid-1990s focus on one particular ordering system: the Enlightenment project of the Encyclopedia. Through a process of isolation, objectification and illumination with electric back-lighting, the artist uses old encyclopedias to reintroduce notions of chance and wonder as valid knowledge bases. Recent works, including the installation Ten Verbs/ Ten Commandments (2005) and a series entitled "Paradigms" (2009) explore ideas related to accepted knowledge, looking at the processes and choices through which beliefs are constructed.
Ian Carr-Harris has exhibited widely both in Canada and abroad in Spain, France and The Netherlands. Noteworthy exhibitions include solo shows at the SOUTHERN ALBERTA ART GALLERY, Lethbridge (1996, and travelling), Optica, Montréal (1994), AGNES ETHERINGTON ART CENTRE, Kingston (1989), Art Gallery of Ontario (1988), and the 49th Parallel, New York. He has represented Canada at the Sydney Biennale (1990), Documenta 8 (1987) and with Liz MAGOR at the Venice Biennale (1984). In 2007 he was awarded the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts. Having taught at the Ontario College of Art and Design since 1976, Ian Carr-Harris has had an important formative influence on an entire generation of Canadian artists.
Author KAREN WHITE