January 25, 2010

Art examples in Currents

Examples of the art on display in Currents: Native American Forces in Contemporary Art at the University of Northern Colorado Galleries:

American Indian art shows its many facets

Exhibition at UNC dispels notion of a monolithic culture

By Kyle MacMillan
No piece more directly and succinctly speaks to the evolving identities of today's American Indians and the cultural pre-conceptions that surround them than "Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan," a sly video work by Nicholas Galanin of Sitka, Alaska.

In the first part, a dancer in street clothes in some nondescript room realizes an undulating contemporary solo to traditional Indian chant and drumming.

In the second part, a dancer in traditional ceremonial garb complete with a bird mask performs before a backdrop with classic Northwest Coast Indian designs. But confounding expectations, the music is a techno track.

The technical quality of the piece might be less than desirable, but the point is clear: There is no monolithic American Indian culture. Like every other group, Indians are highly diverse and ever-changing.

Other highlights:

"My Balls, My Beads," urethane foam, rope, oil and spray paint. Brooklyn artist Jeffrey Gibson offers an updated take on a centuries-old component of Indian art: beads. He has strung 13 multicolored balls, each about 18 inches across, on a rope that stretches down from the ceiling and onto the floor, creating an eye-grabbing installation.

"Staff: Custodian," cast bronze. Blankets, which had an important place especially in the history of nomadic tribes, run through the work of Marie Watt of Portland, Ore. This spindly, 4-inch-square totem, which reaches nearly 10 feet in height, consists of dozens of carefully folded sections of blankets that have been stacked and then cast in bronze.

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