Kent Monkman’s New Exhibition at the Gardiner Museum Reveals a Dark Period in First Nations History
The Rise and Fall of Civilization at the Gardiner from October 15, 2015 – January 10, 2016
Friday, October 16
Free with half-price admission, 4 – 9 pm
In collaboration with imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and Soundstreams Canada, the Gardiner hosts a special opening party for Kent Monkman's The Rise and Fall of Civilization.
• Check the link for other programming, including the artist in conversation, film screenings and more
Toronto, ON — Atop a cliff flanked by two life-sized bison, Miss Chief stands with her arms outstretched and her hair blowing in the wind. Sculptures of cubist-style bison plunge headlong into the gallery, violently shattering at the base of the cliff in a pile of broken ceramics.
Kent Monkman’s new large-scale intervention at the Gardiner Museum, entitled The Rise and Fall of Civilization, alludes to the near extinction of the American bison in the nineteenth century when their numbers were reduced from approximately 50 million to the hundreds. European settlers hunted the bison for their pelts and used their bones for fertilizer and bone china.
“I was immediately drawn to the Gardiner Museum’s collection of bone china and how I could relate it to this particularly dark period in the history of North America’s First Peoples,” explains Monkman. “The bison represented the food supply of the Plains Indians, so when their population was decimated, it destroyed a way of life for a lot of Indigenous cultures. It was a turning point in the movement of theEuropean population across North America which pushed the First Peoples to the fringes.”
“Kent Monkman’s new work not only acts as a reminder of a pivotal and often overlooked moment in our collective history, it reinforces the idea that clay is part of the vocabulary of today’s most important and provocative artists,” says Kelvin Browne, Executive Director and CEO of the Gardiner Museum.
The installation is made up of a 9-foot high “buffalo jump” topped by two mounted bison and a sculpture of the artist’s glamourous diva alter ego, Miss Chief, a supernatural being who challenges historical narratives. Bison leap from the cliff and morph through several cubist stages inspired by Picasso’s drawing of a bull, ultimately appearing on the walls in the form of Aboriginal rock pictographs. Smashed ceramics at the base of the cliff reference the build-up of bones often found at buffalo jumps, and the history of Indigenous ceramics uncovered at sites across North America.
“People engage with a sculptural installation in a different way than they do a painting,” says Monkman. “They can move around it and really approach it. People are familiar with the idiom of the museum diorama so they have certain ideas, memories, and associations connected with it and I like to disrupt those ideas. I like to challenge conventional or received notions that people have about First Nations cultures.”
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication featuring an interview with Monkman by Kelvin Browne, as well as essays by well-known art critic Sarah Milroy and Gemini-award-winning documentary filmmaker Tasha Hubbard.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Gardiner Museum will celebrate contemporary First Peoples culture with a full schedule of programming created in collaboration with imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, Human Rights Watch Canada, Art Toronto, RPM.FM – Indigenous Music Culture, The Institute of American Indian Arts, The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA), the Consulate General of the United States Toronto, and Soundstreams Canada.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Kent Monkman is one of the country’s preeminent contemporary artists, working in a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. His work is represented in numerous private and public collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum London, The Glenbow Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, The Mackenzie Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. In 2014, Monkman received the Indspire Award in recognition of his outstanding career achievements.
TD Bank Group is the Presenting Sponsor for Kent Monkman: The Rise and Fall of Civilization, and The Hal Jackman Foundation is the Exhibition Partner.
Thursday, October 15
5 – 7:30 pm - $55
Empty Bowls is a North American-wide project to aid the homeless. More than 400 bowls are donated by potters, potter’s guilds, and pottery students, and gourmet soups are prepared and ladled out by some of the province’s top chefs. All proceeds are donated to Anishnawbe Health Toronto, a culture-based Native centre committed to changing lives through traditional healing practices.
Friday, October 16, as part of the public opening of Kent Monkman’s new site-specific installation at the Gardiner Museum, imagineNATIVE will present Kent Monkman: Miss Chief in Motion, a series of Monkman's short films featuring Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, the artist’s iconic drag queen alter ego. Kent Monkman will be in attendance for an audience discussion after the screening, followed by a tour of the exhibition guided by the artist himself.