From a media release
Kent Monkman Announces Iskonikan
On view at Art Toronto 2023
October 26 to 29
- Tickets to Art Toronto At The Link
Kent's work will be at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Booth #B34
Toronto, ON, October 19 2023 – Kent Monkman is pleased to present iskonikan at Art Toronto 2023, on view in Booth #B34 at Metro Toronto Convention Centre from October 26 – 29, 2023. iskonikan is a Cree word for “Indian reserve” that when translated literally means left-over land. Monkman’s exhibition at Art Toronto 2023 references the limiting of Indigenous sovereignty to reserve lands with a new installation and a selection of paintings from his 2022 Being Legendary series. The project also introduces two new editions of Monkman’s work: an unlimited, free risograph poster and a limited edition silk screen print. 50% of the proceeds from the print’s sale will be donated to nēhiyawak Language Experience, a nonprofit organization that hosts an annual Cree language camp focusing on producing authentic language engagement and uplifting nēhiyaw (Cree) identity, including ways of knowing and being.
|Kent Monkman, Giants Walked the Earth, 2022. Acrylic on canvas, 27 in. x 42.5 in.|
“Reserves were specifically defined to dispossess and control First Nations people,” says Kent Monkman. “After European settlers arrived and spread across Turtle Island, we signed agreements to share the land with them. Our ancestors believed we were entering into a kinship relationship with them, making us all treaty people. These treaties stated that our land was not to be sold or given away, yet most Indigenous lands have been stolen, encroached upon, or embezzled. Today, most reserves are located in remote areas, far from the urban centres that were once Indigenous people’s meeting, living, hunting, agricultural and trading places. Many of us have been forcibly moved to remote areas that European settlers viewed as the leftovers. This dispossession and land theft has created many barriers to how we thrive in today’s world.”
In the middle of the iskonikan booth is mêmêkwêsiwak Trading Post, a miniature version of a prototypical “Indian Trading Post” partially hidden behind tall grasses on what appears to be a slice of land — the “World’s Smallest Reserve.” A cut-out roof reveals a white-cube exhibition of small paintings — a series of portraits of Cree legendary beings known as the mêmêkwêsiwak (the little people), who appeared in Monkman’s Being Legendary exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum earlier this year.
|Kent Monkman, The mîmîkwîsiwak Remember the Giants, 2022. Acrylic on canvas, 18.5 in. x 29 in.|
Surrounding the trading post on the walls of the booth are studies for several of the paintings from Being Legendary that reinforce Indigenous presence on Turtle Island for 100,000 years — much longer than settlers’ theories of human presence in the Americas. The paintings from Being Legendary explore the complexities of Indigenous knowledge systems, including the science embedded in Indigenous ways of knowing and the deep and extensive relationship of Indigenous peoples to the land.
Historically, trading posts were places where Indigenous peoples and settlers across Turtle Island bought, sold, and traded furs and commodity items. Monkman’s siting of a miniature trading post in a booth at Art Toronto 2023 is a meta reference to the commercial buying and selling of art. With its play on scale, mêmêkwêsiwak Trading Post emphasises that Indigenous territories have been reduced to small slices of land. Its function as a mobile gallery, small enough to travel anywhere on Turtle Island, implies that treaty rights and Indigenous sovereignty should extend beyond the limits of iskonikan.
|Kent Monkman, Constellation of Knowledge, 2022. Acrylic on canvas, 93 in. x 124 in.|
ABOUT KENT MONKMAN
Kent Monkman (b. 1965) is an interdisciplinary Cree visual artist. A member of Fisher River Cree Nation in Treaty 5 Territory (Manitoba), he lives and works in New York and on treaty territory in Ontario. Known for his thought-provoking interventions into Western European and American art history, Monkman explores themes of colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience—the complexities of historic and contemporary Indigenous experiences—across painting, film/video, performance, and installation. Monkman’s gender-fluid alter ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle often appears in his work as a time-travelling, shape-shifting, supernatural being who reverses the colonial gaze to challenge received notions of history and Indigenous peoples.
Monkman’s painting and installation works have been exhibited at institutions such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal; Musée d’artcontemporain de Montréal; The National Gallery of Canada; The Royal Ontario Museum; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Hayward Gallery; Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art; Musée d’art Contemporain de Rochechouart; Maison Rouge; Philbrook Museum of Art; Palais de Tokyo; and the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College. He has created site-specific performances at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Royal Ontario Museum; Compton Verney, Warwickshire; and The Denver Art Museum. Monkman has had two nationally touring solo exhibitions, Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience (2017-2020), and The Triumph of Mischief (2007-2010).
Monkman’s short film and video works, made with his long-time collaborator Gisèle Gordon, have screened at festivals such as the Berlinale (2007, 2008) and the Toronto International Film Festival (2007, 2015). Monkman co-wrote, with Gordon, The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle: A True and Exact Accounting of the History of Turtle Island, a two-volume edition featuring Monkman’s artwork to be published in November of 2023. Monkman is the recipient of the Ontario Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts (2017), an honorary doctorate degree from OCAD University (2017), the Indspire Award (2014), and the Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award (2014) and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2023.
Monkman has self-represented on treaty territory since 2018 and hosts studio visits by appointment in New York and Toronto. Learn more at www.kentmonkman.com.
From a recent show: