This new series of paintings by Canadian Cree artist Kent Monkman carries forward themes from his previous narrative figurations, set against romantic North American landscapes stolen from Albert Bierstadt and other North American painters. Themes relating to historic and contemporary Native American experience such as colonization, sexuality, loss, and resilience, are now transposed against contemporary derelict urban backdrop.
In dynamic compositions that merge myth, spirituality and art history, these paintings surge with an unconventional cast of players; tattooed Renaissance angels, Aboriginal thugs, vivid cubist figurations, spirit animals, and contemporary medicine men in beaded sports jerseys collide in tumultuous street scenes. Complex narratives depict a broad range of human emotion and experience: grief, violence, ecstasy, desire, and pity.
Monkman has recently cast Modernist figurations (Picasso, Bacon, Moore) in his representational paintings as casualties of violence and disease. Both Picasso and Bacon created their figurations based on personal experience with the gruesome violence of war. The two dimensional quality of Picasso’s distorted cubist figures, and Bacon’s mutilations seem heightened in contrast to the sensual figures that Monkman has claimed from various influences in art history.
In Monkman’s work, the Modernists’ flattening of pictorial space functions as a metaphor for Modernity’s compression of indigenous cultures. Inspired by old masters’ sensitive depictions of grief and lamentation, Monkman’s “Casualties of Modernity” are mourned or aided by young urban indigenous people. A generation of disenfranchised youth extend their condolences and empathy toward the less fortunate.
Kent Monkman just received the Hnatyshyn Prize for excellence in the visual arts and the 2014 Indspire Award. His work can be seen currently in the United States at the Sante Fe Site Biennale until January 2015 and in France at the Musée d'art contemporain de Rochechouart until December 15.
Kent Monkman is a Canadian artist of Cree ancestry who works with a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. He has had solo exhibitions at numerous Canadian museums including the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Woodlands Cultural Centre and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. He has participated in various international group exhibitions including: The American West, at Compton Verney, in Warwickshire, England, Remember Humanity at Witte de With, Rotterdam, the 2010 Sydney Biennale, My Winnipeg at Maison Rouge, Paris, 2007 Biennale de Montréal, and Oh Canada!, MASS MOCA. Monkman has created site specific performances at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Denver Art Museum, The Royal Ontario Museum, and at Compton Verney, he has also made Super 8 versions of these performances which he calls “Colonial Art Space Interventions.” His award-winning short film and video works have been screened at various national and international festivals, including the 2007 and 2008 Berlinale, and the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. His work is represented in numerous public and private collections including the National Gallery of Canada, Musée d'art contemporain de Rochechouart (France), Musée des beaux-art de Montréal, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Art Gallery of Ontario, Museum London, Woodland Cultural Centre, The Glenbow Museum, Indian Art Centre, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Mackenzie Art Gallery, the Art Bank of the Canada Council, Smithsonian/National Museum of the American Indian, Vancouver Art Gallery, Fondation de la Maison Rouge(Paris), Rideau Hall (Ottawa), The Logan Collection/Denver Art Museum and Hart House/University of Toronto. In January 2015, he will unveil his installation Casualties of Modernity in the BMO Financial Group Project room in Toronto