Photos courtesy of SonnyAssu.com
There are many Native artists I love, but one that really resonate with is Sonny Assu. Since I first saw his Coke Salish piece as a photograph in a magazine, I knew that this was a modern Native artist that fuses pop culture with Indigenous ideology. I started to follow his work by basically
stalking watching for his updates online.
Chief’s Drum from iDrum series
Ovoid as Language #1
When I saw his iDrum series and his Longhouse series, I really fell in love with Assu’s aesthetic. Here is an artist melding West-Coast designs in a modern context that I can really relate to. I dream of the day that I can own some of his artwork and hang it proudly on my wall. His work is so street slick, it wouldn’t look out of place in any urban, modern environment despite the fact that it’s rooted in history and tradition.
Despite my desire to see Sonny Assu’s work live and up close, I haven’t yet been able to catch his exhibit. Thankfully Planet IndigenUS has finally made this dream a reality. Material Wealth: Revealing Landscape with Sonny Assu and other artists is on at the York Quay Center in the south vitrines until September 23.
The above two pieces are a part of his series, entitled Longing. This series started four years ago when Assu was walking along the site of a log-home developer on the traditional territory of the We Wai Kai Nation, his reserve on northeastern Vancouver Island. He found off-cuts that looked remarkably like pre-fabricated Northwest Coast masks. Longing is his commentary on what these waste products could have been. The display of these discarded objects, using museum-quality mask mounts and photography, assigns wealth in an artistic and anthropological sense. Through this work he challenges the institutions to collect remnants of our consumption culture.
“Planet IndigenUS is a celebration of what is cutting edge and awesome in the contemporary indigenous art world. I was excited to find out that Material Wealth would be run in conjunction with the festival. It’s a great opportunity to, not only show case thought provoking works of art, but to open up a dialogue towards a better understanding of how Indigenous art and performance works within the contemporary art discourse.” Sonny Assu
Sonny Assu, Laich-kwil-tach (Kwakwaka’wakw) of the We Wei Kai First Nation, is an interdisciplinary artist who continues to push the boundaries of contemporary art by challenging the perception of Indigenous art. Assu merges Indigenous iconography with the aesthetics of popular culture to challenge the social and historical values placed upon both. An exploration of his mixed ancestry, his work appropriates or transforms items of consumer and popular culture to trace the lineage of his own personal life. His work has been accepted into the National Gallery of Canada, the Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and in various other public and private collections across Canada and the United States. Assu was long listed for the 2012 Sobey Award.
Sonny Assu’s website - http://sonnyassu.com/
Sonny Assu’s Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/sonnyassu.art
Planet IndigenUS Material Wealth event information - http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/whatson/visualarts.cfm?id=3823