Sargent's Daughters is pleased to present The Urban Res, the first New York solo exhibition of Canadian Cree artist Kent Monkman. The exhibition will consist of a new series of paintings and a large-scale installation.
In The Urban Res, Monkman carries forward themes from his previous narrative figurations. While his earlier paintings were mostly set against the romantic backdrop borrowed from Bierstadt’s North American landscapes, this new series takes place in dilapidated urban environments. While the setting may have changed, the subject matter remains consistent: the Native American experience of resilience and transcendence despite colonization and the ruinous effects that a cycle of disenfranchisement, loss and social dysfunction has wracked on the indigenous population.
Monkman chooses to focus on the North End of Winnipeg, which is host to a highly visible population of displaced First People. In his dynamic compositions myth, spirituality and art history are merged with an unconventional cast of players: tattooed Renaissance angels, Aboriginal thugs, spirit animals and contemporary medicine men in beaded sports jerseys. Additionally, Monkman has cast Modernist figurations from Picasso, Bacon and Moore as casualties of violence and disease. These figures, flattened in the pictorial space, are representative of the compression of indigenous cultures—they are the “casualties of modernity”, now mourned and assisted by groups of urban indigenous youths.
The large-scale installation sets Miss Chief Testickle, Monkman’s recurring alter-ego, in an idyllic Western landscape, but the usual trappings of rural life have been replaced with aggressive modern counterparts. Inspired by dioramas in Natural History Museums, the installation captures the essence of the exhibition’s title. Here is Miss Chief, whose sexuality is both concealed and brazenly displayed, astride a contemporary steed in the Urban Reservation.
By his overt references to paintings of nearly every art historical period, from the caves of Lascaux to Veronese to Francis Bacon, Monkman asserts himself as both a traditionalist and an iconoclast. He raises his voice for native populations transcending the devastation of colonialism, while depicting their struggles in the language of European painting. In doing so he stakes new ground and claims a territory for himself as both an artist and a descendant of those originally displaced.
Kent Monkman (b.1965) 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 Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto (2007), Winnipeg Art Gallery (2008) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Art (2009). Solo gallery exhibitions include Gallery Florent Tosin, Berlin (2012 & 2010), Pierre-François Ouellette, Montreal (2012) and Stephen Friedman, London (2008). He has participated in various international group exhibitions including: Oh Canada!, MASS MOCA, MA (2012), Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3, Museum of Art and Design, NY (2012), Shape-shifting: Transformations in Native American Art Peabody Essex Museum, MA (2012), My Winnipeg, Musee International des Arts Modestes (2011), Sète, France, The Beauty of Distance Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2010), Remember Humanity at Witte de With, Rotterdam (2010). Monkman’s work is represented in numerous public and private collections including the National Gallery of Canada, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Museum London, The Glenbow Museum, The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, The Mackenzie Art Gallery, The Art Gallery of Ontario, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Monkman's work has been featured in publications such as ARTFORUM, Art in America, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Interview Magazine in addition to many others. His installation at Sargent's Daughters will be traveling to the SITE Santa Fe Biennial in July 2014.