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McMaster Museum of Art presents significant works of art from the 1980s by eleven artists
Edward Poitras, Small Matters (detail), 1985. Mixed media installation (nails, wire, paper, vinyl type). The Mendel Art Gallery Collection at Remai Modern. Purchased 1989. Image courtesy of Remai Modern.

HAMILTON, ON.- A new exhibition at the McMaster Museum of Art presents significant works of art from the 1980s by eleven, foundational contemporary Indigenous artists—Carl Beam, Bob Boyer, Robert Houle, Gerald McMaster, Shelley Niro, Ron Noganosh, Jane Ash Poitras, Edward Poitras, Pierre Sioui, Jeff Thomas and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun—and acknowledges their critical role in paving the way for Indigenous artists and curators today.

During the 80s, these artists declared that the lack of Indigenous representation in major arts institutions across Canada was symptomatic of a broader historical and ongoing indifference to Indigenous peoples.

“They—and many others of their generation—were provocateurs,” says exhibition curator, Rhéanne Chartrand. “They weren’t afraid to talk about the issues and realities of life as a contemporary Indigenous person through their art. Despite the fact that they were acutely aware that the lack of inclusion in major institutions was directly tied to entrenched colonial attitudes that the art world held toward Indigenous art, they never wavered in their resolve to incite change on their own terms. They really broke down barriers and challenged the status quo about Indigenous art, and I believe that this artist-activist spirit has carried forward into Indigenous artistic practice today.”

Through powerful and provocative works, often employing humour, irony and satire, these artists achieved their objective. In place of inaccurate and stereotypical images, they asserted Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-representation, self-determination and sovereignty. Their art stands as both evidence of and a means of cultural survival + resistance = survivance.

Unapologetic: Acts of Survivance, includes eighteen works of art, on view in the Museum’s two main-level galleries. They are drawn from the collections of the artists, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, McMaster Museum of Art, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Remai Modern, Saskatchewan Arts Board Collection, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and Private collectors.

Rhéanne Chartrand is the Aboriginal Curatorial Resident at the McMaster Museum of Art, a position made possible by the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost, McMaster University. She is a curator, arts administrator, and cultural animator based in Toronto, Canada. Chartrand has worked with numerous galleries and cultural organizations including Aboriginal Pavillion for Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance, and aluCine Latin Film+Media Arts Festival.

Unapologetic is the first of two interrelated exhibitions of Indigenous art curated by Rhéanne Chartrand. The second exhibition, Coyote School, will be on display from June 09 to August 26, 2017 and will feature works by emerging and mid-career Indigenous artists who cite influence via artistic inspiration, mentorship or familial connection to the eleven artists presented in Unapologetic. The intent of Coyote School is to acknowledge and respect the contributions that senior Indigenous artists have made to personal and collective Indigenous artistic practices.

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McMaster Museum of Art presents significant works of art from the 1980s by eleven artists

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