Carl Beam—Organized by the National Gallery of Canada
October 29, 2011–April 15, 2012
New York, NY
A retrospective of Carl Beam (Ojibwe, 1943–2005) featuring 41 works, including paintings, ceramics, constructions, and video, Carl Beam examines the artist's investigations into the metaphysical aspects of both Western and Native cultures. A vital force in contemporary Canadian art, Beam worked with expressive layering akin to that of Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008) rather than the traditional forms of Anishinabek "Woodland School" painters like Norval Morrisseau (Anishinaabe, 1931–2007). Beam confounded expectations with a masterful combination of diverse iconography commenting on contemporary culture and the effects of colonialism.
Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and curated by Greg A. Hill (Mohawk), the NGC's Audain Curator of Indigenous Art, the exhibition opens with the artist's early works and includes his masterpiece The North American Iceberg, the first work by a Native artist to be purchased by the National Gallery of Canada to begin a collection of contemporary Native art. Other pieces presented are organized into themes such as The Columbus Project, an immense body of work that re-examines European contact; Plant Communication, Margins: Food/Shelter, and The Whale of Our Being, which touch on Beam's study of people's relationships with the environment; and Crossroads, a meditation on fame and celebrity. Also included are a selection of Beam's ceramics that demonstrate the artist's study of ancient Anasazi and Mimbres pottery from the U.S. Southwest to his later works that incorporate Japanese firing and glazing techniques.