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Contemporary Art Gallery

555 Nelson Street

Vancouver, Canada
Open from Tuesday to
Sunday, 12 pm → 6 pm

Admission always free
19 Mar 10until16 May 10

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

Neo-Native Drawings and Other Works

B.C. Binning and Alvin Balkind Galleries

A black and white portrait. The portrait depicts a figure from the shoulders up with a human-like torso and a stylized, mask-like head resembling an animal.

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Untitled (Ovoid Portrait), Undated. Photo: Tanya Goehring

With over fifty drawings extending over three decades, this exhibition is the first to survey Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun’s works on paper. Described by Yuxweluptun as preliminary studies, these drawings, etchings and watercolours are the background work and the measuring-stick for developing the forms and ideas that have come to identify his style and pictorial inventiveness. The drawings include the most recent totemic tree studies (2004–2009), the hybrid ovoid portraits (2002–2005), figurative drawings (1985–2009) (some of which are studies for paintings), watercolours (1980–1993), and etchings (1993–2009).

Yuxweluptun refers to his work as a discourse. In his work, art and politics intermix with a Salish cosmology to critique and transform the conditions arising from colonial displacement, returning the notion of an empty newly discovered land to an Indigenous sense of place. In this way a cultural landscape becomes known, if not fully understood, through the myriad forms that are central to Yuxweluptun’s image making. While his work often lays out the terms of a grim pedagogy addressing racism and abuse of the land, Yuxweluptun explores these ideas with a liberating and playful humour.

The traditional and hybrid visual shapes that characterize these complex drawings have provided the forms and ideas for internationally recognized paintings, which have forged far ahead in their ability to challenge the powers of wide networks of environmental, social, political, and legal relationships that, since colonial settlement, have pervaded the lives of Indigenous peoples on the Northwest coast of British Columbia. When characterized as drawing in colonial space, the artist’s discursive position combines compositional elements of Northwest Coast art with the abstractions of modernism. His work is often identified as extracting from the fluid shapes of Surrealism — from Salvador Dali to Roberto Matta, but the surrealists took inspiration from their own interpretation of a Native consciousness by contrasting this to a lack of connection between art and society so characteristic of modernity. The drawings of Yuxweluptun demonstrate a strategic sensibility to underscore how history is embedded in place: these works reinscribe an Indigenous visibility to a homeland, or the difference marking out the Indigenous occupants of invaded colonies, which is in contrast to a neo-colonial gaze. As counterpoint the drawings depict a cultural landscape within which representation and meaning open up hidden epistemologies and indigenous peoples walk on the land.

Guest Curated by Petra Watson


Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun is best known for his large scale painting, which he has exhibited nationally and internationally since graduating from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 1983. Solo exhibitions include Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Colour Zone, Plug In ICA, Winnipeg (2001) and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Born to Live and Die on Your Colonialist Reservation, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver (1995). Recent group exhibitions include Challenging Traditions, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinberg, Ontario (2009); Transporters: Contemporary Salish Art, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (2008); and Beyond Beads and Feathers: Recent Work by Six Contemporary Native American Artists, Portland Art Museum, Oregon (2002).

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