12 September – 10 October 2008
Private view Thursday 11 September 2008, 6–8pm
Stephen Friedman Gallery is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in Europe of Canadian artist Kent Monkman.
Monkman is part of a new generation of Native American artists who has exhibited widely in museums throughout Canada. His broad practice, which ranges from figurative painting to film and performance, explores the complexities of the flawed, yet enduring myth of the American West. Taking on the artistic traditions of Western nineteenth century painting, Monkman’s appropriations of ‘New World’ painting are meticulous recreations of large-scale, sublime landscapes. Yet Monkman’s ‘trickery’ only becomes clear on closer inspection: these grand panoramas, painted in acrylic not oil, are populated with cavorting ‘cowboys and indians’. Toying with the notion of authenticity, these reimagined, often homoeroticised tableaux playfully subvert and distort traditional narratives and perceptions.
In this exhibition, Monkman transforms the front of the gallery into a nineteenth century ‘salon’, with gilt framed paintings hung at all levels. Here, his attention is focused on the artist and pseudo anthropologist George Catlin (1796-1872) who, with the zeal of a missionary, set about ‘documenting’ aboriginal tribespeople across North America as they faced the threat of extinction. Of particular interest to the artist is Catlin’s deliberate exclusion of the Native American ‘dandy’ from his idealised and misleading depictions. Monkman reinstates these lost dandies into his landscapes, where they act as observers of reinterpreted classical Western allegories and imagined scenes from North American colonial history.