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Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge

March 4 to May 14, 2006

Organized by Karen Duffek, Curator of Art at the UBC Museum of Anthropology in collaboration with the National Gallery of Canada, Robert Davidson:The Abstract Edge, the artist’s first solo exhibition in a decade, opens at the McMichael on March 4 and continues until May 14.

The exhibition presents thirty paintings and sculptures, including painted compositions on canvas, paper, deerskin drums, and cedar, as well as sculptures in both cedar and aluminum, by Haida artist guud san glans, Robert Davidson. These contemporary works are displayed together with a series of extraordinary nineteenth-century painted objects from the northern Northwest Coast: four feast dishes and a canoe steering paddle. The historical works, drawn from museum collections across Canada and the United States, provide the conceptual foundation for Davidson’s inquiry into Haida concepts of abstraction – the focus of this exhibition. Together, Davidson’s paintings and sculptures and the historical works act as an intervention into prevailing understandings of Haida art. They counter the idea that this is a closed visual language, a set formula, or a fully understood tradition.

A specific goal of this exhibition is to advance the critical recognition of First Nations artists engaged in reclaiming the vocabulary and intellectual foundation of their inherited art, and in contributing to its further evolution. Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge makes a case for the place of indigenous, community-based knowledge within the realm of contemporary art practice. Here, one artist’s contemporary inquiry can offer new insights both into the historical tradition on which it is based, and into the global circulation of the work today.

Canadian Heritage

National Gallery of Canada

Killer Whale by Robert Davidson

Robert Davidson, 1946-
Killer Whale, 2000
acrylic on canvas
76.2 x 101.6 cm
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Elvis Costello,
© Robert Davidson

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