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Kent Monkman Puts Bulls in a China Gallery at the Gardiner Museum

KENT MONKMAN’S GARDINER MUSEUM INSTALLATION CONSIDERS COLONIALISM’S INDUSTRIAL AND ARTISTIC PRACTICES WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF HISTORY’S INEXORABLY CYCLIC NATURE

Kent Monkman Gardiner Museum Miss Chief Buffalo

Kent Monkman’s installation, The Rise and Fall of Civilization, at the Gardiner Museum (photo: Craig Moy)

OCTOBER 15 TO JANUARY 10 The collection of ceramics at the Gardiner Museum includes more than 300 examples of 19th-century bone china. It’s possible that some of those pieces were made with bone ash from bisons—the skeletal remains of the prairie-dwelling animals, killed en masse for their pelts, were ground down and used as an ingredient in porcelain. Of course, the hunt also played a role in the devastation of Indigenous cultures across the continent; this knowledge underpins Kent Monkman’s new installation, The Rise and Fall of Civilization. A nine-foot-high, diorama-like “buffalo jump” incorporating a pair of taxidermy bison, a sculptural Miss Chief (the Canadian First Nations artist’s alter ego), smashed ceramics and more, the site-specific work serves as a rebuke of colonialism’s industrial practices. More subtly, it also forces us to consider a colonialist undercurrent in 19th- and early 20th-century art: sculptural bulls, inspired by Picasso’s famed cubist deconstruction, nod to Monkman’s assertion that while modernism represented for Western artists a freedom from established customs and norms, its appropriation of aboriginal imagery (then and now dubbed “primitivist” art) symbolized the flattening of native cultures.  —Craig Moy

• Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park, 416-586-8080; gardinermuseum.on.ca
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