Sonny Assu: As Defined Within the Indian Act is the first solo exhibition of emerging contemporary artist Sonny Assu. The exhibition features new work that explores the current tension between innovation and tradition through the forms and sensibility of Pop Art. Curated by Matthew Hills, the exhibition seeks to position contemporary urban Indigenous artistic production within the context of the Northwest Coast and Vancouver’s contemporary art discourse.
Combining a Pop aesthetic with traditional Northwest Coast style and forms, such as the button blanket and formline, Assu cultivates a wry critique of current artistic and socio-economic issues pertinent to contemporary culture. The exhibition will include several new paintings and sculptures that experiment with notions of commodification and the ready-made. The result is an engagement of tradition that refuses to acquiesce to the stereotypes of First Nations art and artists, while respecting Native culture and addressing an urban context. Placing an emphasis upon the exploration of identity, Assu’s practice compels the viewer with incisive wit that undermines notions of a static First Nations identity and temporarily allays the ubiquitous misrepresentation of First Nations culture and people.
Since the completion of his BFA at the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design in 2002, Sonny Assu has established his practice through various group exhibitions including Thinking Textile at the Richmond Art Gallery, Futuristic Regalia at Grunt Gallery, Vancouver, and Changing Hands: Art without Reservation at the Museum of Arts & Design, New York before it tours nationally. A member of the Laich-kwil-tach Nation of the Wei Wai Kai (Cape Mudge) band, Assu has lived in Vancouver since 1998.
The title, As Defined Within the Indian Act, makes ironic reference to Indian Status cards and the failed attempt of the Indian Act to define and limit Indigenous identity. This exhibition is curated by Critical and Curatorial Studies Master of Arts candidate Matthew Hills, with support from the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, the Alvin Balkind Fund for Curatorial Initiatives and the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at UBC. The Belkin Satellite gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.