Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun

I was completely blown away by the exhibition 'Unceded Territories', a solo show of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC in Vancouver. I first came about his work in a class I took during my undergraduate studies at McGill on contemporary Canadian Aboriginal art. The work that I was taught is 'An Indian Act: Shooting the Indian Act', a performance from 1997 wherein Yuxweluptun shoots the Indian Act, a federal law from 1876 that remains active today limiting the rights aboriginal peoples in Canada. What remains from the performance are the rifles used for the shooting and the document having endured several bullets.

Getting the chance to look at some of his paintings, I was so impressed by his visual eloquence in his efforts to reclaim Aboriginal aesthetics within a modernist canon. Making use of traditions in Pop art and abstract painting (he plays with the tradition of white on white paintings, beginning with Malevich and then continued by Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Ryman), Yuxweluptun becomes the agent who appropriates western culture to serve activist pursuits on the ways in which the west has failed many. 

He is the maker and no longer the subject and repurposes the techniques and history of western art to fulfill he own messages. Addressing a multitude of urgent issues such as the residential schools in Canada's ugly history, oil spills in the ocean and power in today's politics, this exhibition was immense and instantiated thought and concern for world problems that have a bad habit of getting brushed over. 

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