A History Lesson: Contemporary Aboriginal Art from THE collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery at MOCCA (Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art, 5040 Yonge) as part of Planet IndigenUs, to September 5, reception Tuesday (August 17), 5-8 pm. 416-395-0067. Rating: NNN
Mocca's last show in its uptown space features works from Regina's MacKenzie Art Gallery by seven contemporary aboriginal artists. The pieces here range from fiercely polemical to meditative, making the show well worth the trek to North York.
Robert Houle 's mixed-media collages take on early genocidal practices, setting a grim and sobering tone. Houle balances his opening with Palisades, a series of colour field panels that have the unmistakable feel of remote lakeshore wilderness.
Faye HeavyShield is equally graceful in her sculptural piece Aapaskai- paawa: They Are Dancing. Her group of suspended geometric forms, stately and strangely human, twist and hover like spirits over the gallery floor.
Providing contrast are Bob Boyer 's take-no-prisoners painting/installation confronting Columbus and aboriginal land rights and Ruth Cuthand 's drippingly sardonic canvas on native assimilation viewed through the lens of the Oka crisis. They are paired with Edward Poitras 's Traces, sculptures that misidentify enlarged natural artifacts as pieces of modern machinery.
Last is Dana Claxton 's video and installation Buffalo Bone China, in which a pile of broken dishes lies in a neat circle beneath a projection of stampeding buffalo, accompanied by aboriginal chanting. This haunting and slow piece of visual ritual evokes both the lost legacy of the First Nations and their continuing conflicted relationship to Euro-American values.