Jeffrey Gibson on Rebecca Belmore

Rebecca Belmore: Sister, 2010, inkjet print on transparencies, 84 by 140½ inches overall. Courtesy Art Museum at the University of Toronto.

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As part of the Annual Guide to Galleries, Museums and Artists (A.i.A.’s August issue), we preview the 2018-19 season of museum exhibitions worldwide. In addition to offering their own top picks, our editors asked select artists, curators, and other experts to identify the shows they are looking forward to. Here, Jeffrey Gibson talks about Rebecca Belmore.

“I’m excited about Rebecca Belmore’s show ‘Facing the Monumental’ at the Art Gallery of Ontario. She’s had a number of solo museum shows, appeared in multiple group exhibitions (including ‘Global Feminisms’ in 2007), and represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2005. This exhibition will address thirty years’ worth of work and bring her iconic large-scale installations together in one place.

“Belmore often considered what defines an artist’s work as Indigenous long before that topic was on most people’s minds. In her performances, she goes directly into trauma, pain, fear, and sadness, but always while gathering force and presenting a strong female Indigenous body. I greatly admire artists like Belmore and the late James Luna for remaining committed to a practice, and developing a contemporary language and aesthetic, sometimes without an audience or a chance of financial gain. Their examples have raised the stakes for Native artists of my generation.

“I first became aware of Belmore when she was going through legal issues with her previous dealer, who had brought a lawsuit against her. In 2010 she sat outside a museum, the Vancouver Art Gallery, holding a sign that read I AM WORTH MORE THAN ONE MILLION DOLLARS TO MY PEOPLE. It was the first time I’d heard an Indigenous artist address legal and financial issues so publicly, and it was inspiring to see Belmore fight back.

“In 2014, as part of the symposium ‘Stronger Than Stone: (Re)Inventing the Indigenous Monument’ at Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon, she performed outdoors, digging into the snow, while miked so you could hear her breathing heavily throughout the building and the surrounding landscape. She was addressing a colonial monument on the ground, scraping it and pulling on it. Her performances acknowledge that we’re all in shared circumstances. They establish a common mental space. That feels quite loving. It feels like she’s doing these actions on my behalf.

“Belmore developed her career in Canada, where there’s more support for Indigenous art than in the United States. Sometimes people ask me what I think should happen to improve conditions for Indigenous artists. I’d like to see this show brought to the US. I think it would have a big impact here.”

 

“Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental,” Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, through Oct. 21, 2018. 

JEFFREY GIBSON is an artist whose mid-career survey “Like a Hammer” is on view at the Denver Art Museum through Aug. 12. His solo exhibition “This Is the Day” appears at the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y., Sept. 8–Dec. 9, 2018, and the Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, July 14–Sept. 29, 2019.