Going Native

A new show sparks a cross-cultural dialogue.

Metropolitan State College of Denver’s Center for Visual Art has a mission to emphasize diversity and present modern works by artists not commonly seen in this city — and for assistant director/curator Cecily Cullen, the idea of a cross-cultural exhibit by a group of contemporary artists who are also Native American seemed like a perfect fit. Currents: Native American Forces in Contemporary Art, a unique show of in-the-moment works by seven diverse Native Americans, opens at the CVA today.

“Each artist engages in a dialogue about identity, and each has a foot in contemporary art while also speaking to their Native American heritage,” Cullen says, and she only has to point to their pleasingly disparate works to prove her point. Honoring cultural traditions while avoiding the pitfalls of stereotyping constitutes a fine high wire for any artist to tread, but this group does it gracefully, and on the cutting edge. For instance, Marie Watt, whose stunning totems of slumping, reclaimed blankets represent the evolution of personal stories, pays homage to the oral tradition in her background in a completely new way. And Tlingit artist Nicholas Galanin’s video diptych bookends mirror images: One depicts a break dancer gyrating to a native chant, while the other flips the imagery to show traditional Northwest Coast Indian dancers moving to a techno beat.

Currents opens August 27 with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m.; an artist talk by Galanin and Melanie Yazzie takes place at 7 p.m. On September 10, the CVA will also present Flow: Past, Present, Future, a panel discussion with artist Will Wilson and MSCD scholars. The exhibit continues through November 7; find the CVA at 1734 Wazee Street in LoDo. Go to www.metrostatecva.org or call 303-294-5207.
Aug. 27-Nov. 7, 2009

 
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