The Drawings and Paintings of Daphne Odjig: A Retrospective Exhibition
Ottawa (Ontario) - October 20, 2009
October 23, 2009 – January 3, 2010
National Gallery honours Daphne Odjig with its first solo exhibtion
by a First Nations female artist
So groundbreaking was her work in the 60s and 70s, fellow artist and friend Norval Morrisseau called her “Picasso’s grandmother.” While Daphne Odjig’s work does embrace Cubism at times, as can be seen in L’amour fou, her colourful and playful homage to Picasso, Morrisseau’s tongue-in-cheek nickname for her claims a rich pictorial tradition of colour, line, rhythm and movement that long predates the art of the twentieth century. Today, the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) proudly presents The Drawings and Paintings of Daphne Odjig, the institution’s first solo exhibition by a First Nations female artist.
Curated by guest curator Bonnie Devine and co-organized with the Art Gallery of Sudbury, this exhibition is circulating as part of On Tour, the NGC’s travelling exhibitions program. The Ottawa venue is presented by Pratt & Whitney Canada, takes place from October 23, 2009 to January 3, 2010 in the Special Exhibitions Galleries and includes 56 works, which span 44 years of Odjig’s artistic production. Admission fees apply, but access is free to members of the NGC. Virtual visitors can experience her work at www.gallery.ca/odjig.
“Daphne Odjig holds an important place among the great artists of Canada,” said NGC Director, Marc Mayer. “She is respected nationally and internationally as a matriarchal figure who has captured her people’s voice, history and legends in a unique artistic style. We are honoured to be celebrating Daphne Odjig’s impressive career in this in-depth exploration of her work.”
“Pratt & Whitney Canada is proud to present Daphne Odjig’s colourful body of work,” said John Wyzykowski, Vice President, Mississauga & Turbofan Programs, P&WC. “We’re proud to support arts and culture through our association with various organizations such as the National Gallery of Canada.”
The Drawings and Paintings of Daphne Odjig: A Retrospective Exhibition includes examples of her legend paintings, history murals, erotica, abstractions and landscapes and is presented in six themes:
Daphne Odjig’s life and those of her forebears are depicted in stories of migration, flight and endurance. Highlights include: Genocide No. 1 (1971), from the NGC’s collection, a powerful rendering of the battle of Fort Dearborn near Chicago in which Odjig’s great-great-grandfather was a combatant and Roots (1979), a large triptych that depicts the artist’s own story of courage and survival in three stages: the harmonious life she knew on the reserve as a child, the identity crisis she experienced in the city, and the final stages of her life when she found peace in her Aboriginal roots.
Earlier works, such as The Eternal Struggle (1966), illustrate Odjig’s contribution to the Woodland School of Anishnabe painters, while later pieces such as the powerful collage, Thunderbird Woman (1971), start to challenge the dominant conventions of this style and move towards a more fluid and expressive approach.
Pow Wow at Wikwemikong
The Pow Wow at Wikwemikong, staged despite the objections of the church, heralded the resurgence of Indigenous cultural and artistic production after years of attempted assimilation and repression. For Odjig this event was the central factor in her emergence as an Aboriginal person, as an artist and as an advocate for the education and economic development of her people. It set the stage for the later works that would define her style, such as the large diptych Spiritual Renewal (1984). In this metaphorical painting, Odjig illustrates as a series of processions, the coming of Christian missionaries and the coming of the drummers, and, at the centre of the second panel, the sweet grass ceremony that was the turning point and culmination of the first pow wow.
Tales of the Smokehouse
A collection of erotica unique to the history of Aboriginal painting, these drawings were created for Dr. Herbert Schwarz’s book of the same title, published in 1974.
This is Odjig’s homage to the beauty and power of the forest. Some works, such as People of the Forest (1981), convey her response to the clear-cutting of British Columbia’s forests and the pollution and destruction of wildlife habitat that followed.
The seven images in this grouping reveal that her work is rooted in a spirit of deep affection and connection to her family as well as the values that were instilled in her by the small community at Wikwemikong. A highlight is Two Ladies Quilting (1982), which portrays the metaphorical and communal act of stitching together remnants of colour and shape and the reciprocal act of telling, transmitting and relating that is central to the reconstruction of a people.
The Artist’s Life
Odjig’s practice has always centred on a spirit of experimentation and this section depicts her influences and the challenges she faced as an Aboriginal living in a dominant non-Aboriginal culture. The works reveal the artist’s struggle and eventual triumph over society’s attempts to colonize and subdue the spirit and creativity that is intrinsic to her work.
The National Gallery of Canada extends special thanks to its partners
The National Gallery of Canada thanks its partners for their support: Pratt & Whitney Canada, presenting sponsor of the exhibition; Bell Canada, sponsor of the Bell Audioguide Program; and the Canada Travelling Exhibition Indemnification Program through the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Gallery also thanks its media partners, CBC Television, la Télévision de Radio-Canada, The Ottawa Citizen and Le Droit.
Featuring comments by artist Daphne Odjig and curator Bonnie Devine. Cost: $6.
Meet the curator
Saturday October 24, at 2 pm – The curator Bonnie Devine will tour the artworks in the exhibition and comment on the different themes. Included with Gallery admission.
Sundays October 25 and November 29, at 2 pm - A screening of The Life and Work of Daphne Odjig, the 2008 documentary directed by Raoul MacKay, First Voice Multimedia (48 minutes). In the Auditorium. Free admission.
A 144-page fully-illustrated colour catalogue produced by the National Gallery of Canada, accompanies the exhibition. The Drawing and Paintings of Daphne Odjig: A Retrospective Exhibition, written by Bonnie Devine, with texts by Robert Houle and Duke Redbird, is also available in separate French and Anishnabe editions. It is a softcover that retails for $44.95 and is available in the NGC’s Bookstore or online at http://www.shopngc.ca/.
About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art in the world. In addition, it has pre-eminent collections of Indigenous, Western and European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, American and Asian Art as well as drawings and photography. Created in 1880, it is among the oldest of Canada’s national, cultural institutions. As part of its mandate to make Canadian art accessible across the country, the NGC has one of the largest touring exhibition programs in the world.
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