Trade Marks at Prefix / Opening Reception

Opening Reception: September 19, 2013, 6 – 8 p.m.
Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art
401 Richmond St West, Suite 124,

Entering 401 Richmond is always a delight, seeing eclectically dressed, fast talking creators zipping in and out of the massive cultural hub. But tonight artists, writers and enthusiasts wandered in to celebrate the opening of Trade Marks, a group exhibition featuring four young contemporary indigenous artists.

Betty Julian, curator of the show, opens the reception by giving a brief introduction to the themes discussed in the multi-media exhibition. Julian highlights the use of symbolism and the emphasis on mark making when discussing the theme of indigenous interaction in modern day Canada. This is evident in Keesic Douglas’ work where by using the point blanket to stand in for the tradition and conflict that exists between the Indigenous people and the Hudson Bay Company respectively. Douglas uses photography to comment on the trade relations and its corresponding inequities with a minimalist language.

Keesic Douglas’s interaction between traditional textile and old-rye Whiskey to highlight the divide between customs and commodities

Keesic Douglas busy in conversation describing the distinct stripes of the point blanket and their connotation in his photograph

Symbolism is also present in Nigit’stil Norbert’s work where she uses a stencil inspired by her grandmother’s Gwich’in needlework to make a mark on urban spaces. This leads to a fantastic new lens through which to look at Toronto.

Norbert intersects two separate symbols of urban living and Indigenous handiwork to create a new space. One of my favourite works of the night

 Nigit’stil Norbert displaying her work

Meryl McMaster interprets mark-making by creating a sculpture made out of paper swallows cut out of North American history books. Then she moves within this swirl of paper birds. The large scale triptych is fascinating and immediately grabs your eye and very successfully elicits a sense of movement within the photographs.

Meryl McMaster standing by one of her beautiful photographs, Murmur

The fourth artist of the collective is Bear Witness who was not present at the opening. In his audio element in the show, his spoken worlds and sound piece summons you into the gallery and makes you feel like a cherished part of the community; much like the numerous Indigenous gatherings he’s appropriated.

The show is open from September 19th to November 23rd with plenty of interactive events including a curator’s talk on September 28, 2013 at 2 p.m. and the Image Native Art Crawl on October 18, 2013. Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, 401 Richmond St West, Suite 124,  Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat 12 – 5 p.m.

Text and photo: Aliya Bhatia

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