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Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge

Museum of Anthropology
Vancouver BC Jun 22-Jan 30, 2005

Robert Davidson - Sea Monster
Robert Davidson, Sea Monster (2000), acrylic on deerskin, [Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver BC, Jun 22-Jan 30, 2005]

The Abstract Edge is a major exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Haida artist Robert Davidson shown with Northwest Coast artifacts from the19th century. Davidson has developed a personal iconography and contemporary style while working within Haida artistic traditions. He is renowned for his innovative paintings on canvas, paper, and deerskin drums; his carved and painted cedar panels; and laser-cut sculpture in cedar and aluminum. The exhibit will display examples of his work in each of these mediums.

Over the past 20 years, Davidson has challenged notions about Haida art as conforming to a specific visual language. The exhibition brings together a body of work, dating from 1982 to 2004, through which he moves beyond “formline” and “crest” to explore new visual strategies in Haida abstraction that exceed the conventionalized set of referrents. Davidson’s work is shown together with such historical objects as painted bentwood boxes and a painted canoe paddle. It challenges visitors “to go beyond what we can recognize.”

Davidson has been described as the consummate Northwest Coast native artist but, in fact, should be described as the consummate artist. Whether he is working with gold, wood, argillite or paper, his technical perfection is astounding. Robert Davidson received the Order of Canada in 1997 for his contributions to Haida culture.

The Abstract Edge is curated by Karen Duffek at the Museum of Anthropology and accompanied by a 64-page illustrated catalogue with essays by Duffek and guest writer Robert Houle. The National Gallery of Canada will circulate this exhibition.

Mia Johnson

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