THE REACH GALLERY MUSEUM, Abbotsford BC – To May 8
by Michael Turner
Those unfamiliar with the work of Stó:lo artist E’yies’lek Rocky LaRock can be forgiven. Unbeknownst to many, LaRock has, in the words of Reach curator Adrienne Fast, “pursued his art practice for decades, but he’s done so on his own terms and outside of the usual channels of the contemporary art world.” These terms were met last year when The Reach and LaRock began work on his first solo exhibition at a public art gallery, helped along by a Canada Council for the Arts grant that recognized LaRock’s “outstanding artistic vision.”
Although LaRock is comfortable in a range of media and with various carving styles (he is equally adept with an ax as with a chainsaw), it is his mask work that takes centre stage. In addition to the out-sized scale of his masks, LaRock utilizes a range of material elements, including abalone, horsehair, leather and feathers. What distinguishes LaRock’s masks from other Northwest Coast master carvers is the degree to which he builds up these elements, obscuring those features we associate with the human face while at the same time framing breaks in the mask surface that reveal aspects of the “wild inside” human form, as evidenced by the maple wood, leather and horse hair Northlander (2019).
The Wild Inside includes a number of videos in which viewers can see and hear LaRock tell the story behind each of his works: not simply how the work was made, but why, when, where and of what. For those unable to attend the exhibition, these videos will be available online. The exhibition is accompanied by a small publication.