Shotgun Reviews

An Evening Redness in the West at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Alicia Guzmán reviews An Evening Redness in the West at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, NM.

Andrea Carlson. Ink Babel, 2014; ink and oil on paper; 115 x 183 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Bockley Gallery.

Andrea Carlson. Ink Babel, 2014; ink and oil on paper; 115 x 183 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Bockley Gallery.

When viewers enter An Evening Redness in the West, curated by Candice Hopkins for the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, they are surrounded by the constant clicking of a Geiger counter. As if measuring radioactivity within the space itself, the Geiger counter’s din can be heard throughout the exhibition, which unfolds over two rooms.

The exhibition includes eleven Native American and First Nations artists all offering visions of life in a postapocalyptic future. The title of the exhibition cites Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985), a fiction account of raucous scalp hunters set in the borderlands of the Southwest, itself a novel of apocalyptic proportion. The Geiger emanates from Cart (2015), Death Convention Singer’s mixed-media sculpture of a cart loaded with detritus such as empty water bottles. A grim-reaper-like figure composed of VHS tape looms overhead, a citation no doubt of the “death cart” motif common to New Mexico. Even more poignant than Cart is Death Convention Singer’s inclusion of a vessel holding the murky brown water of the Animas River, titled Water from the Polluted Animas River as It Flowed Through the San Juan River (2015). The river now flows with nearly 3 million gallons of toxins, a result of the Environmental Protection Agency’s perforation of a defunct gold mine in Colorado.

Andrea Carlson’s Ink Babel (2014) engulfs an entire wall with sixty rectangular compositions (ink and oil on paper) all pieced together to form an opus: an abject landscape of repeating monsters, wretched faces, extraction machines, and hogs. Each image can be apprehended on its own, thick in detail, or all together, forming a kaleidoscopic panorama. One figure in Ink Babel can been seen looking at his obsidian mirror only to apprehend three ships in the distance: the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, showing a harbinger of colonialism within a dreamspace that seems not solely of the past, but also of a strange future. Duane Linklater’s Tautology (2011–13), a glowing neon thunderbird, cites Ojibwa artist Norval Morriseau’s painting Androgyny (1983), an epic, polychromatic canvas in which a similarly styled thunderbird reigns over a garden of indeterminate figures. The repetition of the thunderbird motif in Linklater’s work only proves the tautology. Altogether, the exhibition features a vast array of works in the vein of Indigenous Futurisms, a movement that recalls Afrofuturism’s preoccupation with an uncanny and forward-oriented temporality. In An Evening Redness in the West, life exists after the apocalypse. It may be, in fact, that the apocalypse has already passed.

An Evening Redness in the West is on view through December 31, 2015, at the Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Alicia Inez Guzmán is a PhD Candidate in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of Rochester. She currently holds a post as a pre-doctoral fellow in American Modernism at the Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center in Santa Fe.

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