I had the dual pleasure of a) visiting the refreshing Vancouver Art Gallery exhibit “Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop, and Aboriginal Culture” b) on the Gallery’s pay-what-you-can night. Five hard-earned dollars later, I entered the multifaceted, multimedia world of said exhibit. As a self-proclaimed First Nations fanatic (Joseph Boyden beware), I was in my element in this modern art world fused with the cultural striations of the coastal indigenous. The exhibit was wonderfully large which made me celebrate the life and ingenuity in this generation’s First Nation’s works of art. Not only was there life, but the exhibit also exuded a certain confidence that can only be the result of a generation in the midst of redefining itself.
A few names in the exhibit were familiar to me including the lauded Brain Jungen’s. Famous for molding common place objects into culturally significant icons, Jungen sets the bar high for his cultural and artistic counterparts. This traditional West Coast mask is sculpted out of Nike Air Jordan shoes. His work is very much a commentary on tradition meeting the obstacles of materialism and mass production.
As Granville Bridge is in my neck of the woods, I was always curious about who the artist behind its undercarriage graffiti was. From the “Beat Nation” exhibit I learned that Corey Bulpitt is a well-known and celebrated Vancouver artist. His beautiful Haida-inspired pieces connect modernity and tradition.
One of the most impressionable exhibits for me was one by Dylan Miner entitled “Native Kids Ride Bikes”. It consisted of six bicycles in a V-shape. Each of the low-rider bikes were uniquely adorned with indigenous emblems like a coyote mask draped over the handlebars or an embroidered drum in lieu of spokes. The installation was effective because the choice of bike emphasized rebelliousness while the piece in its entirety suggested a moving forward. I left the gallery feeling as if I had touched only the tip of a dense iceberg.