We became familiar with the work of Beau Dick, a First Nations artist and Kwakwaka’wakw Chief, around 2010 when he began to be embraced by the contemporary art scene in Vancouver. This community, like a secret society, admits very few. Beau Dick was a once-in-a-generation addition, following his predecessors Bill Reid and Robert Davidson. “Revolutionary Spirit” is Beau Dick’s first museum retrospective, and follows his untimely passing last year.
The most exciting room in the exhibition is dedicated to “Undersea Kingdom”, the sculptural installation originally staged in Athens, Greece which Dick created for documenta 14, the international art exhibition that takes place in a different city every five years.
Shown for the first time in Canada, the hand-carved wooden masks illustrate characters from a local fable about a man who is abandoned by his family on a rock in the ocean to die. A mouse woman appears and, pulling the water back like a blanket, shows him a hole which leads to refuge. It actually goes to the underworld, where the chief takes pity on him and grants him permission to stay forever. The ocean characters as imagined by Dick are stunning and some are even mechanized.
Revolutionary Spirit is on until June 11 at the Audain Art Museum. Audainartmuseum.com/