Greg Hill, Lee-Ann Martin and Chris Dueker
National Gallery of Canada
200 pp 100 col. ill. 11 x 9 in softcover
$40.00 Can. $45.00 U.S.
Alex Janvier is a canonical figure in Native American art history who, for over 50 years, has maintained a singular artistic practice that fuses aboriginal traditions with modernist abstraction. Influenced by Kandinsky and Klee, his murals and works on paper, canvas and linen explore the Dene geo-cultural landscape of his northern Alberta home with a combination of Indigenous iconography and contemporary realities within a personal aesthetic that is universal in reach: his works reference an ancient past, recent Indigenous history, and his own experience of colonization. Janvier’s synthesis of pictorialism and abstraction embodies a conceptual and formal aesthetic that has not been widely recognized in the work of first generation Native modernists. His original style, his influence on generations of artists, and his role in shifting the perception of Native art from a craft to fine arts status have made Alex Janvier one of the country’s most important artists working today. This major retrospective monograph celebrates a lifetime of creativity and knowledge gained through the artist’s love of the land, art and aboriginal culture. Essays by scholars and admirers offer original research and personal insight into Janvier’s imposing artistic and social stature.
Alex Janvier was born in 1935 at Cold Lake First Nations, Alberta, and is of Dene Suline and Saulteaux descent. At the age of eight he was taken from his family and sent to Indian Residential School. Unlike most aboriginal artists of his time, he received formal art training and in 1960 graduated with honours from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and Art (now the Alberta College of Art and Design). He was then hired as a cultural adviser to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs where, in 1965, he helped establish policy for the Cultural Affairs Program. He was subsequently appointed to the Aboriginal Advisory Committee for the Indians of Canada pavilion at Expo 67, to which he contributed several murals. In the early 1970s, along with Daphne Odjig and Norval Morrisseau, he helped form the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation, more commonly referred to as “The Indian Group of Seven”, one of the country’s first Aboriginal artists’ collectives and cultural advocacy groups. Alex Janvier has received numerous honours, including two Lifetime Achievement awards, from the Tribal Chiefs Institute, Cold Lake First Nations (2001) and the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation (2002), the Order of Canada (2007), and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2008). Janvier’s work has been exhibited across the country at the Art Gallery of Alberta, Glenbow Museum, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Royal Ontario Museum, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and were featured in The National Gallery of Canada’s seminal 1992 exhibition Land Spirit Power. Alex Janvier lives and works in Cold Lake, Alberta.
Greg Hill is Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada, and was Curatorial Researcher at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian History Museum). He has contributed to major publications on aboriginal art and artists, notably, the definitive monograph on Norval Morrieeau (2006), and Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art (2013). Lee-Ann Martin is an independent curator of contemporary Indigenous art. Throughout her career she has been Curator of Contemporary Canadian Aboriginal Art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian History Museum) and First Peoples Equity Coordinator at the Canada Council for the Arts. She has contributed to numerous publications, notably, Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years (2011) and Indigena: Perspectives of Indigenous Peoples on 500 Years (1992). Her writing has been published by Oxford University Press, University of Washington Press, and National Museum of the American Indian. Chris Dueker is the author of Alex Janvier's Entangled Cartographies: Hunters' Dreams, Bauhaus Aesthetics and the Cold War Air Weapons Range (2011).