Kent Monkman: The Triumph of Mischief

When: Oct. 16-Nov. 28 2010

The saloon music that plays from video installations as you enter Kent Monkman's exhibition is deceiving---the collection of his work from 2003 to today betrays anything you'd see in an old western. Romantic, mountainous landscape paintings depict scenes of 19th century "cowboy and Indian" role reversals, with Aboriginals assuming lead roles and the central figure often appearing as a cross-dressing male; the periodic portraits hanging on the wall are actually of Monkman's scantily clad drag alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle (pictured above); the performance videos that play are dressed up as old westerns, but in these cases the "Indian" shoots the "cowboy." Toronto-based Monkman is of Cree ancestry, and his work rethinks colonial history in a sexual, fun way while still hitting political sensitivities---his 2007 exhibition, Shapeshifters, Time Travellers, and Storytellers, was banned from the Royal Ontario Museum because it attracted too much negative attention, which Monkman responds to with a filmed drag show of himself that loops in the gallery. Birch bark Louis Vuitton bags are just a hint of Monkman's ironic genius---you have until the end of November to discover the rest on your own. –Holly Gordon


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