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2022 Projects

Woodland Boogie Woogie

Patel Brown

21 Wade Ave

Toronto ON

Sept 2 - Oct 8 2022


The paintings—vortexes of flat colour and black lines that punctuate and intersect with curvilinear organic geometries—slowly reveal the vestiges of their inspiration: the forms of the widely recognizable Woodland School of art, also known as Legend painting, founded by the Anishinaabe artists Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, and Carl Ray, among others. The colour palette and stylistic motifs of the Woodland School, such as the thick black outlines of human and animal kin figures, cells of x-rayed interiors, interconnecting spirit lines, and split circular megis (cowrie shell) forms, have been submitted to a collaborative painting process in which Hupfield and Lujan reconfigure the inspirational colors and forms through a series of abstracting processes in order to focus on the essential elements of the style. The subsequent designs were painted in tandem, each artist taking turns to execute the paintings in a choreographed arrangement as their individual approaches to and histories with painting brought together their distinct strengths and aesthetic interest.

This painterly collaboration is an extension of NADI’s recent Double Fake Double Morrisseau series (2021), in which the artists each painted one half of a canvas with quotations from Morrisseau paintings, blind to what the other was doing. In this play on the Surrealist game of cadaver exquis the juxtaposition of contrasting segments of Woodland School florals and bisected transforming figures examined the plastic nature of the style and its commodification by the Canadian art market. The alienation of Woodland painting from the Anishinaabe legends and cosmological worlds that serve as the movement’s ontological foundation has of late been reinforced by high-profile reports of non-Native artists appropriating the Woodland style and forging Morrisseau’s work for financial gain. Hupfield and Lujan, two artists from two different nations, developed these dually-executed paintings as a means of navigating the commercial and increasingly commodified space of contemporary Indigenous art following their relocation to Tkaronto. Turning to the conceptual challenges surrounding the highly charged Anishinaabe forms of Legend painting was also a way to work through NADI’s move to Great Lakes territory from the shared space of Lenapehoking (New York City) where their studio collaborations first began.