Peter Blum Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new and recent work by Nicholas Galanin entitled, It Flows Through at 176 Grand Street, New York. This is the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. There will be an artist’s reception on Saturday, May 7th, 2022, from 5-7pm, and the exhibition runs through July 22nd, 2022.
Nicholas Galanin (b. 1979, Sitka, Alaska) works at the intersection of conceptual and material practice, rooted in his Tlingit and Unangax̂ culture. Applying his creative agency in diverse media, Galanin celebrates cultural continuum, contradicts colonialism, and fights cultural erasure.
The exhibition, It Flows Through, aims to elicit reactions to Indigenous persistence and prominence, and the way this is met: whether it is ignored, imagined, used, or punished. Conversations of possibilities alongside refusals are created through the highly visible and unapologetically Indigenous presence of the work that exude a sense of determination.
Galanin’s practice is steeped in self-awareness and reflection, and the work is adept at conversing with multiple audiences through various media. He challenges institutionalized authority and those who subscribe to it with persistence and the knowledge that “those institutions only rest on stone foundations.”
“The exhibition speaks to persistence. The persistence of our connections to land and culture through continuum and memory, flowing through us, embedded in our bodies, our languages, and our art. These connections flow like water in varied ways, from gentle imperceptible movements to sudden forces, each capable of moving, shaping, and wearing down stone.”
— Nicholas Galanin
Nicholas Galanin (b. 1979, Sitka, Alaska) earned a BFA at London Guildhall University (2003), an MFA at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand (2007), and apprenticed with master carvers and jewelers. He currently lives and works with his family in Sitka, Alaska. Galanin participated in Desert X, Palm Springs (2021); Biennale of Sydney (2020); Venice Biennale (2017); Whitney Biennial (2019); and Honolulu Biennial (2019). Galanin’s work is in permanent collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Detroit Institute of Arts; The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Denver Art Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Princeton University. He received an award from American Academy of Arts and Letters (2020) and received a Soros Arts Fellowship (2020).
“A white flag is synonymous throughout the world as a sign of surrender, truce, or desire to engage in battlefield negotiations. White Flag is a flag made from the hide of a polar bear shot and turned into a rug in the 1920s by a sport hunter of European descent. Biting a length cut from a tree serving as a flagpole, the bearskin stretches flat across the wall as if in a strong wind, no longer able to move freely. The work reflects the state of the Arctic and the vast global effects of human driven climate change on all life.”
— Nicholas Galanin on White Flag
“Break in case of emergency is a fire axe, an iconic tool for rescue and emergency response. Encased behind glass, the axe replicates emergency response stations within institutional spaces. Regardless of the care used to break the glass, the porcelain axe inside will be damaged or broken; the tool for response proves to be fragile and purely decorative. As if to reinforce the fragility of the material, the axe is glazed with a crackle finish suggesting breakage of the form. These objects speak to the restriction of Indigenous sovereignty by settler governments and institutions, and the limitations placed on our communities to respond to crises.”
— Nicholas Galanin on Break in case of emergency
“Intellectual Property is a series of photographs acknowledging Indigenous connection to land, through material, process, community, and spirituality. The works honor the continuum of knowledge transfer and storytelling embodied by ceremonial at.oow; as well as the power of community and land embedded within them. The work exists outside the fetishizing and colonizing of our cultural objects through limited anthropological understanding and categorization. The work functions as a warning of what remains without Indigenous knowledge, and as a celebration of Indigenous creativity without commodification.”
— Nicholas Galanin on the series Intellectual Property
“Loom is an eight-foot-tall stack of children’s desks with a six-foot wingspan of deconstructed chairs. The open desktops have been carved with Tlingit formlines using pencils, suggesting a task completed by many children over a long period of time. While the structure references a totem pole, the form of each desk and chair remains intact; dark and formidable. The work focuses on residential schools that existed in North America (1831-1997) to destroy Indigenous sovereignty, by attempting to destroy cultures and communities through the forced removal of children from their families. The 'schools' subjected children to continual abuse and neglect so severe that as many as half of the children taken did not survive to return home. It is a reminder that the effects of the residential school system are intergenerational and continue to loom over our children. The Tlingit formline covering the desks assert the persistence of cultural knowledge, and resistance to assimilation.”
— Nicholas Galanin on Loom
“In World Clock a monoprint depicting the front page of The New York Times reports the return of Manhattan to the Lenape, on the floor below a continued refusal is issued in the form of the daily issues of The New York Times piling up, each reporting a continuous stream of other news, despite the possibility of return. The work speaks to a kind of relentless wait, and to keeping vigil for what is an inevitable eventuality, regardless of the incomprehensibility of such a reality for many. The monoprint asserts that the inevitability of return doesn’t rest with The New York Times or structures for which it is the paper of record, it speaks to the perceived impossibility of such an event while simultaneously envisioning it in concrete terms. The work is a visual record of time, volumetric material and attention turned elsewhere, and a reflection on a divergence of the world’s clocks from Land’s time. In World Clock 'Manhattan Returned to Lenape' speaks to an audience understanding of this island as Manhattan with limited understanding of what return could mean. In asserting return, the work cracks open the rigid facade that Land is only what we believe it to be.”
— Nicholas Galanin on World Clock
“Infinite Weight is self-reflexive, a kind of feedback loop for facsimile; in which a taxidermied wolf stands simultaneously in the gallery and on land trapped within the frame of a video loop. The absence of the living wolf is mirrored between image and object, it’s marginalized to exist only on the ceiling, while its inability to move is confirmed by time-lapse. The work itself is also a mirror, reflecting the extent to which colonization and settlement of my homeland has sought to capture and control what is determined valuable and to destroy or marginalize what is not.
Recognizable across cultures, the wolf is only desirable within anthropocentric capitalism as a trophy of conquest or where it is determined profitable. Wolves are inherently important to the survival of all life and healthy ecosystems in the lands to which they are Indigenous; yet their survival continues to be endangered by extractive practices stemming from unsustainable anthropocentric ideologies. The wolf in the work carries more than its own weight; it carries the weight and the waiting of all life determined less-than-valuable, critiquing the practice of devaluing, and destroying life in favor of control and artifice.”
— Nicholas Galanin on Infinite Weight
“Purchase is a set of copper lockpicks handmade and engraved by me. Each pick is engraved with text from provenance cards I viewed at the Museum of Natural History in New York prior to visiting objects held in the collection. The words engraved in English include ‘collected from shaman’s grave’ ‘primitive art,’ ‘purchase,’ and ‘ceremonial hat from grave.’ Each piece of text points sharply to the history of theft labeled as collection, and of coerced exchange due to dire conditions enforced by the ‘buyer’ upon the ‘seller’ being labeled as purchase.
Incised into lockpicks the words become rejoinders to the institutions and collections built on this kind of collection and purchase, which is nearly all of them. They are more than that though, resting on a leather tool roll, unfolded, and splayed out ready for use. They are suggestive, instructive even. Suggestive that knowledge can increase agency, that the rules institutional display cases are built with were never applied to those who built the containers separating Indigenous people from the cultural objects they belong with. Instructive that locks can be picked.”
— Nicholas Galanin on Purchase
"This hide painting is for guiding the escape of Indigenous remains and objects in non- Indigenous institutions to their home communities. Entitled, Architecture of return, escape, it depicts a floor plan referencing a visitor’s guide as well as blue architectural blueprints, of The British Museum in London. Of the few objects held in display cases, many more (including human remains and ceremonial objects not intended for public view) are held in museum archives. The cost and processes required for Indigenous communities to travel and visit these archives limits access to cultural knowledge and inheritance and continues the removal of the objects from their land and people.
While institutions control the environmental conditions, they are unable to adequately care for these objects in cultural or spiritual ways. The objects themselves are unwilling visitors to the museum, and the work builds an escape route and a vision for reunification of cultural inheritance with community. The series serves as a reminder of the past, and as a plan for a good way forward. Stolen objects, human remains, and works sold under duress can now return home for their own health, for the health of the communities that created them, and for the health of the communities that took them."
— Nicholas Galanin on Architecture of return, escape
“Anax̱ Yaa Nadéin (it is flowing through it) is a consideration of persistence and the consequences of resistance. Formally the work references museum displays of Indigenous North American and African basketry, basket-wall home decor, and the cinematic identification of thieves via ski-mask cut-outs incised into each basket. The work insists on the persistence of Indigenous connection to land and culture through continuum and memory; embedded in bodies, objects, and languages. Indigenous continuum, like water, is capable of gentle imperceptible movement and sudden force, able to shape and wear down stone.
Underlying the work is knowledge that this strength has been a threat to colonial and settler claims to control land and bodies. In this shadow, generations of people Indigenous to the Americas and Africa who resist control, have been marginalized, vilified, incarcerated, and killed. Indigenous cultural production has been commodified, stolen, imitated, and controlled as part of settler-colonial divide and conquer strategies to assert the power and legitimacy of the state. The baskets in the installation reflect this range of commodification, theft, and imitation: mass produced baskets are displayed alongside old Indigenous-made baskets and contemporary baskets handwoven in Africa for trade. All the baskets look back at the viewer, each of them a container for what flows through: the persistence of Indigenous presence and resistance.”
— Nicholas Galanin on Anax̱ Yaa Nadéin (it is flowing through it)
“At first glance Ascension is a stylized ladder with wings, covered in forms referencing commercial products and fashion wrapped with designs appropriated from Indigenous visual language. The work is not a ladder, but a sculpture of one. More accurately, it is a series of understandings and reflections shaped in the form of a ladder. To ascend means to rise to a position of importance and references the Christian belief in Christ’s ascension to heaven after resurrection. In this light, the sculpture is a kind of lens for considering the ways Indigenous culture is made into a tool for climbing, particularly by those who do not belong to it. The work is built from an Indonesian carved curio totem, and as such, has no grounding in the culture it mimics. The visual languages of Pacific Northwest Coast people continue to exist independent from Christian mythology despite the extent to which colonization attempted to destroy them. Ascension is a layering of intergenerational knowledge, observation, and experience on the limits of imitation and the absurdity of culture as a tool for climbing.”
— Nicholas Galanin on Ascension
"This self portrait torn vertically in half, one eye swollen black and blue, reflects multiple layers of violence enacted through religious indoctrination and state enforcement of division between humans and non-human animals and by further dividing humans from each other. Half human (animal) references the dehumanizing language and policies used to justify genocide and violence towards Indigenous and non-European people in the Americas. The work’s title asserts all humans as a single type of animal, resisting non- Indigenous epistemologies that espouse human supremacy and false moral division from non-human life.
The work specifically targets Blood Quantum, a colonial and settler legislated genocide against Indigenous communities. The policy of tracking and measuring Indian Blood was (and continues to be) a fundamental tool in removing Indigenous people from 'legal' claim to live, farm, hunt and fish on ancestral lands throughout North America. Simultaneously African blood was tracked and measured down to a single drop; not to erase the African, but to retain oppressive claims of ownership under colonial and subsequently settler law.
The diptych is a record of my act of tearing my own image in two. The internalization of Blood Quantum legislation by Indigenous people and communities causes Indigenous people of mixed heritage to tear themselves into pieces daily. The work asserts that belief in, and enforcement of, the non-Indigenous concept of Blood Quantum slowly erodes and erases connection to Indigenous Identity and culture and perpetuates violence, while damaging the rights and responsibilities of people descended from Indigenous Nations."
— Nicholas Galanin on The violence of blood quantum…
“In the monotypes, my hand as much as Tlingit culture’s history shapes the representation. Each monotype bears the imprint of a story of its creation, not as myth, but as lived experience and through memory—the marks showing the spontaneity of a drawing with the enduring qualities of a print. The imagery is central to Tlingit life and references and mimics visual movements of a customary aesthetic. However, my contemporary interpretation forms a creative continuum that combines past with present.”
— Nicholas Galanin on his monotypes
Watch Galanin discuss his work for Craft in America on PBS.
“My work holds stories, ideas; it documents and reflects the world. It teaches and tells histories, based on my relationship to land and communities.”
— Nicholas Galanin