Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to present Cannupa Hanska Luger: Hostile Territory, Luger’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition features five large-scale tipis and two sets of ceramic bullets from his series Rounds. Cannupa Hanska Luger, born in 1979 on Standing Rock Reservation, is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation and is of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota, and European descent.
“Indian Country,” in unofficial US military terms, is used to refer to hostile territory in active war zones. From the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, the US government expanded westward, carrying out armed attacks and killings and forced removals of Native peoples. The “Indian wars” were not designed to unify the country and bring all of its citizens, including Native communities, under the uniting force of free democracy. They were designed to remove Native peoples and destroy noncompliant populations from lands that the US government wanted for mineral extraction, railroads, and lands for White settlers. Indigenous peoples’ villages, lands, and nations formed the only barrier to the settlers’ total freedom – and thus forged forward the settlers’ attempt at total destruction.
In much of his work, Cannupa Hanska Luger explores both the power and the fragility of colonial narratives. The US government tried to destroy Native populations and conquer Native lands, but Native peoples survived. Luger explores these spaces of resistance. The tipi is a nomadic infrastructure – it does not exist in the idea of ownership and possession of the land, but instead exists as an extension of it. For the Plains people, tipis represents a nomadic lifestyle of following herds of migrating buffalo to hunt and survive. Tipis were often made from the skins of buffalo that were hunted – in this way, they were essentially of the land and of the people. Tipis adapt to the land. This adaptability was key to survival in a settler state that wanted them dead. Luger created an acronym for TIPI –– “Transportable Intergenerational Protection Infrastructure” –– to encapsulate the idea that it is a testament to Indigenous resilience and innovation in the face of struggle and an ongoing war. This installation advances Indigenous methodologies and modes of thinking, revealing the relationship between Northern Plains technology and broader forms of knowledge within an Indigenous centered continuum.
In Kill Time (2022), a two headed buzzard evokes and embodies the blessings and lessons of the scavenger. The scavenger eats what no one else wants, assigning ultimate value to what is on the brink of vanishing. Scavengers scrounge in order to thrive against disappearance — navigating environmental encroachment and collapse, loss of habitat, mass industrial extraction, and ecocidal expansion. These resourceful beings stubbornly and ingeniously survive on what is considered obsolete. Luger finds similarities between the ways of the scavenger and the Indigenous experience – their land has been seized; their customs dismantled; yet they survive and thrive off of what remains.
In Blood Lust, Sabotage, and Whiskey Tango (2022), the tipis are painted with oversized cartoon eyes and teeth filled mouths. Their mouths, whether smiling or menacing, refer to historical air force nose art. During World War II, the British Royal Air Force Tomahawks were the first P-40s to feature the now iconic shark mouth war paint. This paint design was later adopted by the American forces and featured on US P-40s, which were known as Warhawks. Their distinct nose art was an act of psychological warfare and a display of military aggression.
Luger’s series Rounds, grew out of his fascination with extractive settler practices and the militarization of colonial violence. But he also negates this harm and finds a strange beauty in form. He cast each ceramic bullet from one of several molds, then fired them in his kiln and painted them in designs that are purely aesthetic. One design is reminiscent of blue and white porcelain; and another of military camouflage and its commercial adaptations. Luger writes: “A round is a single cartridge containing a projectile, propellant, primer, and casing. A round is the expendable component of a weapon system that creates the destructive effect on a target.” But in this work, the round, a component of the killing machine, is liberated from its function and treasured for its form – a bullet made into fine art.
Cannupa Hanska Luger (b.1979) is a New Mexico based multidisciplinary artist creating monumental installations, sculpture and performance to communicate urgent stories about 21st Century Indigeneity. Incorporating ceramics, steel, fiber, video and repurposed materials, Luger activates speculative fiction, engages in land-based actions of repair and practices empathetic response through social collaboration.
Luger is a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, received a 2021 United States Artists Fellowship Award for Craft and was named a 2021 GRIST Fixer. He was a 2020 Creative Capital Fellow, a 2020 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow, and the recipient of the Museum of Arts and Design’s 2018 inaugural Burke Prize, among others. He has been the subject of more than 21 solo exhibitions, including at the Center for Contemporary Arts (2016, Santa Fe, New Mexico), Albuquerque Museum (2021–2022), the Picker Art Gallery (2022, Hamilton, New York), and the Amarillo Museum of Art (2022). He has participated in over 110 group exhibitions at venues such as Art Mûr (2014, Montreal), Princeton University Art Museum (2018), Washington Project for the Arts (2017), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (2018, 2019, Bentonville), Gardiner Museum (2019, Toronto), Orenda Gallery (2017, Paris), the Autry Museum (2017, Los Angeles), and the Museum of Arts and Design (2018, 2019, New York), among others.
Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to represent Cannupa Hanska Luger.