Carl Beam

1 September 2012 – 18 November 2012

Carl Beam

September 1 – November 18, 2012
Organized by the National Gallery of Canada  

Meet the Curator + Exhibition Opening

Friday, September 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Free Admission                              

Visit the exhibition Carl Beam and join Greg Hill, Audain Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Canada, for a discussion on Beam’s work followed by a reception in the Agra Torchinsky Salon.


Film Screening: Aakideh: The Art & Legacy of Carl Beam

Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 2 pm | Free Admission

This documentary offers an intimate and revealing look at Carl Beam’s rich art legacy. Preview the documentary here: Aakideh: The Art & Legacy of Carl Beam Trailer


Carl Beam (1943-2005) was a powerful, internationally acclaimed contemporary Canadian artist of Anishinaabe descent. In 1986, Beam’s The North American Iceberg became known as the first work by a First Nations artist to be purchased by the National Gallery of Canada for the collection of contemporary art, thus opening the door for a new generation of First Nations artists to enter.

The exhibition covers the physical diversity of Beam’s works while exploring his investigation into the metaphysical aspects of western and Indigenous cultures. The exhibition is organized around five main themes, including: The Columbus Project, an immense body of work which challenges historically dominant assumptions and re-examines the meaning of Columbus’ arrival in North America and its long-term repercussions for the Indigenous peoples of the Americas; Plant Communication, Margins: Food / Shelter and The Whale of Our Being touch on Beam’s study of the relationship between humans and their environment; and Crossroads, a meditation on fame and celebrity that was the last series of pieces Beam worked on.

Beam is renowned for working with photography and collage in an aesthetic style that was more akin to the expressive layering of American pop artist Robert Rauschenberg than the traditional forms of Anishinaabek “Woodland School” painters such as Norval Morrisseau (1932-2007). However, Beam’s art engages his Anishinaabek traditions through its recognition of the important role of dreams, the place of spirit helpers, and the lessons of his Aboriginal ancestry. At the same time, it builds intellectual bridges between the philosophical thinking of Western and Anishinaabek traditions.

Featuring 48 of Beam’s most remarkable works, this exhibition is an opportunity to view a selection of his large-scale paintings, ceramics, constructions, and video that cover his entire artistic career. This exhibition is accompanied by an extensive 140-page catalogue, Carl Beam: The Poetics of Being, available for purchase in the Gallery Shop.

Curator: Greg Hill, National Gallery of Canada

Please Note: Photography of the Carl Beam exhibition is not permitted.

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