Carl Beam, The North American Iceberg, 1985.

Carl Beam, Driver, 2002. Mixed media on Arches paper.

Carl Beam

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada

Carl Beam (1943–2005), considered one of Canada’s leading contemporary Aboriginal artists, challenged the art world, questioning why contemporary Aboriginal art was marginalized to ethnographic presentations and was not respected on an equal footing with Western artistic traditions. This questioning of colonialism and the representation of Indigenous cultures was carried throughout his thirty-year practice. Within this exhibition Beam’s contribution to contemporary art is further recognized for its poignancy in exploring global concerns.

Beam drew upon his Anishinabek traditions through the recognition of the important role of dreams, the place of spirit helpers, and the lessons of his Aboriginal ancestry. He was also well-known 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 more traditional forms of Anishinabek “Woodland School” painters such as Norval Morrisseau (1932 – 2007). Confounding expectations Beam masterfully combined his own diverse iconography of symbols drawn from a wide range of sources such as popular culture to scientific and historical imagery. In doing so, Carl Beam’s works bridge the philosophies and traditions of both Western philosophical thinking and Anishinabek traditions.

This exhibition consists of 48 of Beam’s most remarkable works featuring his powerful large-scale paintings, sensitive ceramics, and highly personal constructions. Included in the exhibition is The North American Iceberg (1985). Purchased by the National Gallery of Canada in 1986, it was championed as the gallery’s first acquisition of an artwork created by a contemporary First Nations artist. It has since become recognized as a coming of age for contemporary Indigenous art in Canada.

The exhibition, curated by National Gallery of Canada’s Greg A. Hill, Audain Curator of Indigenous Art, is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue available in the Gallery Shop.

Click here for an article by Alison Mayes, Winnipeg Free Press.

Click here for a review by Alison Gillmor, CBC Reviewer.


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Related Programs & Events

Past Programs & Events

  • Carl Beam Public Opening

    Beam's work bridges the philosophies and traditions of both Western and Anishinabek worlds.

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011 from 7pm to 10pm

  • Members' Event

    A special day for WAG members to view the exhibiton Carl Beam.

    Thursday, June 30, 2011 from 11am to 5pm

  • Greg Hill Talk

    Talk by Greg Hill, curator of the Carl Beam exhibition.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011 from 12:10pm to 1pm

  • Talk with NGC curator Greg Hill

    Greg Hill, curator of the Carl Beam exhibition will speak on Beam's work that bridges the philosophies and traditions of both Western and Aboriginal worlds.

    Thursday, July 14, 2011 from 7:30pm to 9pm

  • World of Belonging

    A special day of family activities celebrating Canadian indigenous cultures through music and art-making.

    Sunday, August 21, 2011 from 11am to 5pm

  • Curator's Tour - Carl Beam

    Your last chance to see the Carl Beam exhibition in the company of Mary Reid, Curator of Contemporary Art and Photography. Don't miss out on this insightful and moving exhibition of one of Canada's most important contemporary artists.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011 from 12:10pm to 1pm

  • Aakideh: The Art and Legacy of Carl Beam

    Personal remembrances along with insights about Carl Beam's art and ideas are vividly illustrated through dozens of his artworks, family photos, interviews, performance videos, and journal

    Thursday September 8, 2011 at 7:30pm


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