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Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge
A major exhibition of paintings and sculptures by a leading Northwest Coast Aboriginal artist

Montréal, Tuesday, April 25, 2006 - A major exhibition that explores Haida art and philosophy through the contemporary paintings and sculptures of leading Northwest Coast artist, Robert Davidson, opens this spring at the McCord Museum in Montréal. This travelling exhibition, produced by the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and circulated by the National Gallery of Canada will open May 27 and run until October 15, 2006.

Frequently associated with monumental cedar totem poles, Haida art is celebrated for its powerful motifs, distinctive use of colour and elaborate compositions, both representational and abstract. Robert Davidson defines abstraction as "challenging our minds to go beyond what we can recognize," and his first exhibition in ten years endeavours to illustrate how he has faced this challenge. Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge largely features recent works that comprise paintings on canvas, paper and deerskin drums; sculptures and low-relief carvings in cedar; and two new aluminium sculptures.

The idea of the abstract edge has been a point of exploration in Davidson’s work over the last decade. "My passion is reconnecting with my ancestors’ knowledge," Davidson explains, "The Haida philosophy is what bred the art, and now the art has become the catalyst for us to explore the philosophy." In his work, Davidson shifts between abstract and representational images, often blurring the boundary between the two, and continually challenges himself to expand his knowledge, "I’m experimenting to see how far I can push my own understanding."

Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge not only considers how the artist engages with ideas of abstraction, it reveals how Haida concepts of form and representation preceded European notions of abstraction and why these concepts are fundamental to contemporary critical discourse. The curator, Karen Duffek explains how the theme for the exhibition evolved, "The edge can also be understood as a place of change where the old and new come together, where a new understanding is developed out of an old one."

"We are delighted and honoured to be the first museum in Montréal to feature the art of Robert Davidson," says the McCord’s Executive Director, Dr Victoria Dickenson. "The works in Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge are complex and compelling. They challenge our understanding of Aboriginal art " its links to the past and its creative engagement with the future."

A 64-page colour catalogue, edited by Karen Duffek, published in English and French, with essays by Karen Duffek and Robert Houle accompanies the exhibition. Limited quantities can be purchased at the McCord Boutique.

To complement the exhibition, a symposium entitled The Abstract Edge: Robert Davidson and Contemporary Aboriginal Arts Practice will be held on Friday, May 26, 2006 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Organized in conjunction with the Department of Art History, Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University and the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, it will bring together artists, curators and academics from across Canada to discuss Aboriginal contemporary art. Invited speakers include: Robert Davidson, Guy Sioui Durand, Mattiusi Iyaituk, Sylvie Poirier, Sherry Farrell Racette and Carmen Robertson. For further information, please contact (514) 398-7100 ext. 305 or info@mccord.mcgill.ca.

Museum Hours & Admission

The McCord is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 6 pm and from 10 am to 5 pm every weekend, as well as Mondays during the summer months. Admission (including taxes) is $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors, $5.50 for students, $3 for children between the ages of 6 and 12, and $20 for families. Museum admission is free of charge to Friends of the McCord and children aged five and under. The museum offers free entry to all visitors the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

McCord Museum

The McCord is home to one of the finest historical collections in North America. It possesses some of Canada’s most significant cultural treasures, including the most comprehensive collection of clothing made or worn in Canada; an extensive collection related to Aboriginal history and art; and the renowned Notman Photographic Archives.

The McCord wishes to acknowledge the support of the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications and the Arts Council of Montreal

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Photographs available upon request

Source and information:

Nike Langevin, Head of Communications and Promotion
(514) 398-7100, ext. 251

Karine Di Genova, Officer, Communications
(514) 398-7100, ext. 239

The McCord Museum wishes to acknowledge the generous assistance of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and the National Gallery of Canada


guud san glans, Robert Davidson

Robert Davidson, whose Haida name means "Eagle of the Dawn" is a painter, printmaker, wood carver, jeweller and sculptor. Born in Hydaburg, Alaska, in 1946, he grew up in Old Massett on Haida Gwaii. He began carving as a teenager under the tutelage of his father, Claude Davidson, and his grandfather, Robert Davidson, Sr. It was through this apprenticeship that Davidson began to learn about the forms and three-dimensional aspects of carving, as well as the place of art within cultural practice and ceremony. A recipient of several honorary degrees as well as the Order of Canada, the Order of British Columbia and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Arts and Culture, Davidson is an innovator among contemporary Northwest Coast artists and an influential cultural leader, whose work in a range of media has been widely exhibited and published. Committed to ceremony and song as integral components of his artistic practice, he also regularly teaches dance and visual art to urban Haidas in Vancouver.

Karen Duffek, Curator of Robert Davidson: The Abstract Edge

Karen Duffek is the Curator of Art at the UBC Museum of Anthropology (MOA). She has organized numerous exhibitions of contemporary First Nations art, including the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Beyond History (co-curated with Tom Hill), and at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Bob Boyer: A Blanket Statement. Amongst her publications are the books Bill Reid and Beyond: Expanding on Modern Native Art, (co-edited with Charlotte Townsend-Gault), and (co-authored with Bill McLennan) The Transforming Image: Painted Arts of Northwest Coast First Nations.