Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds - Standing Rock Awakens the World
Fort Gansevoort is pleased to present Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, Standing Rock Awakens the World opening Saturday, January 11th, 2020. Heap of Bird’s inaugural exhibition with the gallery asserts Native American sovereignty, underscoring the relationship between the body, land, and ownership.
Location is an intrinsic component to Heap of Birds’ work. Upon entering the exhibition, one is confronted with the history of the land upon which one stands. Indigenous people are comprised of about one thousand nations but are often viewed as a singular race. Heap of Birds, whose roots are tied to the Cheyenne and Arapaho nations of Oklahoma, emphasizes the importance of acknowledgment and respect. Through the permanence of metal signage in his Native Host Signs, Heap of Birds solidifies and honors the presence of the many tribes in New York, while emphasizing their painful erasure in history.
Heap of Birds’ pastel drawings further this political response. The gesture itself is intense and direct, as is the text itself. The words, typically grouped into threes, command attention with their vivid colors and deliberate pairings. In Boost West, a 15-drawing installation, the words “GOOD BYE EFFECT” are flush with “YELLOW BLUE GREEN”, accentuating the hypocrisy of obliterating nations whose ideologies surround the preservation of the earth, which no human can survive without. In these drawing installations, the words do not compete with one another, but rather allow for a reverberation of meaning.
Heap of Birds challenges the concept of linear time. In his work, he navigates through events of the past, emphasizing their pertinence in the present and foretelling their future effects. Though his paintings are not outwardly political, they honor the earth and thus remind viewers of the destruction humans cause the planet. These works, depicted in his Blue Neuf series at the gallery, are far more lyrical in nature, having evolved while Heap of Birds lived above a Canyon in Oklahoma. Transcending time, the shapes themselves resemble rock formations, as well as fish and Juniper trees that he presently surrounds himself with but have also been part of the earth for millennia. The paintings are made four at a time, a practice which relates to Cheyenne cosmology and the directions north, east, south and west, further grounding the works into the earth itself. In these pieces, Heap of Birds discusses his personal connection to land while allowing viewers to question their own relationship with the earth.
The monoprint and ghost print installation, Standing Rock Awakens the World, debuting at the gallery, reiterates the presence of Indigenous people in this hemisphere, while further stressing the dangers of environmental destruction. A response to the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests, this piece celebrates the unity of Native tribes who have come together in protest to honor the earth and water, while fighting back against the powers who threaten to destroy natural resources. Statements such as “WATER IS OUR FIRST MEDICINE” and “ARMED TROOPS SECURITY POLICE ATTACK DOGS” filter the complexity of protest into a few deliberate words, highlighting water as a vital life source while emphasizing police violence towards Indigenous people. Through his remarks on civil rights, violence, and the relationship between indigeneity and the earth, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds expands the conversation into a larger question of humanity, challenging the notion of sovereignty itself.