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Michael Nicholl Yahgulanaas:
Meddling at the Museum

Museum of Anthropology
Vancouver BC – through Dec 31, 2007

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas - Pedal to the Meddle

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Pedal to the Meddle (2007), Pontiac Firefly, autobody paint, argillite dust, copper leaf; exhibited with 7.5 meter cedar canoe by Bill Reid (assisted by Guujaaw, Simon Dick and others), 1985 [Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver BC, through Dec 31]

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, a First Nations-born artist, fuses Japanese pop art and Haida symbols in site installations at Vancouver’s Musuem of Anthropology. Yahgulanaas, who has become well-known for what he describes as “haida manga” art, combines found objects with his own brand of graphics. Like the trickster he emulates, he is half-playful but very serious. After spending spent much of the 1980s and 90s dedicated to public service and political activism in the Haida Gwaii, Yahgulanaas is using his idiosyncratic art to challenge the institutionalization of Northwest Coast First Nations culture.

For Pedal to the Meddle he mounted Bill Reid's 1985 canoe upside down on the roof of a Pontiac Firefly, which he covered in a mixture of black paint and argillite dust. The installation questions the ways in which institutions construct iconic status, including that of Bill Reid himself. His manga-style comic strip mural, painted on the backs of twelve archeological storage trays, points out the irony of the collection and archiving of First Nations culture that has taken place in the museum since its inception. Copper shields with manga designs airbrushed onto car hoods greet visitors at the entrance.

Yahgulanaas was raised in the Haida Gwaii and studied art briefly in Vancouver in the 1970s before returning to assist artist Robert Davidson on a totem-pole commission. He gradually developed his own unique blend of Haida painting that incorporates the mass-circulation and graphic aspects of the immensely-popular Japanese manga.


Mia Johnson

 Sun, Sep 2, 2007