June 22, 2013

Introducing Kwakwaka'wakw Artists and Brothers: Rod Smith GALUYAGMI and Steve Smith DLA'KWAGILA

Artists, brothers, and painters: Rod Smith Galuyagmi and Steve Smith Dla'kwagila have this much in common, yet their distinctive use of Northwest Coast formline and design are very much in contrast. Having both apprenticed from their father, the late Harris Smith Lalkawilas, the brothers’ styles display stark similarities and differences, yet are still reminiscent of Harris Smith’s work. The title of the exhibition, Contrast& Collaboration, effortlessly conveys both the unique journeys they have undertaken in their artistic careers and their first opportunity to collaborate on exclusive pieces for the exhibition that display their contrasting styles. As Steve eloquently remarked, “I see us as being part of a tree that has different branches on it. We are still the same tree and yet we each go our own way just as the branches of a tree do”.

vinyl MUNNY with acrylic paint, Joyful

The body of work displayed in Contrast & Collaboration differs from the brothers’ larger body of work in a variety of ways. Firstly, the show focuses explicitly on the brothers’ Kwakwaka’wakw painting styles, as both a duo and individuals. Both artists consider their work to be contemporary Kwakwaka’wakw pieces; while there are elements of traditional design in their work, such as the several types of salmon-trouthead, they are used in atypical ways to show the viewer something they may not have seen before. Multiple pieces were identical in structure before each artist worked with them on their own, easily demonstrating the contrast in their styles. Many of the collaborative pieces are created at a much larger scale than either artist would create on a regular basis; the expansive empty ‘canvas’ space on these particular pieces allowed for the artists to demonstrate their visions and play with the medium. In pieces such as Joyful, the formline of each artist twists, turns and intertwines to create a flow of design that is quite playful. 

red cedar sculpture with acrylic paint, Big Brother, Little Brother
 The collaboration process was one of a trusting nature, in some cases with one brother envisioning a sculptural piece with only light suggestions of color and having the other brother incorporate his style in turn. At other times, the concept of the piece was established before the creation; yet neither brother was present for the piece’s conception entirely, allowing the process to be truly collaborative and involved integrating their individual styles to offset, contrast and balance the other’s style while still respecting the original idea and each other’s unique design choices. All of the pieces have great attention to detail, whether it is the design placement or the fine brush-strokes; both Rod and Steve believe this characteristic unites their styles amidst their differences in use of formline. Rod’s thin, delicate brush strokes and use of cross-hatching juxtaposed with Steve’s bold, elegant painting style and dramatic designs display what these two artists and brothers achieve in their works: balance.

The show will be on display at Lattimer Gallery from June 22nd - July 20th, 2013.  

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