Cannupa Hanska Luger: Hostile Territory

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday January 25, 2023

This exhibition. continuing at Garth Greenan Gallery through February 25, features five large-scale tipis and two sets of ceramic bullets from Luger’s series Rounds. “Indian Country,”  Cannupa Hanska Luger writes, in unofficial US military terms, is used to refer to hostile territory in active war zones. From the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, the US government expanded westward, carrying out armed attacks and killings and forced removals of Native peoples. Luger explores both the power and the fragility of colonial narratives such as the “Indian wars,” which were designed to remove Native peoples and destroy noncompliant populations from lands that the US government wanted for mineral extraction, railroads, and lands for White settlers. The government tried to destroy Native populations and conquer Native lands, but Native peoples survived. Luger pften explores these spaces of resistance in his work. 

The tipi is a nomadic infrastructure. For the Plains people, tipis represents a lifestyle of following herds of migrating buffalo to hunt and survive. Tipis were often made from the skins of buffalo that were hunted – in this way, they were essentially of the land and of the people. This adaptability was key to survival in a settler state that wanted them dead. Luger created an acronym for TIPI –– “Transportable Intergenerational Protection Infrastructure” –– to encapsulate the idea that it is a testament to Indigenous resilience and innovation in the face of struggle and an ongoing war. This installation advances Indigenous methodologies and modes of thinking, revealing the relationship between Northern Plains technology and broader forms of knowledge within an Indigenous centered continuum.

Luger’s series Rounds, grew out of his fascination with extractive settler practices and the militarization of colonial violence. But he also negates this harm and finds a strange beauty in form. He cast each ceramic bullet from one of several molds, then fired them in his kiln and painted them in designs that are purely aesthetic. One design is reminiscent of blue and white porcelain; and another of military camouflage and its commercial adaptations. Luger writes: “A round is a single cartridge containing a projectile, propellant, primer, and casing. A round is the expendable component of a weapon system that creates the destructive effect on a target.” But in this work, the round, a component of the killing machine, is liberated from its function and treasured for its form – a bullet made into fine art.

New Mexico based multidisciplinary artist Cannupa Hanska Luger, born in 1979 on Standing Rock Reservation, is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation and is of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Lakota, and European descent. Luger is a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, received a 2021 United States Artists Fellowship Award for Craft and was named a 2021 GRIST Fixer. He was a 2020 Creative Capital Fellow, a 2020 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow, and the recipient of the Museum of Arts and Design’s 2018 inaugural Burke Prize, among others. More

Garth Greenan Gallery, 545 West 290th Street, New York, NY Info

Luger’s work, River (The Water Serpent), is included in the exhibition, Water Memories, continuing through April 2 at the Metropolitan Museun of Art. Info

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