Neal Ambrose-Smith: Where Are You Going
August 31 2021 - February 26 2022
With a dual exhibition title in Séliš and English, artist Neal Ambrose-Smith queries our present, collective situation and expresses the anxieties and uncertainties of contemporary life. Ambrose-Smith, a descendent of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nations, created this body of work over the past four years to address the seismic political and cultural shifts that have taken place. His work is typified by fluency in the mediums of printmaking, painting, drawing, sculpture, and neon, well as a fluency in the currency of our times—popular culture. Ambrose-Smith wears his humor on his sleeve, even as his heart is in his throat. He cares deeply about the present state of humanity and manifests this concern through these expressive artworks. Ambrose-Smith says, “As a nation, we face a reckoning seen the rise in anger, racism, hatred, destruction of the planet, and illness. As human beings, we have to find a way to work together.”
In this exhibition, the artist uses the metaphor of multiple realities (through the use of black light, references to Alice in Wonderland, and Star Trek’s map of the known universe) to point out the fundamental problem with fixed solutions. A postmodern artist, Ambrose-Smith moves between mediums and embodies the postmodern tenants of appropriation, juxtaposition, recontextualization, globalization, and hybridity. His work mixes concepts of Indigenous identity and pop culture, with existential questions about contemporary society. He takes on large, complicated themes such as the arc of human existence, our interdependence with one another, and the future direction of the planet in an accessible, tongue-in-cheek way that connects to audiences.
Neal Ambrose-Smith: č̓ č̓en̓ u kʷes xʷúyi (Where Are You Going?) is a multimedia exhibit on view in the Lynda M. Frost Contemporary American Indian Art Gallery. Ambrose-Smith is Flathead Salish, Metis, and Cree, and a descendent of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation. His exhibition coincides with a residency at MATRIX Press at the University of Montana and this exhibit will be one of the core features of the Fifth Grade Art Experience. A catalog of his work will be published in fall 2021. This exhibit is sponsored by Dick Anderson Construction, and funding for the catalog is generously supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation.
Neal Ambrose-Smith, č̓ č̓en ̓ u kʷes xʷúyi (Where are you going?), 2021, neon, wood, transformers, timer, copyright the artist.
About the artist
Neal Ambrose-Smith, descendent of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation of Montana, is a contemporary Native American painter, sculptor, printmaker, and professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has also developed an app Artist Ideas with 100 ideas for making art, available for Android and Apple. His work is included in the collections of many national and international museums and institutions, including the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Galerie municipale d’art contemporain in Chamalières, France, and Hongik University in Seoul, Korea. He received his BA from the University of Northern Colorado and MFA from the University of New Mexico.