MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Andrea Carlson’s “Red Exit” (2020) pulls the viewer into dizzying narrative terrain, destabilizing our understanding of time. The 10 x 15-foot work is comprised of 60 mixed media rectangles on sturdy sheets of paper, each of which contains an entire world. Together, the series is structured as a V-shape, with motifs repeated along diagonal lines while narratives unfold horizontally.
On view at Bockley Gallery through August 29, the work is the second of a four-part series, which began with “Ink Babel” (2014), an investigation of representations of Indigenous people in film and popular culture narratives. In “Red Exit,” Carlson (who is Ojibwe) constructs a Native presence as a protection against erasure, broken treaties, and false narratives about Native people.
Motifs from Anishinaabe history and myth percolate in repetition. A migii shell, for example, evokes the historic migration of the Ojibwe. It butts up against a beaded medallion, referencing a beaded necklace created by Native artist Wanis Runningbuffalo, itself a critique of the Venice Biennial Golden Lion award. Paired together, Carlson’s motifs celebrate the spaces Native people create for themselves.
The bottom center of the installation features the backside of a loon about to take flight. An earth-diver prominent in the Turtle Island creation myth, the loon was one of the animals tasked by the creator to dive into the water to find mud after the flood. Here, the bird heads toward a vanishing horizon, where a “Red Exit” sign looms. Is it flying toward disappearance, or re-emergence?
And what of the Man Mound, the pre-historic effigy evoked in the work? Located in Wisconsin, the legs of the earthwork were destroyed by farmers who didn’t realize its cultural significance. In Carlson’s work, the figure claims space for itself and its shadow. In this way, Carlson envisions a world in which Anishinaabe presence looms large, which, given the recent toppling of a Christopher Columbus statue by Native activists at Minnesota’s State Capitol, feels particularly apt.
Andrea Carlson: Red Exit continues through August 29 at Bockley Gallery (2123 W 21st Street, Minneapolis, MN), by appointment.