Projects: Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill
The Museum of Modern Art
From April 25 – August 15, 2021
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is currently exhibiting Projects: Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill in the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United States. The work can be viewed in the Museum’s street-level galleries, having begun on April 25 and lasting through August 15, 2021. The exhibition also celebrates the 50th anniversary of MoMA’s Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series.
As a Métis artist and writer, Hill has created multiple works in which her use of tobacco as a key material alludes to the plant’s complex indigenous and colonial histories. Featuring sculptures and drawings as well as several new works, visitors of the exhibition will see Hill’s art, which is constructed primarily from tobacco along with other sourced and found materials collected from the artist’s Vancouver neighborhood.
According to the press release, tobacco was one of the most widely traded materials in America prior to colonization. It later became the first currency in the colonies of North America, before the dollars in use today. In present day, “the Indigenous economic life of tobacco continues, despite colonialism, criminalization, and the imposition of capitalism,” Hill observes. “It’s evidence that our economic systems survive and continue to offer an alternative.”
On the gallery’s central tables will be Hill’s ground-tobacco-stuffed sculptures, including the largest and newest of which is nearly the same size as the artist’s own body. Some rabbits and hybrid human figures radiate a proud or playful essence, while others lackadaisically recline. Five flags hang high on the gallery wall, borrowing their proportions from the dimensions of the current US dollar bill. Three of those flags are sewn together directly from disintegrating tobacco leaves as the other two are created during a labor-intensive process where “Hill coats paper in homemade tobacco-infused Crisco oil and applied pigments, which must dry over several months, after which additional materials are sewn or glued to the surface.”
The artist’s work titled Spells, which is made through the same process as her tobacco-oil-soaked flags, takes the form of small, delicate, richly colored drawings decorated with charms, wildflowers, beer tabs, and other collected memorabilia. These spells are supposed to represent the power of reciprocity, interdependence, and dispersal. Hill’s use of tobacco in her artwork critiques the settler-colonial economic system and commemorates the Indigenous history of the gift economy, where tobacco remains a key component.
To reserve timed tickets, click here.