"The Anti-Imperial Poetry of Edgar Heap of Birds," Lou Cornum, Frieze
At Fort Gansevoort, New York, a 30-year survey of the artist’s work articulates a political and ethical accountability to the land.
Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds works simultaneously in place and on the move. He has been living in Oklahoma since the 1980s but has shown internationally for decades. His survey exhibition at Fort Gansevoort showcases mock street signs, multiple series of handmade prints, pastel text drawings and paintings spanning over 30 years, all concerned with an ethical experience of place.
Commanding attention on the first-floor gallery is ‘American Policy II’, a 1987 series of pastel drawings with Heap of Birds’s iconic yet idiosyncratic lyrical phrases. The cyborg couplets of ‘tarmac hawk’ and ‘coyote jet’ are simultaneously evocative of nature and military equipment. At a distance, the words appear frenetically scrawled; up close, they reveal themselves as masses of vibrating lines. Although these days, his palette is impressionistic, Heap of Birds’s colours were initially representational, as he explained in a walk-through of the show: for instance, words he associates with white culture are rendered in pink, such as ‘shopping’, ‘sport’ and ‘death’.