Regarded as a 'Vanguard' for his piece in the Vancouver Art Gallery's exhibit, “How Soon Is Now?”, Sonny Assu continues to push the boundaries of contemporary art by challenging the perception of Aboriginal art. A multi-disciplinary artist, Assu merges Northwest Coast Aboriginal iconography with the aesthetics of popular culture to challenge social and historical values that we as a society face on a daily basis. His work is an exploration of his mixed ancestry and creates a discourse on we use items of consumer and popular culture to define our personal lineage.
His current body of work examines how we use everyday consumer items and icons of pop culture to define our personal lineage, discussing the use of branding, brand loyalty and technology in conjunction to the ideals of totemic representation and helps educate people on the issues that the First People of North America face.
Sonny grew up in North Delta, a suburb of of Canada’s third largest city and many kilometres away from his ancestral home of Campbell River/ Cape Mudge. It wasn’t until he was eight years old that he discovered his mixed heritage in a rather unique way. It was during a grade three history lesson about a particular group of BC ‘Indians’, the Kwakwaka'wakw. He ran home that day to tell his mom about the lesson, about how he was drawn to the culture and the art: she simply looked at him and said “Well, that is who you are”.
Assu’s work has been featured in several group shows over the past years, notably How Soon is Now? at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Comic Relief at the National Gallery of Canada and Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation Part 2 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. Sonny’s first solo exhibit, Sonny Assu: As Defined Within the Indian Act, was held at the Belkin Satellite Gallery in Vancouver, in April 2006. It garnered him considerable attention and landed him a partnership with the Equinox Gallery in the fall of 2006. Assu’s work has been accepted into the National Gallery in Ottawa (Breakfast Series and Death Blanket), the Seattle Art Museum (Breakfast Series), the Museum of Anthropology at UBC (Coke Salish) and in various other public and private collections across Canada and the United States.
His successful art practice has netted exposure on a variety of media platforms and he has received grants from Canada Council, the BC Art Council and in 2007, he was honoured with the Emily Award, from the Emily Carr University, for his devotion and success on his path as an artist.
Sonny Assu is Laich-kwil-tach (Kwakwaka'wakw) of the Weka'yi First Nation (Cape Mudge), the artist has lived in Vancouver since 1999.
My current body of work examines how we use everyday consumer items and icons of pop culture to define our personal lineage. This series of work juxtaposes two polarized cultures and theorizes how branding, brand loyalty, and items from pop/technology culture to relate to the ideal of totemic representation.
This body of work combines social, economical, and environmental issues with subtle humour to speak to the notion of conformity by not conforming to the commonly perceived "Indian" Identity.