Exhibition Tour: Unit 17
May 16, 2019

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Exhibition Tour at Unit 17
May 16, 2019


Please join us for an exhibition tour of Money, a solo exhibition of new work by Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill.


Hill uses tobacco as the exhibition’s crux and as a tool to analyze its Indigenous and colonial economic histories. As a material, tobacco was the first currency in the English colonies of North America; it was used to pay wages, taxes, dowries, fines and to purchase goods. Tobacco evolved into Tobacco Notes, squares of coloured paper representing different given amounts of tobacco stored in a warehouse. Tobacco Notes were the first exchangeable paper money in the United States, precursors to the dollar bill.


The rise of this new economy was accompanied by an effort to outlaw and extinguish Indigenous economies, in which tobacco also played a central role. Prior to colonization, tobacco was the most widely traded material in the Americas, and it continues to have a place in Indigenous economic systems today.


Hill’s works in Money suggest key principles of Indigenous economies: reciprocity, interdependence and dispersal rather than accumulation.  Hill renders tobacco as the basis for each sculpture and the larger field in which they exist. Included in the exhibition are a number of sculpted figures, human and animal, installed throughout the gallery on various platforms. The walls of the gallery have been treated with residual pigment from rubbing tobacco leaves, soaking the space with its subtle mark and deep scent. Objects are cast along painted tables, building certain confrontations and acknowledgments between works at the centre of the gallery. Two striped flags, sewn out of various strains of tobacco, borrow their dimensions from the American dollar bill. Seed pods have been attached to the base of these sculptures, gradually releasing their contents over the duration of the exhibition. Seeds will be carried out from viewers’ feet, into the gallery’s garden and beyond.


Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill (b. 1979) is a Cree and Metis artist who lives and works on the unceded territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. Hill’s sculptural practice explores the history of materials to enquire into concepts of land, property, and economy. Most recently, her work has shown at Cooper Cole (Toronto); Polygon Gallery, and the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery (Vancouver); the Alberta Art Gallery (Edmonton); SBC galerie d’art contemporain (Montreal) and STRIDE gallery (Calgary).


Image Credit: Kiss, 2019, nylon stockings, Virginia tobacco, hair tie, bunny fur, beer can tabs, spider charm, dandelions, marigolds, found brooch, 45.72 x 50.8 x 81.28cm