Boarder X is the first exhibition of its kind to bring together the work of Inuit, First Nations and Métis artists who also surf, skate or snowboard, and it is a prodigious blockbuster. The opening alone saw 900 people cross the threshold of the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
The show has also proven to be an important gesture for an institution well known for its promotion of Inuit art yet often viewed critically for its lack of support for First Nations and Métis art—although it should be noted that the WAG recently launched an impressive Indigenous Advisory Circle.
The exhibition showcases six artists who share an affinity with board culture, creating small moments of interplay through their assembled display. The vibrant colours and movement of Roger Crait’s large-scale oil painting Babble on Babylon, Babel on (2003) stand in contrast to Mason Mashon’s massive photograph capturing a snowboarder dwarfed by the majesty of a snowy mountain scene. Mashon’s The Cedar Shaka (2016) is a hand-carved, red cedar powder surfboard, created with assistance from Meghann O’Brien, whose Sky Blanket (2014) and Clouds (2014) make use of mountain goat wool. Steven Thomas Davies, Mark Igloliorte and Jordan Bennett each incorporate film/ video within their works, mediums that have long been associated with board culture documentation. Igloliorte’s film Kayak – Skateboard – Flip – Roll (2016) and accompanying modified skateboard My Yellow Aquanaut 17’7″ (2016) compare the similar rotational movements between a skateboard kickflip and a kayak Eskimo roll.
Bennett’s circular wall pieces resemble exaggerated medallions, fitting comfortably beside Les Ramsey’s eclectic fabric collages.
One of the most compelling aspects of Boarder X is the way it deftly navigates its position within the institution to create a platform much larger and far reaching than itself. Guided tours, a small film festival, an artist roundtable, a multimedia blog and, perhaps most thrilling of all, a temporary but totally legit half-pipe, built in the middle of the WAG’s formidable Eckhardt Hall. The skate ramp, along with a floor mural collaboration between Mike Valcourt, Kenneth Lavallee and Peter Thomas and a grind box in the shape of the WAG, has become somewhat of a focal point for Boarder X. The ramp’s presence successfully captured the subversive energy of the show by disrupting the hushed demeanour of gallery protocol; although, one is left wondering why the ramp or mural were not included as part of the exhibition itself.
As the brainchild of the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Curator of Indigenous and Contemporary Art Jaimie Isaac, Boarder X is a strong early exhibition from a curator with a bright path ahead. It is also a historic moment for the inclusion of Indigenous art in Winnipeg and a turning point for the WAG as an institution, one that cannot and should not be back- pedalled on.
 “About the name: I wonder if it could changed to Inuit roll– Eskimo is out dated,” explained the artist in an interview with Akimbo in November 2016.“One thing I do like about the expression is how it is possessive. It’s another reminder that kayaking and these paddling techniques are from Inuit culture.”.
This is a review from the Summer 2017 issue of the Inuit Art Quarterly.