Robert Davidson has been a pivotal figure in the Northwest Coast Native art renaissance since he erected the first totem pole in nearly a century in his ancestral Masset village in 1969. For over forty years he has absorbed the bedrock art traditions of Haida art and craft, working in the ancient forms of his grandfather, the influential Haida artist Charles Edensaw. Davidson has taken new directions within the highly disciplined structure of the old Northwest Coast models--in wood sculpture, ceremonial arts, jewelry, and prints. Less known are his recent forays into abstraction, explored in boldly minimalist easel paintings, graphic work, and sculpture. Pared to essential lines, elemental shapes, and bold colors, these startlingly modern works insinuate themselves into a lifetime's body of work which has usually been labeled as "traditional." Robert Davidson features paintings, sculptures, and prints created since 2005, as well as key images from earlier in his career, that show Davidson's impulse toward an elemental language of form.
These essays investigate the complex fusion of sources Davidson draws upon, placing the work in the larger context of contemporary art, and examines the ways in which the work mediates the dualities of tradition and innovation, the spheres of the community and the gallery, and the personal and the collective.