Frieze New York

May 1, 2024 - May 5, 2024

Exhibitiors

COOPER COLE is pleased to present a solo presentation of works by Maureen Gruben at the 2024 iteration of Frieze New York.

Maureen Gruben has a diverse multi-media practice which incorporates organic and industrial materials that are frequently found or salvaged. She was born and raised in Tuktoyaktuk where her parents were traditional Inuvialuk knowledge keepers and founders of E. Gruben’s Transport. Gruben holds a BFA from the University of Victoria and a Certificate in Indigenous Political Development & Leadership, En’owkin Centre, Penticton.

This presentation honours the life work of Maureen’s late father Eddie Gruben. Eddie was renowned as one of the region’s most successful trappers and is remembered as a generous supporter of his community. Orphaned as a young child by famine and the 1920’s pandemic, his skill and efforts in trapping with a dog team over vast distances enabled him to eventually build the largest transportation company in the Northwest Territories. Gruben’s (re)presentation of his tools is an ongoing process throughout her practice that works to preserve not the objects themselves, but to reflect on the many complex memories and values that can be sustained by a form.

At the centre of our presentation at Frieze New York will be Maureen’s seminal series of unique etchings titled Nakataq. Using patterns based on her fathers fox stretchers and traps, the artist has hand-etched repeated forms into a set of found photographic aerial survey prints. These prints chart ice coverage in relation to oil wells in the Arctic Ocean that surround the artist’s home community of Tuktoyaktuk; they were recovered from local work camps that had been set up by oil companies and subsequently abandoned in the ‘80s. Marks added by the artist converge with but are texturally distinct from the exposures, which themselves include surveyors’ annotations—names and numbers added in the darkroom when originally printed. This intersection of inscriptions touches on very different but deeply entangled relationships to land and concepts of value, particularly with respect to tensions between home and resource extraction.

Also on display will be Maureen’s sculpture Fresh Artifacts; this work is titled in overt opposition to archeological fixations on objects becoming somehow locked in a state of purely historic value. It consists of three resin casts taken from a wooden fox stretcher used by Maureen’s father. As a youth, Eddie attended residential school and was assigned the number four as a “student number” and throughout his life, he inscribed many of his important possessions with the Roman numeral “IV.” This marking has been transferred from his fox stretcher to two of the casts. The translucence of its rounded forms suggests vessels capable of both holding and sharing, generously revealing layers of textures, materials and process. Its paradoxical title and active play with light emphasizes that memory is a living phenomenon, bound as closely to the present as to the past. Likewise, in its deep familial connection to a life spent immersed in the tundra, the work refers to a spirituality based on experiences of a present, living land and family lineage, rather than on opaque ancient texts or transcendent but endlessly deferred futures.

Maureen Gruben (b. 1963, Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada) has a diverse multi-media practice which incorporates organic and industrial materials that are frequently found or salvaged, forging critical links between life in the Western Arctic and global environmental and cultural concerns. She was born and raised in Tuktoyaktuk where her parents were traditional Inuvialuk knowledge keepers and founders of E. Gruben’s Transport. Gruben holds a BFA from the University of Victoria and a Certificate in Indigenous Political Development & Leadership, En’owkin Centre, Penticton.

Gruben has had solo and group presentations at venues such as Rovaniemi Art Museum, Finland; Akureyri Art Museum, Iceland; Kode Bergen Art Museum, Norway; Contemporary Art Gallery; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver; Art Gallery of Grande Prairie, Grande Prairie; WAG-Qaumajuq, Winnipeg; Cade Centre for Fine Arts, Baltimore; IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA), Santa Fe; American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis; Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, University of Nevada, Los Vegas; National Nordic Museum, Seattle; Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, São Paulo; Contemporary Native Art Biennial, Montreal; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; the National Gallery of Canada; and Âjagemô art space, Ottawa. She was shortlisted for the 2023 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award and long listed for the 2019 Aesthetica Art Prize and the 2021 Sobey Art Prize. Her work is held in public and private collections including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Indigenous Art Centre, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. Gruben currently lives and works in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada.