CUE Art Foundation is pleased to present Assimilations, a solo exhibition by John Feodorov, curated by Ruba Katrib. Drawing upon his experience growing up half-Navajo (Diné) and halfwhite in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Feodorov’s multimedia installation, paintings, and prints explore how identity and memory are shaped amidst the violent pressures of cultural assimilation and the legacy of settler colonialism in the United States.
In the front gallery, Feodorov’s installation, How I Learned To Be A Christ-jun, displays Pentecostal and Jehovah’s Witness hymn books and pages along with a New Testament Bible translated into the Navajo language in an altar-like space. Manipulated recordings play a Christian congregation singing hymns combined with looped audio of the artist’s mother and grandfather singing traditional Navajo songs. In the main gallery, large paintings combine the artist’s family photographs and original photographs, pages from Pentacostal hymn books, symbols of Americana, industrial imagery, Google satellite maps, and natural landscapes with bold fields of textured paint. Combining explorations of representation and legibility with vivid and joyful mark-making, the artist reflects on the violence of white settler culture and federal policies towards Native communities, while at the same time honoring the history, stories, and sacred significance of his family homestead and traditions. The print series, Collectibles, layers the weave of a Navajo rug and stereotypical advertising copy that commodifies Indigenous cultures over his own obscured family photographs, highlighting the media’s appropriation and othering of Indigenous people along with corresponding assumptions about their identity and spirituality. Throughout the exhibition, the artist reflects on the history of coerced Navajo conversion to Pentecostalism in the 20th century in order to explore the lasting loss and duality that those forced to abandon the cultural and spiritual traditions of their ancestors experience in the present. Feordorov’s work explores the fragmentation of identity and search for belonging among urban-born Indigenous communities caused by the United States’ history of settler colonialism. In the exhibition catalogue, Ruba Katrib writes: “Throughout Feodorov’s work, a range of defining institutions converge and are at odds. These include formal and informal institutions of culture, of nation, of faith, and of belonging. It is actually the impossibilities, as well as the traumas, of reconciliation that needle and probe the works in his exhibition, Assimilations.”
Of mixed Navajo (Diné) and Euro-American heritage, John Feodorov grew up in the suburbs of Southern California in the city of Whittier. As a child, his family made annual visits to his grandparents’ land on the Navajo Reservation. His time spent there continues to inform his art. Feodorov both engages and confronts the viewer through questioning assumptions about identity, spirituality, and place within the context of consumerdriven culture. Recently, his work has focused on the exploitation and degradation of Indigenous lands by governments and corporations, and its potential impact on identity, connection, and sense of place.
Feodorov has been featured in several publications, including Time and Time Again by Lucy R. Lippard; Art + Religion, edited by Aaron Rosen; and Manifestations, edited by Dr. Nancy Marie Mithlo. He was also featured in the first season of the series Art 21: Art for the 21st Century. He is co-founder of Animal Saint, an interdisciplinary art collaboration with composer and musician Paul Amiel. Feodorov served as an Arts Commissioner for the City of Seattle from 2000-03 and holds the position of Associate Professor of Art at Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Western Washington University in Washington State.
Ruba Katrib is Curator at MoMA PS1 in New York, where she has curated exhibitions such as Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991-2011 (co-organized with Peter Eleey); the retrospective of Simone Fattal in 2019; and the solo shows of Edgar Heap of Birds, Karrabing Collective, Fernando Palma Rodríguez, and Julia Phillips. From 2012–2018 she was Curator at SculptureCenter in New York, where she curated over twenty exhibitions including 74 million million million tons (co-organized with artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan) and solo shows with artists including Carissa Rodriguez, Kelly Akashi, Teresa Burga, Nicola L., Charlotte Prodger, Aki Sasamoto, Cosima von Bonin, Anthea Hamilton, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Gabriel Sierra, Erika Verzutti, and Jumana Manna. In 2018, Katrib co-curated SITE Santa Fe’s biennial, Casa Tomada, with José Luis Blondet and Candice Hopkins.