Barry Ace is a practicing visual artist and currently lives in Ottawa, Canada. He is a band member of M’Chigeeng First Nation, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. His mixed media paintings and assemblage textile works explore various aspects of cultural continuity and the confluence of the historical and contemporary.
As a practicing visual artist, his work has been included in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including: Emergence from the Shadows – First Peoples Photographic Perspectives, Canadian Museum of Civilization (1996: Ottawa); Urban Myths: Aboriginal Artists in the City. Karsh-Masson Gallery (2000: Ottawa); The Dress Show, Leonard and Ellen Bina Art Gallery (2003: Montréal); Super Phat Nish, Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (2006: Brandon); 50 Years of Pow wow, Castle Gallery (2006: New York); Playing Tricks, American Indian Community House Gallery (2006: New York); Home/land and Security, Render Art Gallery (2009: Waterloo); Meditations on Memory – A Metaphysical Dance. Alcove Gallery (2010: Ottawa International Airport);“m∂ntu’c – little spirits, little powers” Nordamerika Native Museum (2010: Zurich); Changing Hands 3 – Art Without Reservations (2012 -2014: Museum of Art and Design: New York); and Native Fashion Now: North American Native Style (2016 – 2017: Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts); Anishinaabeg Art and Power, Royal Ontario Museum (2017: Toronto); Every. Now. Then. Reframing Nationhood, Art Gallery of Ontario (2017: Toronto); 2017 Canadian Biennial, National Gallery of Canada (2017: Ottawa); We’ll All Become Stories, Ottawa Art Gallery (2018: Ottawa);URL : IRL, Dunlop Art Gallery (2018: Regina); Public Disturbance: Politics and Protest in Contemporary Indigenous Art from Canada, Supermarket 2018 (2018: Stockholm, Sweden).
His work can be found in numerous public and private collections in Canada and abroad, including the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario); Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, Québec); Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Ontario); Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Ontario); Government of Ontario Art Collection (Toronto, Ontario); City of Ottawa; Ottawa Art Gallery; Woodland Cultural Centre (Brantford, Ontario); Canada Council Art Bank (Ottawa); North American Native Museum (Zurich, Switzerland); Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (M’Chigeeng, Ontario); Global Affairs Canada (Ottawa, Ontario) and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (Gatineau, Québec).
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Barry Ace is based in Ottawa and is a member of M’Chigeeng First Nation (Manitoulin Island). Drawing inspiration from multiple facets of traditional Anishinaabeg (Odawa) culture gathered from historical sources, traditional knowledge, found objects and cultural research, Ace creates objects and imagery that utilize many traditional forms and motifs. By disrupting the reading of these works with the introduction of other elements, Ace endeavours to create a convergence of the historical and contemporary. He states, “My textile and paper works replicate traditional Great Lakes’ floral motifs often sourced from reclaimed and salvaged electronic schematics and circuitry (capacitors and resistors) that act as metaphors for cultural continuity (antithesis of stasis), bridging the past with the present and the future. In doing so, my work intentionally integrates traditional cultural art practices, such as beadwork, which is then juxtaposed against contemporary ephemera, breaking new ground as a distinct genre of contemporary indigenous abstraction.”
Ace has been exhibiting since the 1990s, and his work has been included in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including: Emergence from the Shadows – First Peoples Photographic Perspectives, Canadian Museum of History (1996: Gatineau); Urban Myths: Aboriginal Artists in the City, Karsh-Masson Gallery (2000: Ottawa); The Dress Show, Leonard and Ellen Bina Art Gallery (2003: Montréal); Super Phat Nish, Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (2006: Brandon); 50 Years of Powwow, Castle Gallery (2006: New Rochelle, USA); Playing Tricks, American Indian Community House Gallery (2006: New York City, USA); Home/land and Security, Render Art Gallery (2009: Waterloo); Meditations on Memory – A Metaphysical Dance, Alcove Gallery (2010: Ottawa); N’nisidwaamdis (I Recognize Myself), Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (2010: M’Chigeeng) “m∂ntu’c – little spirits, little powers”, Nordamerika Native Museum (2010: Zurich, Switzerland); Changing Hands: Art Without Reservations 3, The Museum of Art and Design (MAD) (2012 -2014, New York City, USA); Memory Landscape, Museu Nogueira da Silva (2015: Braga, Portugal); Home Away From Home, Ottawa Art Gallery (2015: Ottawa); Mnemonic Manifestations, Latcham Art Gallery (2015: Stouffville); 20/20: Vision and Hindsight, Workers Arts and Heritage Centre (2015: Hamilton); Aazhooningwa’igan “It is worn across the shoulder”, Trinity Art Gallery (2015: Ottawa) and Native Fashion Now, Peabody Essex Museum (2015-2016: Salem, USA); Anishinaabeg Art and Power, Royal Ontario Museum (2017: Toronto); Every. Now. Then. Reframing Nationhood, Art Gallery of Ontario (2017: Toronto); 2017 Canadian Biennial, National Gallery of Canada (2017: Ottawa); We’ll All Become Stories, Ottawa Art Gallery (2018: Ottawa); URL : IRL, Dunlop Art Gallery (2018: Regina); Public Disturbance: Politics and Protest in Contemporary Indigenous Art from Canada, Supermarket 2018 (2018: Stockholm, Sweden).
In 2010, at the invitation of artist Robert Houle, Ace travelled to Paris (France) and undertook four site-specific dance performances honouring the Ojibwa dance troupe lead by Maungwaudaus (George Henry), whom in 1844 performed in George Catlin’s traveling portrait gallery exhibition. Ace’s dance performances are documented in Shelley Niro’s award-winning film Robert’s Paintings, chronicling the life and career of Robert Houle. Ace’s essay, A Reparative Act, written for Houle’s exhibition catalogue from the perspective of a dancer, won the Ontario Association of Art Gallery’s Curatorial Writing Award for 2012. Under special commission by the Ottawa Art Gallery, Shelley Niro and Katharine Asals edited a film short entitled A Reparative Act from the stock footage that was shot in Paris in 2010 for inclusion in the Ottawa Art Gallery’s inaugural exhibition We’ll All Become Stories.
As an accomplished and award-winning writer and educator, Ace has worked in the milieu of visual, literary and performing arts for over 25 years. In the early 1990s, he was Lecturer with the University of Sudbury in the Indigenous Studies Program, and he was principal writer for the distance education manual Indigenous Arts of the Americas: Retrospect and Transition. He has also written numerous essays on contemporary Indigenous art and artists, including a series of essays on four contemporary Native American artists for Manifestations – New Vocabularies in Native Art Criticismpublished by the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico. And most recently, he completed a comprehensive essay, Reactive Intermediates: Aboriginal Art, Politics, and Resonance of the 1960s and 1970s, for (7), a major exhibition of the Indian Group of 7 (Odjig, Janvier, Morrisseau, Sanchez, Ray, Beardy, Cobiness) for the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina. He has also written, presented at conference and published extensively on Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau.
From 1994 to 2000, Ace served as Chief Curator with the Aboriginal Art Centre, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), and during his tenure, he curated or co-curated numerous exhibitions, including the international touring exhibition, Transitions: Contemporary Canadian Indian and Inuit Art (1997). In 1999, Ace and his team won the Deputy Minister’s Outstanding Achievement Award for the development and implementation of a groundbreaking artist-in-residence and exhibition program at (AANDC) that featured an impressive roster of Indigenous, emerging and established artists, including Shelley Niro, George Littlechild, Michael Belmore, Maria Hupfield, Ron Noganosh, Mary Ann Barkhouse, Nadia Myre, Jeffrey Thomas, Greg Stats, Jerry Evans, Rosalie Favell, David General, Roger Simon, and many others.
In 2006, Ace co-founded and served as the inaugural Director of the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective (ACC/CCA), an incorporated national non-profit arts service organization in support of the indigenous critical and curatorial communities with membership in Canada, United States of America, New Zealand and Australia. In 2011, Ace co-founded the Ottawa-based artist collective: Ottawa Ontario Seven (OO7) with local Ottawa-based Indigenous artists to provide opportunities for self-curation, public engagement and critique, and he regularly exhibits under this moniker in Canada and the USA.
In 2015, Ace was awarded the prestigious KM Hunter Visual Artist Award. This award is administered by the Ontario Arts Foundation and given to support mid-career, professional artists who have a reasonable body of work, a fair degree of public exposure, have made an impact in their chosen field and demonstrate an original artistic voice within their artistic tradition.
In 2017, the National Gallery of Canada acquired three of Ace’s recent works for the permanent collection and included the work Healing Dance 2 in the 2017 Canadian Biennial exhibition.
In January 2018, Ace completed the month long Nigig Artist-in-Residency program through the Indigenous Visual Culture program at Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto. During his residency, Ace mentored students, presented in numerous classes on his work and completed in his studio a new work on Indigenous residential schools entitled, How can you expect me to reconcile, when I know the truth?. This work is included in the exhibition Public Disturbance: Politics and Protest in Contemporary Indigenous Art from Canada for SAW Gallery (Ottawa) who invited Ace as the featured artist to Supermarket 2018, an international artist-run-centre art fair in Stockholm Sweden.
Ace is currently working on new work for his coming solo exhibition curated by Lori Beavis for the Faculty of Fine Arts Gallery at Concordia University in Montreal for the fall of 2019.