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Brendan Fernandes

Momenta Art
359 Bedford Avenue, between S. 4th and S. 5th, 718-218-8058
May 30 - June 30, 2008
Reception: Friday, May 30, 7 - 9 PM
Web Site

The work of Brendan Fernandes approaches the issue of culture as something endlessly deferred, with roots that may be pulled but never unearthed. The artist – whose family is Indian from the former Portuguese colony of Goa – grew up in Kenya then Canada before moving to New York and has never visited India. Within his own history are written the migrations of both colonial and post-colonial eras, begging the question of whether cultural authenticity is ever possible within the flux of history.

In this, the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York, Fernandes presents a number of objects that approach this elusive question. First, the viewer is confronted with a number of pre-fabricated deer decoys wearing reproductions of African masks. Decoys are designed to lure actual deer. While the masks, which usually hide identity, here reveal and amplify the falsity beneath. The fact that the masks are cast from originals that were made as souvenirs by African craftsmen reveals a complexly nested and shifting cultural ground.

Also part of the show, a camouflaged hunting blind sits like a village hut beyond the deer. Within the tent-like hut, a video monitor displays an image of burning ivory, a reference to the Kenyan government’s PR campaign against poaching that ended with a massive, expensively produced bonfire. Fernandes creates his video by superimposing a cracking video Yule log with a single documentary image from the event. By placing the video within the hunting blind, the crackling fire both threatens the nylon structure’s demise and references a hearth-fire within a hut on the savannah.

In Fernandes’ work, the deer, the mask, the blind, the digital Yule log – the artifacts of consumer culture – take on the forms and meanings of a culture that is typically exoticized by the west. In this way, the artist reproduces how culture is actively transformed and reinterpreted. A final piece drives this point home: silhouetted and tastefully lined up against a “Safari Green” wall, Fernandes has installed the white silhouettes of Masai spears, transforming this artifact of traditional Masai culture into a white picket fence.

Born in Kenya of Indian heritage, Brendan Fernandes immigrated to Canada in the 1990s. He earned his MFA (2005) from The University of Western Ontario and his BFA (2002) from York University in Canada. He has received grants from The Ontario and Canada Councils for the Arts including the International Residency in Trinidad and Tobago. He has exhibited across North America and has recently shown in the Western New York Biennial through The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY. Fernandes completed the Independent Study Program of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2007, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Work Space Residency program in 2008. He has also held the position of Artist in Residence at The School of Visual Arts, NY, in the graduate program for computer arts in 2008. He is currently participating in Emerge 10 at Aljira: A Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, NJ. He currently works between Toronto and New York where he continues to exhibit both nationally and internationally.
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