Athena LaTocha: Mesabi Redux

February 8, 2024 - May 31, 2024
Human Rights Institute Gallery
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Mesabi 3

About the Exhibition

Athena LaTocha (Lakota and Ojibwe) created the works in her Mesabi series on-site at iron deposits in the Mesabi Mountain Range of northern Minnesota, which is known to the local Ojibwe as Misaabe-wajiw, “Giant Mountain” or “Sleeping Giant.” The range is the site of the one of the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mines. LaTocha cast iron reliefs during a month-long residency, coordinated by the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids and supported by the Minnesota Museum of Mining in Chisholm, where iron mining started in the 1880s and continues today.

The works were cast by pouring molten iron freestyle into a bed of sand. The process is an extension of LaTocha’s gestural painting practice, where she pours and throws ink, earth, and other materials onto monumental sheets of paper. During the pour, while the iron is still liquid, LaTocha manipulates the molten metal with various tools much the same way she uses found objects to manipulate pools of ink. Over the course of her residency, the artist traveled daily across the Mesabi Range between Grand Rapids and Chisholm. By day and by night, she saw piles of mine waste—tailings and overburden—appearing as uncanny mountains along the highways where surface mining operations have reshaped the land and culture. As part of her process, LaTocha works within the traditional homeland of her Lakota and Ojibwe ancestors and considers the impact mining has upon nature, society, and culture.

Athena-LaTocha: Mesabi Redux is organized by IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, NM.


Selected Works

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Mesabi
Mesabi 11
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Mesabi 2
Mesabi 2
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Athena LaTocha
Athena LaTocha

About the Artist

Athena LaTocha (b. Anchorage, Alaska) is an artist whose massive works on paper explore the relationship between human-made and natural worlds, in the wake of Earthworks artists from the 1960s and 1970s. The artist incorporates materials such as ink, lead, earth and wood, while looking at correlations between mark-marking and displacement of materials made by industrial equipment and natural events. Her works are informed by her upbringing in the wilderness of Alaska. LaTocha’s process is about being immersed in these environments, while responding to the storied and, at times, traumatic histories that are rooted in place.

LaTocha’s work has been shown at MoMA P.S.1 in Long Island City, New York; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia; IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, Summit, New Jersey; Smack Mellon, The Green-Wood Cemetery, and BRIC House, Brooklyn, New York; CUE Art Foundation and Artists Space, New York City; South Dakota Art Museum, Brookings, South Dakota; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana; the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage, Alaska.

Currently, LaTocha has work on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia; The Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York; the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina; and the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art & Design, Portland, Maine. LaTocha is the recipient of artist grants and awards, among them the Saint-Gaudens Memorial Fellowship (2023); Rockefeller Brothers Fund Pocantico Art Prize in Visual Arts (2022); Eiteljorg Fellowship, the National Academy Affiliated Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, and NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Painting (2021); Joan Mitchell Foundation (2019, 2016); Wave Hill (2018); and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (2013).

Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Art in America, The Art Newspaper, BOMB and Hyperallergic. LaTocha received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Stony Brook University, New York. The artist divides her time between New York City and Peekskill, New York.