Alumnus and former faculty member Rigo 23 brings his large-scale statue of Leonard Peltier to SFAI's rooftop terrace this fall to gaze across the bay to Alcatraz, a pivotal place for the American Indian Movement and Indians of All Tribes. The 12-foot-high likeness of Peltier, a Native activist incarcerated since 1977, is based on a small hand painted self portrait that Peltier created in prison.
The statue has traveled around the United States and has, at times, met with an animosity all too familiar to Indigenous activists the world over. At the Katzen Art Center at the American University in Washington DC in 2016, it was censored and taken down after complaints from the president of the FBI Agents Association and subsequently disappeared for nearly a year until the artist was able to recover it. It was then exhibited at the Main Museum in downtown Los Angeles and greeted with an outpouring of community support.
The detachable feet of the statue have travelled Indian Country to many protest and ceremony sites including Standing Rock, Alcatraz Island, and Crow Dog's Paradise. On these journeys, Rigo 23 and collaborators invite people to stand on the feet to show their solidarity for Peltier. Hundreds have, including well-known activists like Angela Davis.
“It is a counter presence to the invisibility of Indigenous People in the USA and the continuous abuse they endure enshrined in the 'Cigar Store Chief' statues which can be found chained to cigar and liquor storefronts in most American cities still today,” says Rigo 23.
The installation of the work at SFAI places the statue in dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples Day Sunrise Ceremonies that have taken place on Alcatraz annually October 12 and November 26 since 1975 to honor the Indigenous Peoples of America, promote their rights, and to commemorate the Native activists who occupied the island in protest in 1969.
ABOUT RIGO 23
Rigo 23 is a Portuguese-born American artists and has exhibited his work internationally for over 20 years, placing murals, paintings, sculptures, and tile work in public situations where viewers are encouraged to examine their relationship to their community, their role as unwitting advocates of public policy or their place on a planet occupied by many other living things. Rigo’s works live both as artworks and as thoughtful public interventions.
Image: The Leonard Peltier Statue by Rigo 23 at American University, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and the San Francisco Art Institute.