Various Small Fires is pleased to present Snake whisky still life and other stories, a group exhibition curated by Todd Bockley featuring new works by Julie Buffalohead, Andrea Carlson, Jim Denomie, Jonathan Herrera Soto, Pao Houa Her, Tom Jones, Brad Kahlhamer, Postcommodity, Eric-Paul Riege, Lauren Roche, and Cara Romero. This exhibition—presented at Various Small Fires’s Los Angeles location—highlights the wide range of artists within the Bockley Gallery program, especially the Native American and Indigenous artists the gallery has championed for over three decades.
Andrea Carlson’s panoramic painting Cast a Shadow explores the intersection between monument and land through an Indigenous lens. Carlson’s multifaceted, symbolism-heavy painting shares visual resonance with the surrealist dreamscapes that play out in works by Lauren Roche, Julie Buffalohead, and Jim Denomie. Roche’s paintings depict figures and animals co- inhabiting dreamlike settings that simultaneously provoke a sense of peace and unease, while Julie Buffalohead creates stories populated by animal characters which fuse the mundane and the mythical. Jim Denomie also draws heavily upon the human/animal relationship in his work, painting antlered figures (a recurrent motif intended to symbolize, in the artist’s words, “spiritual people”), alongside spiny fish, and woodland creatures that float against turbulent technicolor skies. Denomie’s vocabulary of signs, figures, and symbols is inspired both by his own dreams and his Ojibwe heritage. Brad Kahlhamer’s monumental work Ugh x 4 / 4 x Ugh—part of the artist’s ongoing Super Catcher series—reclaims the figure of the dreamcatcher as a means of personal expression while commenting on the broader commodification of this object by Western culture.
Pao Houa Her, Cara Romero, and Tom Jones all employ photography to explore contemporary cultural identities. Her is known for portraits of the Hmong community living in the United States and Laos; Her’s included image, taken in a “whisky village” in Laos, is rendered in a documentary style, combining reality and artifice to consider, critique, and evaluate layered identities. Using a choreographed approach, Cara Romero’s photographs address cultural memory, collective history, and lived experiences from a Native American female perspective. Tom Jones adorns photographic portraits with delicate, laborious bead embroidery. According to Jones, “The use of Ho-Chunk floral and geometric designs is a metaphor for the spirits of our ancestors who are constantly looking over us.”
Eric-Paul Riege creates intensely personal textile works grounded in a ritualistic practice of craft which he frequently activates through performance. Works like let the Holy ppl watch over U and Me  are inspired by the artist’s own understanding of Diné thought and philosophy. Jonathan Herrera Soto’s large-scale print evokes conversations around memories, ancestry, and loved ones. Like Riege, Herrera Soto is interested in ritual and the symbolic value of objects. Pulling prints directly from inked-up clothing is a way for the artist to claim vestiges of memory lost to time.
In the sound corridor is a five-channel audio installation by the interdisciplinary collective Postcommodity. This work, featuring the thundering sound of running horses, offers a cutting commentary of American border patrol practices—specifically the treatment of Haitian refugees at the southern border. The large, colorful, and seemingly ominous balloon that hovers in the courtyard was first exhibited along the U.S./Mexican border near Douglas, Arizona, and Agua Prieta, Sonora as one of twenty-six in Postcommodity’s temporary land-art monument Repellent Fence (2015).
The works in Snake whisky still life and other stories are contemporary artifacts of an evolving history defined in the present. Seen together, these diverse practices offer not only a range of material expressions, but a collective of urgent political and social narratives that demand broader exposure in arts institutions today.
Various Small Fires is located at 812 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, California.