The Artsy Vanguard 2020: Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds

Benjamin Sutton
Sep 11, 2020 8:00PM

Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds

B. 1954, Wichita, Kansas. Lives and works in Oklahoma City.

Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, “Native Hosts for Florida,” 2016. Courtesy of the artist.

Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, South/Peru, 1992. Courtesy of the artist.


Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, who is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Nations of Oklahoma, has been making urgent work for decades. Often, it has taken the form of steel highway and wayfinding signs installed in public spaces. One series, “Trail of Tears” (2005), commemorates the U.S. government’s forced displacement of tens of thousands of Native Americans from their lands in the Southeast. Another body of work, “Native Hosts” (1988–present), pays tribute to the indigenous inhabitants of colonized lands. In the past two years, the issues his practice has long focused on have become central to nationwide protests and debates, and Heap of Birds has begun receiving a critical mass of recognition from the art world.

His work was included in the landmark exhibition “Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now,” which opened at the Crystal Bridges Museum in 2018 and traveled to the Nasher Museum of Art, where it closed earlier this year. In 2018, his signature monoprints—which feature decontextualized phrases taken from pop music, historical accounts, conversations at reservation gatherings, and more—were included in SITE Santa Fe’s influential biennial, SITElines. Last year, the monoprints were the focus of a major solo show at MoMA PS1; around the same time, the artist was featured in a collection show at the Met Breuer.

For Heap of Birds, the “Native Hosts” series is about claiming indigenous sovereignty and ownership in a familiar format that is nevertheless bold and powerful.

The Artsy Vanguard 2020

The Artsy Vanguard 2020 is our annual list of the most promising artists shaping the future of contemporary art. This year, artists are organized into two categories: Newly Emerging, which presents artists who’ve gained momentum in the past year, showing at leading institutions and galleries; and Getting Their Due, which identifies artists who have persevered for decades, yet only recently received the spotlight they deserve. Now in its third edition, the feature was developed by the Artsy staff, in collaboration with our network of international curators and art professionals. Explore more of The Artsy Vanguard 2020.

Benjamin Sutton

Header and thumbnail image, from left to right: Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, installation view of “Water is Your Only Medicine,” 2020; Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, detail of ghost prints in “Columbus Day,” 2019; Portrait of Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds by Ted West. Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, “South/Peru,” 1992. Courtesy of the artist. All images courtesy of the artist.