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 John Kavik  (1897 - 1993)

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Lived/Active: Northwest Territories/Nunavut / Canada      Known for: Inuit sculpture, carving, drawing, ceramics

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WOMAN IN AMAUTIK
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
John Kavik (1897 – 1993) (1)

“Never pretty, Kavik’s rugged works are among the most powerfully evocative in Inuit sculpture. There is no sentiment in his art, but much visceral emotion.” (2)

An important Canadian Inuit (Eskimo) sculptor, carver, draftsman and ceramics artist, John Kavik was born in Gjoa Haven, Northwest Territories [now Gjoa Haven, Nunavut] and died in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. His work is most associated with Kangiqlliniq, [Rankin Inlet], Nunavut where he settled in 1959. Kavik’s life and work are discussed in most books on Inuit art. His carvings have been included in numerous landmark exhibitions, and they’re prized acquisitions in prominent public and private collections. (3) (4)

His mediums were stone, colored pencil, graphite, felt tip pen, ink, crayon, whale bone, ceramic pots with protruding figures, and mixed mediums. His subjects were faces, heads, figures, mothers with children, grouped figures, families, animals (birds, seals, musk-ox, etc.), genre*, humor, mythology, symbolism and spirituality. His styles were Minimalism* and Modernism*; his typical work is semi abstract; the AskART images are good illustrations of it.

“Like Giacometti, Kavik is preoccupied with the human figure alone in space. A feeling of loss or alienation seems to be projected by these carvings. This feeling is underscored by the artist’s rough, almost brutal treatment of the stone and the solitary nature of the figure.”  (5)

“Kavik creates his expressive images with very little surface articulation. His statements are direct and basic; the figures are achieved with gouges, incised lines, and some modeling and shaping. Arms, feet, knees, thighs, parka lines, parka hoods, and facial features are suggested, roughed in, or drilled out.” (6)

Kavik was largely self-educated as an artist; he was a nomadic hunter and fisher for most of his life, and a miner at the North Rankin Nickel Mine from 1959 until the mine closed in 1962. Shortly after that, with the encouragement of artist George Swinton (see AskART) and anthropologist Robert Williamson (1931 – 2012), who provided him with tools, Kavik began carving. He also participated in the Rankin Inlet ceramics program, which operated from about 1963 to 1975.

Since the mid 1960s Kavik’s works have been included in numerous important group exhibitions such as “Arctic Values ’65”, New Brunswick Museum, St. John (1965); “Eskimo Sculpture”, Winnipeg Art Gallery*, Manitoba (1967); “Sculpture of the Inuit: Masterworks of the Canadian Arctic”*, British Museum, London, et al. [see glossary] (1971); “The Mulders’ Collection of Eskimo Sculpture”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1976); “The Zazelenchuk Collection of Eskimo Art”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1978); “Inuit Art in the 1970s”, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (1979); “The Inuit Amautik: I Like My Hood To Be Full”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1980); “Rankin Inlet/ Kangirlliniq”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1981); “John Kavik: Rankin Inlet Sculpture/ Mark Emerak: Holman Drawings”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1981); “Grasp Tight the Old Ways: Selections from the Klamer Family Collection of Inuit Art”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1983); “Stones, Bones, Cloth, and Paper: Inuit Art in Edmonton Collections”, Edmonton Art Gallery, Alberta (1984); “Pure Vision: The Keewatin Spirit”, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan (1986); “The Williamson Collection of Inuit Sculpture”, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina (1987); “The Swinton Collection of Inuit Art”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1987); “In the Shadow of the Sun: Contemporary Indian and Inuit Art in Canada”, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec (1988); “Mother and Child”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1989); “Arctic Mirror”, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec (1990); “Contemporary Inuit Drawings”, Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia (1993); “The Inuit Imagination”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1994); “Carving and Identity: Inuit Sculpture”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1999); “Spirit Matters”, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia (2000); “An Inuit Perspective: Baker Lake Sculpture”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2001); “Inuit: When Words Take Shape”, Museum of Natural History, Lyon, France (2002); “The Faye and Bert Settler Collection”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (2004); “Arctic Spirit: Inuit Art from the Albrecht Collection at the Heard Museum”, Heard Museum, Phoenix (and touring the USA 2006 – 2011); “Inuit Art in Motion”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2005); and “Sanattiaqsimajut: Inuit Art from the Carleton University Art Gallery Collection”, Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa (2009).

Recently, his works were included in “Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection”, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2011); and currently they’re in “Creation & Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art”, Winnipeg Art Gallery (January 25, 2013 to April 14, 2013).

His works have also been included in solo and group exhibitions at prominent commercial galleries, such as Embankment Galleries, London, England; The Guild Shop, Toronto; The Inuit Gallery of Eskimo Art, Toronto; Canadiana Galleries, Edmonton; Inuit Gallery of Vancouver, B.C.; Marion Scott Gallery, Vancouver, B.C.; and Arctic Artistry, Scarsdale, New York.

Kavik’s carvings, drawings and ceramics are in numerous important private collections (see exhibitions above and sources below) and museum collections. According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network*, and individual museum websites, his works are in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec), Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario), Dalhousie Art Gallery (Halifax, Nova Scotia), Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona), Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Museum of Anthropology (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Harvard University, Cambridge), Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), Winnipeg Art Gallery* (Manitoba) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa). His works are also in the collection of the TD Gallery of Inuit Art at the Toronto-Dominion Centre, Toronto, Ontario.
 
Footnotes:
(1) Please note: The Canadian Heritage Information Network* and Katilvik.com list at least one alternate name for this artist which is John Qavik. There is also his Canadian government issued Inuit Disc Number* – E2290 – which may be used to sign works, and his signature in syllabics*, which has been used to sign works. For an illustration of John Kavik’s name spelled in syllabics please see AskART signature examples.

(2) Source: Page 98, Inuit Art: An Introduction (2002), by Ingo Hessel and Dieter Hessel (see AskART book references).

(3) “Kangiqlliniq [Rankin Inlet], a community of over 2000 people, is considered a gateway to Nunavut from much of western Canada. It is the centre of commerce in the Keewatin Region and is located on the west coast of Hudson Bay on the site of an old nickel mine [closed in 1962]. The name translates as 'deep bay or inlet'. Although much of the sculpture from this community has roots in the style prevalent during the Historic Period [e.g. the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century to the early 20th century], revealing naturalistic depictions of hunting and animal themes, the two best known artists from this community, John Kavik and John Tiktak [see AskART], work within the realm of abstraction, typical of the Keewatin region aesthetic, embracing minimal form and line. A ceramics project was introduced in 1963 and artists working in stone sculpture experimented with this new medium until it was discontinued in 1975. Renewed interest in the project generated a revival of the coil-method ceramic program, by a new generation of artists, during the 1990s.” Source: Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art*.

(4) Please note: Gjoa Haven and Kangiqlliniq (aka: Rankin Inlet) are in what was formerly called the District of Keewatin, a region of the Northwest Territories. In 1999, the Northwest Territories was divided so the District of Keewatin could join the new Canadian territory of Nunavut. Source: Government of Nunavut.

(5) Source: Bernadette Driscoll, quoted on page 116, The Way of Inuit Art: Aesthetics and History in and Beyond the Arctic (2005), by Emily E. Auger (see AskART book references).

(6) Source: Page 218, Grasp Tight the Old Ways: selections from the Klamer Family Collection of Inuit art (1983), by Jean Blodgett (see AskART book references).
 
Sources:
Hunters, Carvers & Collectors: The Chauncey C. Nash Collection of Inuit Art (2012), by Maija M. Lutz (see AskART book references)

Creation & Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art (2012), edited by Darlene Coward Wight (see AskART book references) – exhibition catalogue

The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century (2010), by Brian Foss, Anne Whitelaw, Sandra Paikowsky (see AskART book references)

Arctic Spirit: Inuit Art from the Albrecht Collection at the Heard Museum (2006), by Ingo Hessel (see AskART book references) – exhibition catalogue

The Way of Inuit Art: Aesthetics and History in and Beyond the Arctic (2005), by Emily E. Auger (see AskART book references)

Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)

Inuit Art: An Introduction (2002), by Ingo Hessel and Dieter Hessel (see AskART book references)

Inuit Art: A History (2000), by Richard C. Crandall (see AskART book references)

Biographies of Inuit Artists (1993), compiled and published by the Inuit Art Section, Indian and Northern Affairs, Canada (see AskART book references)

Sculpture of the Inuit (1992), by George Swinton (see AskART book references)

Art and Architecture in Canada (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)

Art Gallery of Ontario – Selected Works (1990), by William J. Withrow, et al. (see AskART book references)

The Canadian Encyclopedia Second Edition (1988), edited by James H. Marsh (see AskART book references)

Inuit Art: An Anthology (1988), by Alma Houston, et al. (see AskART book references)

The Swinton Collection of Inuit Art (1987), by Darlene Wight (see AskART book references) – exhibition catalogue

Inuit Art Section: Catalogue of Services and Collections (1984), Research and Documentation Centre on Inuit Art (see AskART book references)

Grasp Tight the Old Ways: Selections from the Klamer Family Collection of Inuit Art (1983), by Jean Blodgett (see AskART book references)

Lords of the Stone: An Anthology of Eskimo Sculpture (1982), by Alistair Mac Duff and George M. Galpin (see AskART book references)

The Inuit Amautik: I Like My Hood to Be Full (1980), by Bernadette Driscoll and George Swinton (see AskART book references) – exhibition catalogue

Sculpture of the Eskimo (1972), by George Swinton (see AskART book references)

Sculpture of the Inuit: Masterworks of the Canadian Arctic (1971), by William E. Taylor Jr.,

George Swinton and James Houston (see AskART book references) – exhibition catalogue

Canadian Heritage Information Network* (biography, museums)

Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art* (biography)

National Gallery of Canada (library and exhibitions records)

Art Gallery of Ontario (book and catalogue summaries online)

Katilvik.com (biography, exhibitions)

Inuit Art Alive.ca (biography)

Simon Fraser University (library records)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com. Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx.

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.
 


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.
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