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 Abraham Anghik Ruben  (1951 - )

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Lived/Active: British Columbia/Northwest Territories / Canada      Known for: sculpture, carving, drawing, printmaking

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Abraham Anghik Ruben (1951) (1)

An important Canadian sculptor, carver, draftsman and printmaker, Abraham Anghik Ruben (aka: Abraham Apakark Anghik) was born in Paulatuk, Northwest Territories (about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle) and currently lives on Salt Spring Island, B.C. Ruben’s life and work are discussed in most of the recent comprehensive books on Inuit* art, he is the subject of several scholarly monographs, and his biography has been included in Canadian Who's Who since 1993. His carvings have been featured in numerous landmark group and solo exhibitions and dozens of his works are in the collections of major Canadian museums. (2) (3)

Ruben’s mediums include Brazilian soapstone, stone, jade, ivory, whalebone*, antler, alabaster, bronze, wood, serigraph*, lithograph* and mixed mediums. His subjects are figures, faces, Inuit genre*, shamans, symbolism*, spirituality, Norse mythology, Inuit mythology, folklore, dreams, history, allegory*, fantasy, wildlife, and social commentary. Unlike traditional Inuit carvers whose style is usually described as Inuit Art* or Primitive Art*, Ruben is a Modernist*, his styles also include Realism*, Expressionism* and Surrealism*. He is best known for his complex sculptures which often combine Norse and Inuit mythology. The AskART images are good illustrations of his earlier work and smaller pieces, for illustrations of his current themes and styles see the links (footnotes) to the Art Gallery of Mississauga and the National Museum of the American Indian. (4) (5)

Quote: “…Anghik is fiercely independent, working alone in his studio on a small remote island off the coast of British Columbia. He is not part of the cooperative system of presenting works as part of a northern community, and his work is unlike that of most Inuit artists. His sculptures are monumental in scale and extremely complex in subject matter.” Source: Abraham Anghik Ruben: Shaman's Dreams (2010).

His education includes studies at the Native Arts Centre, University of Alaska, Fairbanks (c. 1971 – 1974) under Ronald Senungetuk (see AskART).

Ruben has exhibited with the Vancouver Inuit Society (1991) and the Sculptors' Society of British Columbia (2005).

Early in his career Ruben’s work (exhibited as Anghik) was included in group exhibitions at the University of Alaska (1974); Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1977); the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (1979); and National Museum of Man, Ottawa [now Canadian Museum of Civilization] (1980).

Since the late 1970s his works have been included in numerous important themed group exhibitions such as “The Coming and Going of the Shaman: Eskimo Shamanism and Art”, Winnipeg Art Gallery*, Manitoba (1978); “New Work by a New Generation”, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan (1982); “Contemporary Indian and Inuit Art of Canada”, United Nations Building, New York City (1983 – 1985); “Uumajut: Animal Imagery in Inuit Art”, Winnipeg Art Gallery*, Manitoba (1985); “In the Shadow of the Sun: Contemporary Indian and Inuit Art in Canada”, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec and touring (1988 – 1989); “Arctic Mirror”, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec (1990); “Sojourns to Nunavut: Contemporary Inuit Art from Canada”, Bunkamura Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (1991); “Images of Influence”, Surrey Art Gallery, B.C. (1992); “Borealis: Inuit Images of Man and Animals”, Freeport Art Museum and Cultural Centre, Freeport, Illinois (1992); “New Territories: 350 – 500 Years After: An Exhibition of Contemporary Aboriginal Art of Canada”, Maison de la culture Mercier, Montreal (1992); “Arts from the Arctic”, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Yellowknife, N.W.T. [touring to Anchorage Museum, Alaska and Yakutsk Art Centre, Republic of Sakha, Russia] (1993); “Multiple Realities: Inuit Images of Shamanic Transformation”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1993); “Keeping Our Stories Alive: An Exhibition of the Art and Crafts from Dene and Inuit of Canada”, Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico (1995); “Dualities - Contemporary works from the Permanent Collection”, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, N.S. (2003); “Inuit Art in Motion”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2003 – 2005); “20th Century Prints”, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, N.S. (2004); “Inuit Sculpture Now”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa and touring (2005 – 2007); and,  ItuKiagattal! Inuit Sculpture from the Collection of the TD Bank Financial Group, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria (2007).

Recently, his works were included in “Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection”, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2011); and in “Creation & Transformation: Defining Moments in Inuit Art”, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (2013).

In 1989, the Winnipeg Art Gallery paired Abraham and his older brother David for the exhibition “Out of Tradition: Abraham Anghik, David Ruben Piqtoukun”. Abraham’s work alone was the subject of exhibitions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2001; at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, B.C. in 2006; at the Art Gallery of Mississauga, Ontario in 2010; and at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C. in 2012. “Arctic Journeys/Ancient Memories: The Sculpture of Abraham Anghik Ruben” ran at the SNMAI from October 05, 2012 to January 01, 2013 and was presented in conjunction with the 18th Inuit Studies Conference (Oct. 24–28, 2012) in Washington, D.C.

Quote: ‘The art of Inuvialuit artist Abraham Anghik Ruben portrays journeys of exploration, migration, and displacement through voyages across time and place, and into the spiritual realm. In these recent sculptures, Ruben contrasts the ancient lives of two northern peoples—Norse adventurers and Inuit (Inuvialuit) whale hunters—guiding us to a new perspective on the complex history of the North American Arctic, a history shaped by movement, contact, and change.’  Source: National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C. (6).

His works have also been included in solo and group exhibitions at prominent commercial galleries, such as: Pollock Gallery, Toronto; Isaacs Innuit [sic] Gallery, Toronto; Koffler Gallery, Toronto; Kipling Gallery, Woodbridge, Ontario; Mayberry Gallery, Winnipeg; Arctic Arts Gallery, Edmonton; Arctic Circle, Edmonton; Appleton Galleries, Vancouver; Langlois Gallery, Yellowknife; Bayard Gallery, New York; Franz Bader Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Orca Art Gallery, Chicago; Maslak McLeod, Santa Fe; Pages Art Gallery, Ketchum, Idaho; and Images of the North, San Francisco.

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, Ruben’s works are in the permanent collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Mississauga (Ontario), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Art Gallery of Windsor (Ontario), Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, New Brunswick), Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec), Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario), Dalhousie Art Gallery (Halifax, Nova Scotia), de Young Museum (San Francisco, California), Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), Maltwood Museum (University of Victoria, B.C.), McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Museum of Anthropology (University of British Columbia, Vancouver), Museum of Inuit Art (Toronto, Ontario), Museum London (Ontario), Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (Yellowknife, Northwest Territories), Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto), Simon Fraser University Gallery (Burnaby, B.C.), The Market Gallery (Toronto), University of Lethbridge Art Gallery (Lethbridge, Alberta), Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), Winnipeg Art Gallery* (Manitoba) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).

His sculptures are in several corporate collections, they are also on public display in the Lorne Balshine Inuit Art Collection at Vancouver International Airport, B.C. His monumental bronze “Spirits in a Landscape” (1992) is located in front of the FortisBC Centre, (downtown) Vancouver, B.C. and a carved Indiana limestone tympanum titled Lifecycle (1981) is in the Canadian House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario.

Quote: “.. I no longer speak my mother tongue, yet I need to do my part in carrying on the stories and cultural myths, legends and spiritual legacy of our people. My hope is that my hands and spirit within will allow me this one gesture.” Abraham Anghik Ruben. Source: The Washington Post, October 25, 2012.

(1) Researchers please note: Information for this biography was obtained from the listed sources using two different recognized last names for the artist – Anghik and Ruben. The Canadian Heritage Information Network* and lists several versions of his name, they include: Abraham Apakark Anghik, Abe Anghik, Abe Ruben Anghik, Apakark Anghik and Abraham Anghik Ruben. Since about 2001, the version used by the artist, galleries, and other sources is Abraham Anghik Ruben (Anghik and Ruben are family names used by his grandfather and father respectively). The Canadian government also issued him the Inuit Disc Number* W31205, however, unlike many other Inuit artists, we have seen no examples of this being used by Ruben to sign works of art. The works in Canadian museums that are noted as signed are either signed Anghik or include Anghik in the signature. Some examples of the signatures and inscriptions on the museum works are: Abraham Apakark Anghik, Abraham Anghik, ABE RUBEN ANGHIK AUG 3RD 1975, Abraham Anghik 1979, ABRAHAM ANGHIK '85, ANGHIK 88, A Anghik 1999, Anghik 00, and ANGHIK '01. Source: Copied as listed in the Canadian Heritage Information Network*.

(2) Ruben has also lived in Inuvik, Northwest Territories; Yellowknife, Northwest Territories; Fairbanks, Alaska; and Vancouver, B.C. His home, since 1986, has been on Salt Spring Island, B.C., which is about 40 miles south west of Vancouver (85 minutes by direct provincial ferry).

(3) Abraham’s older brother is artist David Ruben Piqtoukun (see AskART).

(4) The catalogue for the Art Gallery of Mississauga’s exhibition “Abraham Anghik Ruben: Shaman's Dreams” (2010) can be viewed online at:

(5) The illustrated press release for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian exhibition “Arctic Journeys/ Ancient Memories: The Sculpture of Abraham Anghik Ruben” can be viewed online at:

(6) ‘The Inuit living in the western Canadian Arctic call themselves "Inuvialuit" or "real human beings." Their homeland stretches from the Alaskan border east to Amundsen Gulf and the western edge of the Canadian Arctic Islands.’ Source: Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Canadian Who's Who 2012 – 2013 (2012), edited by Anderson Charters and Susan Charters (see AskART book references)

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

Abraham Anghik Ruben: Shaman's Dreams (2010), by Abraham Anghik Ruben, Robert Freeman and Roslyn Tunis (see AskART book references)

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

Public Art in Vancouver: Angels Among Lions (2009), by John Steil and Aileen Stalker (see AskART book references)

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

Sculpture of the Inuit (2000), by George Swinton (see AskART book references)

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

Inuit Art: An Introduction (1998), by Ingo Hessel and Dieter Hessel (see AskART book references)

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists A to F, 5th edition (1997), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)

In the Shadow of the Sun: Perspectives on Contemporary Native Art (1993), edited by the Canadian Museum of Civilization (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)

Canadian Who’s Who – 1993 (1993), edited by Kieran Simpson (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)

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

Canadian Heritage Information Network*

National Gallery of Canada

Parliament of Canada

Art Gallery of Ontario

Kipling Gallery, Woodbridge, Ontario

Images of the North, San Francisco

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Written and submitted by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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