Cannupa Hanska Luger: Attrition

For Cannupa Hanska Luger (b. 1979, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota), the bison is a symbol of Indigenous resilience and sovereignty. The mass slaughter of North American bison from 1845 to 1895 by settlers of European descent took place for profit, dominion over land and westward expansion. The strategic removal of this vital source of food, clothing, shelter and spiritual reverence for the Great Plains Native American populations forced their assimilation into western culture. It was also an ecological disaster with long lasting effects.

Luger, an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold from the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara and Lakota cultures, is a descendant of buffalo people. Attrition is a 10-foot long, larger-than-life skeletal sculpture made from steel with an ash black patina. The arresting form emerges from the soil beneath, visible through grasses indigenous to this region. The work highlights the profound interdependence between animals, humans and the land. It draws attention to the loss, trauma, and violence that can result from a single disruption in an ecosystem. Placed on the pathway to City Hall, Attrition symbolically engages with New York City’s heart of policy-making, bringing to light the history of the bison’s survival.

Cannupa Hanska Luger: Attrition is curated by Public Art Fund Adjunct Curator Katerina Stathopoulou.

Artist Statement

“I live because my ancestors survived a war of attrition carried out by extractive colonizers in order to subjugate tribal nations of the Great Plains for American progress. By the year 1895, across North America, bison herds had been systematically eradicated from numbers in the tens of millions to a mere 1500—this was genocide. The public artwork Attrition is an effort to transform industrial processes and materials into a symbol of these buried histories re-emerging in the 21st century.”

 —Cannupa Hanska Luger

About the Artist

Cannupa Hanska Luger (b. 1979, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota) is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold and is Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara and Lakota – an identity that deeply informs his works in sculpture, installation, performance and video. His bold style of visual storytelling presents new ways of seeing our humanity while foregrounding an Indigenous worldview. Luger holds a BFA in studio arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts and is represented by Garth Greenan Gallery in New York.  

Cannupa Hanska Luger’s work is currently on view as a part of the 2024 Whitney Biennial; he was a 2023 Soros Award Fellow, 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, 2020 Creative Capital Fellow, a 2020 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow, and the recipient of the Museum of Arts and Design’s 2018 inaugural Burke Prize, among others. He was also the recipient of a 2021 United States Artists Fellowship Award for Craft, and was named a 2021 GRIST Fixer. Luger has exhibited nationally and internationally including at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gardiner Museum, Kunsthal KAdE, Washington Project for the Arts, Art Mûr, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Installation Photos



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