Native Vanguard, Contemporary Masters
Zane Bennett Contemporary Art is pleased to announce the exhibition, Native Vanguard: Contemporary Masters and a series of events that include panel discussions and lectures by prominent Native artists during Indian Market Week, and Weekend 2013. Click here for schedule. The Preview Reception is Friday, July 26th at the gallery, 435 South Guadalupe Street, across from the rail station, from 5:00‐7:00 pm to coincide with the Railyard Arts District Last Friday Art Walk. There will be an Artists’ Reception on Thursday, August 15th, 2013 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm at the gallery during Indian Market week
Curator Raoul Paisner is interested in how art affects culture and history and how culture and history affects art. In Native Vanguard: Contemporary Masters, he has gathered together 15 Native artists that reflect a contemporary art aesthetic within the Native art world, with work spanning from the 1960s to present day. N. Scott Momaday, Phd. and Pulitzer Prize winning author and poet, speaks about a sense of beauty that permeates American Indian culture in general in the text of the catalog, especially produced for this exhibition. This sense of beauty comes from a profound connection of the artists with the land and its rhythms.
It is important to acknowledge that Native art had been historically recognized through work of the Kiowa Five in the early 1920s. These men from the Kiowa Tribe in Oklahoma studied at the University of Oklahoma in the 1920s. Their signature style was flat, planes of color describing remembered historical events and ceremonies of their tribe. In 1928, Professor Jacobean of the University of Oklahoma curated an exhibition of the Kiowa Five’s watercolors which traveled throughout the US and Europe and was met with critical acclaim. This exhibition established the acceptance of Native American art with rave reviews in Paris, New York, Prague and London.
One of the next significant events, for Native art and for Santa Fe especially, was the establishment of the Institute for American Indian Arts, (IAIA) in Santa Fe New Mexico in 1962. Lloyd Kiva New is credited with founding the school after an alliance was made with the Rockefeller Foundation during a workshop in Arizona. First established as a high school and later operated a tribal college, IAIA was seen as an experiment in art education to promote Native Arts and creativity. It was to act as a cultural bridge so that students would be able to contribute and benefit from both Native and non‐Native societies. IAIA has grown to be the only four‐year degree fine arts college in the nation devoted to contemporary Native American and Alaska Native arts. Important Native leaders and artists came to work and study at IAIA and the American Indian Painters Movement was born.
The years of 1962‐68 have been called the “Golden Age” when artists such as Allan Houser, T.C. Cannon, Linda Lomahaftewa, Charles and Ottelie Loloma, and so many more came to teach and study at IAIA. Alfred Young Man, Ph.D. also known as Kiyugimah (Eagle Chief) a Cree artist, writer and educator defines the Indian Painters Movement this way, “We worked to overcome such division, those cultural and linguistic prejudices found amongst ourselves and those of other races of people since, no doubt naively, as a group we saw ourselves as being different than other people, we understood ourselves clearly to be on the cusp of a new Indian Art history.”
The artists in this exhibition find expression from George Morrison and T.C. Cannon of the “Golden Age” era and move through Native art history with George Longfish, Armond Lara up through a new generation of artists, Roxanne Swentzell, Frank Buffalo Hyde and Bunky Echo‐Hawk among others.
George Longfish, artist, writer, educator and curator, has been leader in the Native Art Movement since the early 1970s. Educated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned his BFA and MFA in painting, he established the first graduate program for American Indian Art at the University of Montana in 1971. By the end of 1973, Longfish was asked to join the faculty of University of California/ Davis as a professor of Historical Native Arts of the Native American Studies department. Longfish taught for thirty years at UC Davis, educating generations of Native American to understand and accept their culture as a source of power. In addition, Longfish became the Director of C.N. Gorman Museum that is associated with UC Davis and for twenty five years, curated and promoted Native Art with exhibitions and traveling shows in the States, Europe and Latin America. He is responsible for expanding the perception of Native Art and taking it out of the regional Southwest identification and establishing Native Art as Fine Art.
Longfish asks the question, “Do I own culture or does culture own me?” He believes that Native people (and I would suggest, all people,) depend upon cultural information for their survival. Owning one’s cultural information is knowing from where your power is coming. Art becomes a living aspect of the culture and this helps a culture to move forward.
This is a profound concept. Longfish talks about his painting, Looking for the Supreme Buffalo Burger, “Words directly show the contrasts between a traditional Native subject (the hunter) and the contemporary image of modern day fast food – the burger; we are confronted with densely encoded information. Numbers, fractions, finger sequences and phrases such as “Equal Speed” lead to the meditative practices of the mystical Merkaba [Jewish mysticism]. What looks like random contemporary references are arrows that pierce our hearts and minds and make us think. The absurdity of the words, often disguised in humor, are signposts which direct us to another dimension. They open a door that we walk through and once there, we become aware of new information. This information is what expands our consciousness and our culture. “ George Longfish
Armond Lara, painter and sculptor, participated in an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris, France, in 1982 which showcased Native artists. The success of the exhibition propelled Lara into shows in Germany, Italy and Monaco where he received critical acclaim and ongoing recognition with sales. Since European collectors do not have restrictions on acquiring Native American art, Lara believes the European collectors have played an important role in the gathering and preserving of Native culture.
Lara talks about his art as a source of energy. “Residue energy is left in space. Energy never dissipates. There is no difference between painting and sculpture. I feel the energy.” When Lara feels the energy, he translates it into his marionettes and paintings.
Inspiration for the marionettes comes from the Koshare clowns that often participate in the religious dances of the Rio Grande Pueblo people. Known as a mischief maker, the Koshare clown helps maintain harmony in the community by reminding people of acceptable standards of behavior. “The Koshare’s role as a mimic has allowed me to place it in any time or role I could imagine. I have tried to portray all the humor, tragedy, frustration and beauty that I as a human being feel.” Arm
N. Scott Momaday, poet, Pulitzer prize‐ winning novelist, playwright, painter, photographer, storyteller and educator, has received the National Medal of Arts in November 2007 for his contribution to Native American art and culture. He has been honored in so many ways, it is difficult to summarize his importance as a great leader of Native Peoples. In 2003 UNESCO named him Artist for Peace, the first American to be honored since the United States rejoined UNESCO. Momaday received his MA and his PhD from Stanford University (1960 & 1963) and is a Fulbright scholar/professor (1974) He has held tenured appointments at University of California, Santa Barbara, University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University and retired at Regents Professor at the University of Arizona. He holds 20 honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. Momaday has received, the Premio Letterario Internazionale “Modello”, Italy’s highest literary award as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award and the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement.
He has preserved and celebrated Native American oral traditions through his work and created an international awareness of his culture. His books have been translated into French, German, Italian, Russian, Swedish, Japanese and Spanish. He was the first professor to teach American literature at the University of Moscow in Russia. As founder and chairman of The Buffalo Trust, a non‐profit foundation for the preservation and restoration of Native American culture and heritage, he works on with projects in the United States and with indigenous peoples in Siberia. Momaday’s latest forthcoming book, The Storyteller’s Eye, is a collection of photographs of thirty years of world travel in the former Soviet Union and his work with indigenous peoples. A new collection of poetry, a new children’s book, and a memoir are in progress.
N. Scott Momaday has written the essay for the Native Vanguard exhibition catalogue and will give a lecture about his writings, teachings and the importance of the Kiowa Five to the beginnings of Contemporary Native Art. The lecture will be held at Zane Bennett Gallery on Saturday, August 17th at during Indian Market Week.
George Morrison, (1919‐2000) painter, sculptor, educator, is considered one of the most important Native artists because of his enormous contribution to twentieth century art and his early exploration of abstraction which he felt was universal and cutting edge. Although Morrison’s early work was non‐objective like his New York contemporaries, as his work matured, he returned to his indigenous artistic heritage and integrated geometric abstractions from the natural world. Also a Fulbright scholar, he studied in Paris and Antibes and taught at the University of Minnesota and the Rhode Island School of Design where he received an Honorary Doctorate. Since the late 1940s, Morrison has participated in important museum exhibitions in the States, Europe and Latin America. His work is in the collections of The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Indian Art, The Tweed Museum, The Heard Museum, The Whitney Museum, just to name a few.
T.C. Cannon (1946‐1978) is one of the pivotal artists in the Native Painters Movement which was born out of the establishment of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA)in Santa Fe. Cannon’s talent for drawing and writing was recognized early on; he won numerous awards for his art work while still in high school. After graduating, he attended the IAIA and studied alongside Earl Biss, Doug Hyde and others with Fritz Scholder as their teacher. It is here that Cannon and Scholder changed the perception of the “Indian” into one that represented Native peoples’ cultures and integrated this vision with the contemporary world.
After graduating from IAIA, Cannon studied briefly at the San Francisco Art Institute before he joined the U.S. Army 101st Air Cavalry and was sent to Vietnam. He received two bronze stars from the U.S. Army and a Metal of Valor from the Vietnamese government. When Cannon returned to the States, he completed his BFA at Central State University in Edmond, OK, (University of Central Oklahoma) in 1972.
Cannon returned to Santa Fe to paint after attending the University. On May 8, 1978, the artist was tragically killed in an automobile accident. Cannon’s ability to inspire and influence generations of young artists with his extraordinary art and writings, makes him one of the stars in the firmament of contemporary art.
In today’s world of super heroes, Stephen Paul Judd gives us Honor the Treaties. This Native super hero shakes his fist, reminding us that we need to honor what we have committed to. This is not just a Native issue but an American one as well. All Americans feel the indignity of our government’s inability to honor their commitments to all their peoples. John Fedorov’s painting, Protecting Civilization, is an example of the universal expressions that pertain to contemporary culture, not just Native culture. The greed that is masked as protection and preserving civilization doesn’t fool anyone.
Ramona Sakiestewa, painter, weaver, architectural designer, has participated in shaping Native design and art and moving it to a contemporary vision. As a child, she camped and traveled all over the Southwest, visiting ruins before they became national monuments and parks. These early experiences formed Sakiestewa’s understanding of sacred space which she recreates in her large scale tapestries and architectural design projects.
Sakiestewa was part of a team of architects and designers who worked on the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. for 11 years. “My job was to develop design vocabularies for the team to use that represented the aesthetic essences of 500 plus tribes of Native peoples from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Circle. The overriding focus was that anyone from any tribe could find something of themselves in the building and in the landscape.” Ramona’s design for the East and South entrances of the Museum, as well as the Potomac interior entrance, are all based on astronomical cycles and reflect the natural cycles by which native cultures live. In this exhibit, the artist presents watercolors, weaving and clay prints (a unique printing process with clay) that she deconstructs and reconstructs until balance and harmony are found.
David Johns, painter and spiritual leader, creates abstracted landscapes of intense colors and textures. He does not preconceive his imagery but allows it to come from his soul. Harmony and a profound sense of beauty are integral to his process. “Everything I am and do, I hope comes from a place of harmony. If my mind, body and spirit are in balance then I can produce an image which reflects my truth. I hope my abstractions are ways for the observers to feel the essence of my inner self; not get caught up in the distractions of outer appearances.” David Johns
Robert Rauschenberg, (1925‐2008) painter and graphic artist, is associated with the pop art movement. His use of non‐traditional materials and objects in paintings was an innovation that was named “Combines” in the 1950s. He designed sets and costumes for many dance companies including Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor and Trisha Brown. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1993.
Roxanne Swentzell, sculptor, is known for her expressive figurative clay work. She has received one of the highest praises in the art world with her award of the MacArthur Fellowship; a clear sign that Native art is recognized in the national contemporary scene. Her figures reveal a deep reverence for the earth and our emotional connections to each other.
Frank Buffalo Hyde has bridged pop culture with Native sensibilities in his imagery of contemporary movie idols that poke fun at how mainstream culture has appropriated figures and symbols of Native culture. In Captain Tonto Scissorhands, actor Johnny Depp plays the role of Tonto, as the Lone Ranger’s sidekick. It is enough to say that cultural symbols and personas of Native culture belong to the culture and when used outside of that culture, are often lacking in integrity and reverence. Edgar Heap of Bird’s word‐driven prints are poetic reminders of historical and present day (mostly catastrophic) events that impact both the Native and contemporary world. Oppression of Native peoples is not a politically correct stance these days and yet, it continues today in subtle and not so subtle ways. Many citizens of the US would be shocked to learn of the ongoing challenges that face Native people. The critical thing is that what Edgar Heap of Birds is talking about in his work, affects all people and the future of the land that we all call home.
Anita Fields, clay artist, sculptor and educator, works with memories and emotional responses to create her subject matter. Her inspirations come from things that are important to her personally, and she has focused on the female spirit as a guiding force. Fields has drawn inspiration from female role models in her family whohave demonstrated the strength, loveand integrity of her people and given her the pride in her culture that she shares in her art.
Bunky Echo‐Hawk, painter, poet, activist, playwright, photographer and traditional singer and dancer of the Pawnee Nation, co‐founded NVISION (2004), a non‐profit collective of Native American artists, musicians, community organizers and non‐profit professionals who focus on Native American youth empowerment through multimedia arts. He was its Executive Director until 2009. His paintings reflect his Native Culture, integrated with hip‐hop culture.
The importance of cultural identity is expressed by the artist, “Growing up in a non‐Indian world, I was constantly faced with the responsibility of defining my identity as a Pawnee/Yakama Indian. I was always fascinated by the duality of the two worlds, and the juxtaposition of culture and identity. This is where my art has originated from: the pursuit of a true identity, and the need to share this identity with the world. “ Bunky Echo‐ Hawk
Bunky Echo‐Hawk will perform a live painting performance on Saturday August 17th at Zane Bennett Gallery in which he mixes contemporary art, Native and popular culture influences to create a beautiful piece of art that speaks of the tensions that exist in today’s society. An empty frame will be posted on the gallery’s FaceBook site for internet bidding approximately thirty days before the demonstration takes place. The progression of the painting will be “skype‐d” until its completion. Both internet and telephone bids will be accepted during the demonstration as well as bids from the audience. The painting produced will be for sale after the performance and the gallery’s part of the sale will be donated to charity.