August 09, 2008

Art in a post-Indian world

American Indian Art?  That's Baskets, Right?

New exhibit overturns preconceptionsWarning. Any preconceived notions about contemporary American Indian art should be checked at the door.

"Remix," the current exhibit of the National Museum of the American Indian at the George Gustave Heye Center in lower Manhattan, is a challenging show.

The subtitle is equally challenging, "New Modernities in a Post-Indian World." That's just in case you didn't know what you were in for and might be expecting feathers and beads.

The curators, Joe Baker and Gerald McMaster, both of Native American ancestry and tribal members, chose a hip-hop term "Remix" to suggest what is in store for the viewer.
And:"Why," Baker writes, "are indigenous artists not allowed to celebrate the present as other artists do?"

Fifteen works were chosen from native artists from Canada, the United States and Mexico. They are as diverse as their creators. Each one bashes a stereotype. Here are but a few examples.

There's the beautiful "Portrait in Motion," a film in which Nadia Myre shows a canoeist paddling toward us on a mist filled lake. The ah-ha moment comes in reading the catalogue description that the canoe is half traditional construction and half aluminum.

Franco Mondini Ruiz also explores this half-half analogy. He decapitates small china figurines of the type that no proper 1950s American grandmother would be without. In place of the delicate Marie Antoinette hairdos and wigs, he has attached molded clay pre-Columbian figures.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Remixing Native Artists.

An interesting piece of art from the show:

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