Melanie Yazzie, ‘The U.S. Government Will Never White Wash My Grandparents.’ Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Gift of Lucy R. Lippard, 1999 (1999.15.213).
SANTA FE — Taking a Fritz Scholder group portrait of Institute of American Indian Arts faculty and the legacy of the institution’s first artistic director, Lloyd Kiva New, as starting points, Finding a Contemporary Voice: The Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIAincludes work from IAIA faculty and alumni from the 1960s to the present.
New (Cherokee, 1916-2002) was the school’s first Arts Director and later institution Director until retiring in 1978. He encouraged students to look at innovative techniques and forms, from both indigenous and non-indigenous sources, as a path to creating a contemporary Native art.
IAIA’s founding in 1962 intersects with a significant moment in the history of western art when ethnicity and culture, political ideology, feminism, and the inclusion of personal narratives became legitimate forms of expression in mainstream contemporary art.
IAIA’s early years were also an era of consciousness raising and civil rights movements in the United States. That era saw the Robert Kennedy Senate hearings on Indian education, the formation of the American Indian Movement (AIM), the occupation of Alcatraz, the confrontation at Wounded Knee, and the authorization of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. Native American self-determination was a major issue for many indigenous artists.
The degree to which they and their artistic creations should assimilate or resist assimilation into mainstream American society was hotly debated.
The first generation of faculty and students drew inspiration from contemporary art movements of the 1960s, such as Pop and Abstract Expressionism; later generations have participated in Post-Modernism and more recent trends. Artists such as Fritz Scholder and his student, T. C. Cannon, for example, addressed Indian stereotypes in art that fit with then-current Pop Art. Others, such as Neil Parsons and Linda Lomahaftewa, explored more abstract styles that retained referents to tribal culture and identity.
Enough time has passed that the early days of IAIA, looking back half a century now, can be historicized and examined in greater context paving the way for Native American artists to take their place in the global contemporary art field. Looking at the issues of identity still being raised in contemporary Native American art, it is clear that the artwork of the 1960s and 70s began a conversation that continues to this day.
Finding a Contemporary Voice complements concurrent exhibitions at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (A New Century: The Life and Legacy of Cherokee Artist and Educator Lloyd “Kiva” New) and the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art, Lloyd Kiva New: Art, Design, and Influence. All three exhibitions and associated symposia, lectures, and other events celebrate the centennial of Native American artist Lloyd Kiva New’s birth by focusing on key aspects of his significant contributions to contemporary Native culture. For more information on planned programming follow the links in this paragraph.
Finding a Contemporary Voice opens from 5:30 to 7.30 p.m., Saturday, May 21, 2016 and runs through Oct. 10, 2016. The Museum of Art’s free to the public exhibition opening is Friday, May 20.