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JUNE 1 – JULY 13, 2017


Um-basax-bilua "Where They Make The Noise”

JUNE 1 – JULY 13, 2017





Vernon Church

Lynn Crawford

Theodore S. Berger Thomas G. Devine Thomas K.Y. Hsu John S. Kiely Vivian Kuan

Rachel Maniatis

Christen Martosella Brian D. Starer

Gregory Amenoff, Emeritus


Corina Larkin Executive Director Beatrice Wolert-Weese Deputy Director Shona Masarin-Hurst Programs Director Chase Martin Development Associate Eva Elmore Programs Assistant


Polly Apfelbaum Katie Cercone Ian Cooper

Michelle Grabner Eleanor Heartney

Trenton Doyle Hancock Pablo Helguera Paddy Johnson Deborah Kass

Sharon Lockhart

Rossana Martinez Juan Sรกnchez

Irving Sandler Lilly Wei

Andrea Zittel

CUE Art Foundation is a visual arts center dedicated to creating essential career and educational opportunities for artists of all ages. Through

exhibitions, arts education, and public programs, CUE provides artists, writers, and audiences with sustaining, meaningful experiences and resources.

CUE’s exhibition program aims to present new and exceptionally strong work by under-recognized and emerging artists based in the United States, and is committed to exhibiting work of all media, genres, and styles.

This exhibition is a winning selection from the 2016-17 Open Call for Solo

Exhibitions. The proposal was unanimously selected by a jury comprised of panelists Herb Tam, Curator and Director of Exhibitions at the Museum of

Chinese in America; Michelle Grabner, artist and writer; and Leslie Hewitt, artist. In line with CUE’s commitment to providing substantive professional

development opportunities, panelists also serve as mentors to the exhibiting artists, providing support throughout the process of developing the exhibition.



Um-basax-bilua “where they make the noise” is the

definition of Crow Fair in the Apsáalooke language. Each

summer, the Apsáalooke Nation revitalize tribal traditions and create new ones as they participate in Crow Fair

in Crow Agency, Montana. Crow Fair is considered the

largest modern day encampment in the nation, consisting of over a thousand tepees set amid the cottonwoods

that grow along the Little Bighorn River. Every morning

during the week-long celebration, the camp crier drives around the camp, shouting through his megaphone

in Apsáalooke, "get up, it's getting late, do your work,

attend to your horses, get ready to parade!" Apsáalooke

who join in this parade pay tribute and express the deeply rooted cultural tradition of movement in Apsáalooke

society. In the parade, each family shows off their best

traditional dress and horses as they recall moving from summer to winter camps. The parades allow tribal

members to honor and live the legacy of their past in the present day.

Crow Fair was initiated in 1904, by S.C. Reynolds, a

government agent assigned to the Crow Reservation in South Central Montana, as a means by which the Crow


Indians could be persuaded into farming and eventually


the government’s strict policy of forbidding Indians to

explore the intersections of Native American ideologies

other “Indian doings” to encourage the attendance of

contemporary society. Raised on the Apsáalooke

agent’s relaxation of the strict rules and heightened the

is informed both by her cultural heritage and her

aspects of the fair.

including photography, sculpture, video, fiber arts,

Um-basax-bilua “Where They Make The Noise” emerges

historical narratives, Red Star seeks to incorporate

resistance, and celebration through ingenuity. A visual

perspectives in work that is at once inquisitive, witty,

memorabilia, and written records summarizes a timeline

is integral to her practice, along with creating a

Um-basax-bilua “Where They Make The Noise” looks at

contemporary art.

assimilation to cultural renewal and reformation by using

Red Star holds a BFA from Montana State University,

(Crow) roots and viability through the course of Crow

of California, Los Angeles. She lives and works in

to become self-supporting. Agent Reynolds relaxed

Artist Wendy Red Star works across disciplines to

conduct traditional dances, ceremonies, singing, and

and colonialist structures, both historically and in

the Apsáalooke. The Apsáalooke took advantage of the

(Crow) reservation in Montana, Red Star’s work

cultural festivities eventually doing away with the farming

engagement with many forms of creative expression, and performance. An avid researcher of archives and

from the ideas of cultural perseverance, colonial

and recast her research, offering new and unexpected

record of found and personal photographs, cultural

and unsettling. Intergenerational collaborative work

of historic to present-day Crow Fair through the decades.

forum for the expression of Native women’s voices in

the cultural shift out of colonial structural modes of forced a government fair as a vehicle to reintroduce Apsáalooke

Bozeman, and an MFA in sculpture from University

cultural lifeways.

Portland, OR.



Representation is a crucial location of struggle for any

univocal objectification. Often her references are so trite

decolonization of the mind.

normalize into valid arrangements of knowledge. Instead

exploited and oppressed people asserting subjectivity and 1

In an interview with cultural critic Bell Hooks, Carrie Mae Weems stated that “you can’t talk about truths

without talking about untruths.”2 She made this all-too-

contemporary claim while evoking a series of questions

and intentionally overworked that they are impossible to

of picturing “genuine” Native experiences, Red Star’s work

sets up complex tensions that pry open conventional forms of representation, making ironic the use of documentary

languages and re-politicizing acts of cultural appropriation.

concerning photography’s veracity and its ability to

Red Star’s seductive and risible photographic tableaux

experiences in a photograph? What are the sights of it?

American histories and personal memories. Crow Fair,

address identity: “How do you describe the complex

What should it have to look like? What does it have to

challenge? You know, who’s it for?”3 These are ethical

questions regarding the narratives that shape identity politics inasmuch as they are questions examining the language of photographic representation.

Twenty years after Hooks and Weems sat down

to discuss critical modes of artistic engagement,

contemporary Native artist Wendy Red Star persists in foregrounding these very same questions, evolving a practice that arrives at truths through exaggerations

and inaccuracy. Compelled by the vast falsehoods that

stand-in for authentic indigenous culture, Red Star’s work problematizes the controlled narratives and stereotypes

proffered by nonnative authorities and official institutions. With photographic representation she deploys clichéd Native tropes to critically, albeit humorously, resist


are often co-mingled with work that platforms recorded North America’s largest annual Native festival is an

event that evokes personal memories and deep family

attachments for Red Star. Yet Crow Fair is also an event shaped by a history of indigenous oppression and

exploitation. Employing photographs that her family took

at Crow Fair in the 1970s, Red Star integrates these images with historical artifacts, mementos, and commercial

souvenirs. Examining the politics of interpretation, Red

Star develops alternative cultural histories by integrating

the personal, the poetic, and the symbolic. With an ethical responsibility she assuredly acts with the “freedom to

modify, appropriate, and reappropriate without being trapped in imitation”4—the result creates a radically

indeterminate understanding of Native identity and experience.


Michelle Grabner is an artist, a writer, and a curator

based in Wisconsin. She is the Crown Family Professor of Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

where she has taught for twenty years. In addition,

Grabner has also held teaching appointments at The

University of Wisconsin, Madison; Cranbrook Academy of Art; Yale Norfolk; Milton Avery Graduate School of

Arts at Bard College; Yale University School of Art; and

Suburban began programming exhibitions in two

storefronts located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2009 Grabner and Killam opened The Poor Farm in rural Wisconsin. The Poor Farm is dedicated to annual

historical and contemporary exhibitions, lectures,

performances, publications, screenings, and alternative free pedagogical programs.

Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine. Grabner co-curated the 2014 Whitney Biennial and

curated the 2016 Portland Biennial. She is co-artistic

director for FRONT International – Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art to launch in 2018. Her reviews

are regularly published in X-tra and Artforum. In 2010,

Mary Jane Jacob and Grabner co-edited THE STUDIO READER, published by the University of Chicago

Press. Grabner is represented by James Cohan Gallery in NYC; Green Gallery, Milwaukee; Gallery 16, San

Francisco; Rocket Gallery, London; and Anne MosseriMarlio Galerie, Basel.

With her husband, Brad Killam, Grabner founded

The Suburban in 1999 in Oak Park, Illinois, hosting

a range of international contemporary art projects. After sixteen years in the Chicago vicinity, The

1 Bell Hooks, Art on My Mind: Visual Politics (New York: The New Press, 1995), p. 8. 2 Ibid. p. 96. 3 Ibid. p. 96. 4 Trinh T. Minh-ha, “Bold Omissions,” in When the Moon Waxes Red (New York: Routledge, 1990). p. 161.




Wendy Red Star, Fall (Four Seasons Series), 2006, archival pigment print.


Wendy Red Star, Spring (Four Seasons Series), 2006, archival pigment print.


Wendy Red Star, Apsรกalooke Feminist #2, 2016, archival pigment print on Museo Silver rag.


Wendy Red Star, Apsรกalooke Feminist #3, 2016, archival pigment print on Museo Silver rag.



Wendy Red Star, Apsรกalooke Feminist #1, 2016, archival pigment print on Museo Silver rag.


Two Dusky Maidens, 1906, photographer T.A. Morris. Two Crow girls on horseback during the Crow Fair, Crow Indian Reservation. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.


Inside an Indian tepee, 1906, photographer T.A. Morris. Photograph shows a Native woman sitting at a sewing machine inside a tepee with other family members sitting around her. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.



Indians watching Crow Fair at Crow Agency, Montana, 1941, photographer Wolcott, Marion Post. Indians watching Crow Fair at Crow Agency, Montana, 1941, photographer Wolcott, Marion Post. Crow Indian dance at annual fair, Crow Agency, Montana, 1941, photographer Wolcott, Marion Post. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.




Wendy Red Star, Yakima Nation Youth Activities, 2014, slide of Crow Fair parade at Crow Agency in the 1970s, archival pigment print.


Wendy Red Star, Grandmother & Parade Corvette, 2014, slide of Crow Fair parade at Crow Agency in the 1970s, archival pigment print.



Wendy Red Star, Round Hall Float, 2014, slide of Crow Fair parade at Crow Agency in the 1970s, archival pigment print. OPPOSITE

Wendy Red Star, Bay Horses & Women, 2014, slide of Crow Fair parade at Crow Agency in the 1970s, archival pigment print.



Wendy Red Star, Rez Hats, 2014, slide of Crow Fair parade at Crow Agency in the 1970s, archival pigment print.


Wendy Red Star, Nez Perce War 1877-1977, 2014, slide of Crow Fair parade at Crow Agency in the 1970s, archival pigment print.


Tiffany Little Light Crow Fair princess at Crow Agency, Red Star family float, 1995. Crow Fair at Crow Agency, portrait of Red Star Family with Clive Dust memorial float, 1997.


Crow Fair Grand Entry at Crow Agency, Wendy Red Star, Beatrice Red Star Fletcher, Teya Young, 2016.



Wendy Red Star, Crow Roses, 2016, Beatrice Red Star Fletcher age 8 (2015) and Wendy Red Star age 8 (1990) at Crow Fair, lithograph.



In 1851, Chief Sits in the Middle of the Land negotiated with the United States to define the territory of the Apsáalooke (Crow). He stated his aspirations for the future of his people, proclaiming: “Where my four base teepee poles touch the ground, will be my land.”1 As an undergraduate at Montana State University located in Bozeman, Wendy Red Star’s research found that this treaty had included Bozeman, and by extension all the land held by the university2. In response to this history Red Star erected a traveling installation of lodge pole teepees across the campus, disrupting common walking paths and briefly occupying the football field. It was the beginning of a practice that utilizes brash humor, scholarly research, and personal narratives to hold space in a postcolonial world, often reworking clichéd imagery of Native Americans to satirical effect. For Um-basax-bilua “Where They Make The Noise,” Red Star’s first solo exhibition in New 28

York, the artist eschews much of the satire of her earlier work, showing a large-scale installation drawn from a mix of autobiographical and archived material. Using found and personal photographs taken from the annual Crow Fair in Montana, the work is installed to create a sense of motion, a “parade” of cars, floats, and horses dressed in blankets and beadwork, ridden by participants in elaborate Crow regalia. Arranged chronologically from the early 1900s to the present day, the work functions as a historical timeline of one of the largest Native American gatherings in the country as well as a celebration of a creative practice that has been largely overlooked by prevailing historical accounts. Even in her most sardonic works, Red Star has consistently invited audiences to interact with and consider cultural productions and viewpoints outside of dominant colonial narratives. Her work acknowledges the public’s ongoing interest in the Native American experience (both

real and imagined), and while it often offers sharp criticism of the racist functions of Native representation, her work also gives viewers an opportunity to experience the perspective of a contemporary Crow artist researching and processing her identity and history. The exhibition Um-basax-bilua “Where They Make The Noise” invites audiences to witness an important and long-standing cultural tradition, and to see the annual Crow Fair filtered through Red Star’s personal relationship to the event. Red Star herself grew up on the reservation where the fair is held and has participated in the festivities with her family for her whole life. The photographs, video, and memorabilia of the exhibition represent traditions that she continues to pass down to her daughter, Beatrice, with whom she attends the event annually. Much of Red Star’s earlier work addresses the relationship between depictions of the Native experience within popular culture and the lived experience of contemporary Native Americans, taking on themes of exoticism and sexualized stereotypes. In Four Seasons (2006), Red Star poses in a series of four photographs in an elk-tooth dress, which is a traditional Crow garment.3 Each portrait is set against a backdrop depicting a season, and is constructed of synthetic materials such as AstroTurf, inflatables, and 1970s scenic landscapes. The images evoke both the dioramas of a natural history museum and romanticized western paintings. In White Squaw (2013), Red Star poses for the covers of E.J. Hunter’s 1980s paperback novels. One image, in which she licks a hatchet, is captioned by the cover text that reads “Hard pressed for revenge she knows all the right moves!”

While these works can be seen both as a reclamation of Native identity and a critique of tired and exploitative social narratives, Red Star’s practice also delves into the deeply personal. In her series Family Portraits (2011), she creates photo collages that combine family photos with saturated textile quilting patterns, evoking the rich connection between traditional Crow designs and familial ties. Images of HUD houses, rez cars, horses, and powwow regalia regularly appear in her work—an aesthetic that calls back to a childhood spent on the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana. The imagery of Um-basax-bilua “Where They Make The Noise” similarly draws on Red Star’s lived experience. The history of the Crow Fair begins in 1904. In an attempt to incentivize self-sufficiency through farming, S. C. Reynolds, the local “Indian Agent” appointed by the U.S. Government to enforce federal regulations, created a festival he imagined would be much like a Midwestern county fair, with cash prizes given out for handicrafts, processed foods, and produce grown by reservation residents.4 In hopes of encouraging attendance, he also lifted the U.S. Government’s restrictions on traditional Indian ceremonies and gatherings. This was a significant departure from the “Code of Indian Offences,” which outlawed feasts, dances, and other aspects of indigenous culture.5 It was this opportunity to socialize and reaffirm a unique cultural identity that gave the fair its staying power. Since its origin, the Crow Fair has expanded and evolved into a six-day event, held on the third week of August. The banks of the Little Bighorn River become known as the “The Tepee Capital 29

of the World,” as approximately 1,500 teepees are erected around a 200-foot dance arena. A parade of horses, trucks, cars, and floats covered in intricate beadwork and blankets kicks off the occasion, followed by an all Indian rodeo, horse races, and dance competitions. Today, the fair attracts around forty-five thousand attendees.6 For Um-basax-bilua “Where They Make The Noise, Red Star works with photographs from the Crow Fair, creating cut outs that isolate figures, highlighting the details of the participants, their horses and vehicles. Some of the images come from the artist’s research, some are personal, some are provided by family members. The isolation of the fair attendees from their original backgrounds leaves the viewer to focus on the exquisite details of Crow artistry: the fringe of one rider’s sleeve, bead work, blankets covered in geometric patterns, the intriguing way horses and cars are adorned similarly, women in elk tooth dresses, and men wearing feather back bustles and breast plates. More than a historical study, Red Star’s project weaves a story of survival and ultimately a riotous celebration of a culture that has pushed back against marginalization. Red Star offers an alternative lens to view Crow Fair images, and a very real reminder that this cultural production is continuing to evolve. While so many dominant narratives are busily flattening Native identities and culture, Red Star is working to expand, personalize, and humanize through asserting her own particular perspective. This focus places Red Star in conversation with other artists who work directly with themes of identity, particularly those who came into 30

prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s under a barrage of social pressures related to race, gender, and religion. In 1992, Fred Wilson’s landmark project “Mining the Museum” used the Maryland Historical Society to bring to light unspoken inequalities in the way museums build and display their collections. Shirin Neshat’s 1993 photographic series Unveiling examined women in a shifting Middle East, and, in 1994, Kara Walker debuted her first large scale silhouette work Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart. As Jerry Saltz wrote, not only did this turn disrupt the long held separation of artwork and the “self,” but also called into question “the way culture is formed, how art is made—and what counts as art.”7 What, then, does it mean for Red Star to deploy these tools today, nearly twenty-five years later? Working within a political landscape that has seen a return of many of the same tensions and conflicts that defined the culture wars, Red Star builds upon the tactics taken up by artists like Wilson, while also leveraging a new landscape of social media and image distribution. By gathering together documentation, ephemera, and written records relating to Crow Fair, Um-basax-bilua “Where They Make The Noise” reinforces two interconnected truths: that American history does not start with European settlement, and that indigenous history doesn’t end with it. Rather the two histories are one and the same. As Red Star states, “We need to be treated as human beings. Our history is everybody's history, it's not a segregated history.”8

1 Crow Tribe of Indians, “Crow Natural, SocioEconomic and Cultural Resources Assessment and Conditions Report,” Bureau of Land Management, April 15, 2002. Accessed March 11, 2017. 2 In 1851, the Apsáalooke territory covered much of present-day Montana and Wyoming. In 1868, a reservation was established covering a fraction of that territory, completely within present-day Montana. 3 Luella N. Brien, “Wendy Red Star on the Rise,” Native Peoples Magazine, November-December, 2014. 4 Matt Hoffman, “Teepees, powwows, Native culture front and center at Crow Fair,” The Billings Gazette, April 8, 2016. 5 Stephen Fadden and Stephen Wall, “Invisible Forces of Change: United States Indian Policy and American Indian Art,” in Manifestations: New Native Art Criticism, ed. Nancy Mithlo (Santa Fe: Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, 2011). 6 Maria Scandale. “93rd Annual Crow Fair Celebration Under the Big Sky,” Indian Country Media Network, August 18, 2011. Accessed March 11, 2017. 7 Jerry Saltz and Rachel Corbett, “The Reviled Identity Politics Show That Forever Changed Art,” Vulture, April 21, 2016. 8 Braudie Blais-Billie, “Wendy Red Star Makes Probing Art About Native American Identity” I-D, November 18, 2016.

This essay was written as part of the Art Critic

Mentoring Program, a partnership between AICA-USA (US section of International Association of Art Critics) and CUE, which pairs emerging writers with AICA-

USA mentors to produce original essays on a specific exhibiting artist. Please visit for more

information on AICA-USA, or to learn how to participate in this program. Any quotes

are from interviews with the author unless otherwise specified. No part of this essay may be reproduced

without prior consent from the author. Lilly Wei is AICA’s Coordinator for the program this season.

Josephine Zarkovich is an arts writer and curator based in Oregon. She received an MA in Curatorial Practice from California College of the Arts and is editorial director of 60 Inch Center, an art criticism website. Her curatorial work focuses on engaging audiences and fostering critical discussions around popular culture. She currently serves as the curator of the Linfield Gallery in McMinnville and is co-director of the Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, an alternative arts space located in Portland’s Everett Station Lofts. Mentor Sara Reisman is the Artistic Director of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, whose mission is focused on art and social justice in New York City. Recently curated exhibitions for the foundation include Mobility and Its Discontents, Between History and the Body, and When Artists Speak Truth, all three presented on The 8th Floor. From 2008 until 2014, Reisman was the director of New York City’s Percent for Art program where she managed more than 100 permanent public art commissions for city funded architectural projects, including artworks by Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Mary Mattingly, Tattfoo Tan, and Ohad Meromi, among others for civic sites like libraries, public schools, correctional facilities, streetscapes and parks. She was the 2011 critic-in-residence at Art Omi, and a 2013 Marica Vilcek Curatorial Fellow, awarded by the Foundation for a Civil Society.


CUE Art Foundation’s operations and programs are made possible with

the generous support of foundations, corporations, government agencies, individuals, and its members.

MAJOR PROGRAMMATIC SUPPORT PROVIDED BY Agnes Gund The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Anholt Services (USA) Inc. CAF American Donor Fund Compass Group Management LLC Compass Diversified Holdings Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation Lenore Malen and Mark Nelkin The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Inc. The Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation Squire Patton Boggs William Talbot Hillman Foundation New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts


All artwork Š Wendy Red Star.

Catalogue design by Shona Masarin-Hurst.


Wendy Red Star: Um-basax-bilua “Where They Make The Noise”  

Curated by Michelle Grabner June 1 - July 13, 2017

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