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Fritz Scholder Figures of Paradox


Fritz Scholder Figures of Paradox

June 9 - July 23.2017

LewAllenGalleries Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 |

cover: American Portrait, 1982, Oil on canvas, 80 x 68 in

Fritz Scholder Figures of Paradox Fritz Scholder: Figures of Paradox is an extensive exhibition, twelve years after the artist’s death, exploring the brilliance of Scholder’s career as a dynamic Modernist painter and sculptor in the context of his careerlong engagement with the human figure. It is historically significant being comprised of paintings, bronze sculpture and works on paper from three of the most prominent private collections of Fritz Scholder works: the Fritz Scholder Estate, the Fritz and Lisa Scholder Collection, and the Romona Scholder Collection. Many of the works were considered by the artist to have such iconic significance that they remained in his private collection and are only now being exhibited for the first time outside of the unprecedented two-city posthumous retrospective presented simultaneously in New York and Washington, DC by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in 2008 and 2009. For Scholder, figural rendition offered an eloquent metaphorical visual language for expression of numerous cultural and psychological ideas. His use of figure was largely conceptual and became more totemic and universal as opposed to individual portraiture. In the space of a stretched canvas or poured bronze, Scholder was able to condense intense expression with his extraordinary facility for color, composition, light, and form to create some of the most poignant and affecting images of his generation. Uniting the works in this exhibition is their participation in a new kind of figuration that Scholder is credited with innovating. In his own unique approach, Scholder brought together for the first time the various elements of post-World War II figuration that included Pop cultural realism of the sort utilized by Andy Warhol, the gestural expressionism revived by Bay Area Figurative artists such as David Park, Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud, and Nathan Oliveira, and the arresting distortion of physiognomy of Francis Bacon. These melded together with Scholder’s own conceptual engagement with Native American identity and cultural veracity as well as other psychologically charged themes. (Fittingly, the exhibition also includes two 1980 acrylic on canvas portraits of Fritz Scholder painted by Andy Warhol, a part of Warhol’s Celebrity Series, and identical in perspective except that, reflecting two dimensions of Scholder’s own artistry, one depicts a light-filled and colorful image and the other is rendered with the artist’s dimly lit visage emanating from darkness.) Working with the figure, Scholder surfaced a style that became known for its evocative distortions, robust brushwork and vivid dissonant colors reminiscent of those used by German Expressionists and seemingly resonant of the complex psychic dilemmas that jostled around in Scholder’s mind. From his studies with Thiebaud, Scholder developed a particularly vivacious use of vibrant color that became one 2

of the most important aspects of Scholder’s mode of expression. John Lukavic, associate curator of Native Arts at the Denver Art Museum and curator of Super Indian, wrote of Scholder’s manner of painting, “This artist was first and foremost a colorist, who used figurative art to test the limits of what paint can express.” Although numerous works in this exhibition illustrate the artist’s remarkable facility with color as an expressive language, an especially salient example is Academy Portrait, painted by Scholder in 1996 in front of an audience of young scholars at the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C. Throughout his life, Scholder’s creative energies were deeply rooted in paradoxes and revealed through his multi-faceted engagement with the human figure. From his own contradictory feelings about personal identity – both embracing and eschewing his cultural heritage as an Indian – there smoldered struggles and conflicts that forged Scholder’s brand of artistic courage and freedom and fueled a career that became red-hot and made him the most famous “Indian artist” in America. Yet despite his fame, Scholder always remained ambivalent about his identity: he would say that he was “terribly proud of my Indian heritage,” but at other times would declare that “I am not an Indian; I have never been an Indian.” Finally he would embrace the paradox: “I am a non-Indian Indian.” This personal irony was a succinct reflection of the larger dilemma that became a driving force for Scholder’s innovations in Indian painting: the push-pull of living in a culture within a culture, of Native people torn by the dichotomy of two cultures and the often incongruous desire to be a part of both. It also provided a perfect context for artwork by someone whose own enigmatic personality made him at once equal parts observer and innovator. It was the well spring of a complexity that loomed large in the artist’s life and career and helped to make him the subject of remarkable controversy and enormous esteem. THE INDIAN PAINTINGS The dilemmas of Scholder’s psyche also paralleled the larger social, political and cultural shifts of the 1960s and the foment that pervaded those years for racial, ethnic, and sexual liberation. Scholder’s imagery illustrates his own free interplay between conceptual ideas and dramatic – even revolutionary – reinterpretations of Indian themes and expanded imaginings of psychological ones. The diverse figures in this exhibition illustrate the extraordinary virtuosity that made Scholder one of the most accomplished innovators of post-World War II American Modernism. Works in the current exhibition span every decade from 1964 until 2004, the year before the artist’s death. 3

Included in this exhibition are works illustrating Scholder’s famed ground-breaking reinvention of the portrayal of Native Americans in fine art that began in the 1960s and departed radically from traditional, stereotypical depictions of the mythic Indian. Always controversial, Scholder came to prominence while teaching at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe in the mid-1960s where he became committed to a new conceptualization of contemporary Native American art, away from traditional romanticized stereotype and candidly depicting a “new realism” of contemporary life of Native Americans. Although an enrolled member of the Luiseño native people, a tribe originally inhabiting Southern California, Scholder was also of European heritage. He recognized the incongruous nature of the two cultures he shared and later credited this paradoxical background for allowing him to pull away from traditional approaches to painting Indian subjects. Ultimately he recoiled against classical representations of Indians as “noble savages” or “brute warriors” and resolved to humanize the imagery and “paint the Indian real, not red.” In this exhibition, works such as Cowboy Indian (1974) and Indian and Storefront (1974) illustrate this candid if startling acknowledgement that Native Americans in cowboy hats and sunglasses, smoking cigarettes, or leaning on a main street storefront in jeans, are more accurate portrayals of real world Indians in late 20th century America than preconceived idealized notions of chiefs in feathered headdresses. Despite the elegant beauty of his reductive black and white image of a fancy dancer, Scholder’s sardonic title Tourist Indian (1973) makes clear his indictment of exploitation of Native American ritual for the entertainment of white tourists. Making explicit the too-often ignored and ravaged history of the Native American, Indian Land #4 (1980) stands as a powerfully poignant and hauntingly beautiful memorial to the diaspora and “trail of tears” that came tragically from the forced removal of Indians from their ancestral homes by the U.S. government in the 19th century. These early works highlight the dramatic divergence between the reality of the Native actual history and place in contemporary American society and the more romantic, false image that had been presented in painting before Scholder. Credited with having “broken the mold,” these images and the spirit of artistic independence they represented earned Scholder worldwide recognition. In this context Scholder found his own foundational and signature style.


In addition to numerous iconic and masterful paintings, this exhibition also includes significant examples of his work as a print-maker. Like Edvard Munch and Picasso, Scholder recognized the possibilities of printmaking as a medium for experimentation and expanding the versatility of his work. Stone lithography, for example, offered Scholder especially direct means to work with the figure and allowed him to expand many of the ideas and themes involved in his paintings. Some of the most important original prints establishing print-making as a signature component of Scholder’s career are part of this show. These include the famed Roma series of four classic Scholder images: Indian Portrait, Galloping Indian, Hollywood Cowboy, and Fancy Dancer. Each is a monumental large format etching and aquatint on copper plate produced by Scholder in Rome in 1978. Other classic lithographic examples include Cowboy Indian (1974), Laughing Artist (1974), and Matinee Cowboy and Horse (1976). Monotypes also became a major part of Scholder’s creative output, combining the expressive possibilities of painting (onto a plate) and print-making (an one-of-a-kind transferred image) that provided him the opportunity for finer, often ethereal, image making. This is gorgeously illustrated by both Sioux with Button #1 and Portrait #1, both from 1978 and put aside by the artist for his personal collection. OTHER THEMES Additional works in the exhibition exemplify Scholder’s interests beyond Indian subject matter in which he explored broader mysteries and enigmas of the human experience, imagination and psyche. Themes involving dream-like and mythic characters appear with powerful erotic or occult energy. Works often reference connections to ancient as well as more modern cultures, the natural world, realms of the magical, totemic and shamanistic, allegories of life, love and death, and occasionally self-portraiture. Scholder’s profound intellectual curiosity and constant desire to explore, collect, travel and experience informed what became an increasingly-diverse oeuvre.

Scholder thought that art itself was a kind of magic. His fascination with the provocative possibilities of ambiguity, mystery and multiple meanings inflects much of his work and especially his figural images. Shamanism appears in such works as the mesmerizing bronze sculpture entitled Portrait of a Shaman (1984) and the chromatically intense lithograph Untitled Shaman (1986). Less overt influences of aspects of the supernormal pervade many other works including the emotionally intense


painting Human in Nature #7 (1990) that turns sorrow into art, depicting an androgynous figure in a cruciformal posture, devoid of a cross but suggesting a mystically liminal transition between doom and redemption. Some of his figures personify the conundrum of “good and evil” and suggest the idea that humans might be a bit of both. He explores that puzzle by transforming a figure into a dream-like creature in the late autobiographical painting Alone #2 (2001) that symbolically illustrates the ultimate dilemma of that paradox. A continuing subject was the female figure rendered in diverse ways, from colorful Pop realism to angstridden abstraction. It became a significant vehicle for Scholder to convey important conceptual ideas and themes of irony and mystery. The extraordinary and vibrantly kitsch image of White Girl with Cherokee Pendant (1970) is a classic example of the former, a lampoon and reverse stereotype of casual cultural appropriation by a white tourist delighting in showing off Indian jewelry with legs spread wide and feet (as opposed to head) buried in the sand. The female figure also formed a crucial subject in relation to Scholder’s enduring fascination with mystery and the ambiguity of identity. In his Mystery Women series he depicted women faced away from the viewer in various poses and settings but usually with face obscured either by indirection or with hair or a mask. Deprived of that human feature most associated with a read-out of personal identity, the viewer focuses on anonymity and the arresting question of whether we ever really “know” another person. In both the monotype Bending Over #2 (1990), with the figure facing away, and the original etching Woman With Green Mask (1991), this obfuscation of identity implicates larger issues of what it means to be “familiar.” Ideas of the mystical comingle with the familiar in other figural works by Scholder. In his Dream Series the artist weaves together his fascination with lucid dreams and observed reality. Dream #11, for example, depicts an apparitional form of a couple’s rhapsodic embrace, reminiscent of similar riveting images by Edvard Munch such as his famous Kiss. (Noted art writer Edward Lucie-Smith described Scholder as Munch’s artistic “soulmate”). The couple appears to meld into a single figure, identities merged as they appear to float on purple water flanked in the background by an island with palm tree. The viewer is left to wonder where reality ends and dreams begin. The work is a masterful example of 6

Scholder’s ability as a creative shape shifter and his tantalizing use of complex, multi-layered meanings to interrogate tensions between what is real and what is not. Is love real or a dream? Or is it both? Like Munch, Scholder has a facility to move fluidly from realms of outer observed reality to inner felt ones. SELF-PORTRAITS Of special note in this exhibition are several self-portraits that comprise some of the most intense and intriguing works Scholder created. He painted one self-portrait each year until the year before he died. Included in this exhibition is the striking Self Portrait at 28, a revealing 1965 painting featuring red hornrimmed glasses awkwardly worn by the artist at that time, and the majestic American Portrait from 1982 that presents an apparitional image of Scholder that is both haunting and beautiful. Also noteworthy is Alone #2 from 2001, discussed above. About this vivid, scarlet, occultish figure, the artist told the New York Times: “It could be a clone. It’s of course another portrait of me. Most of the figures are.” The last self-portrait he painted, the dramatic Self Portrait with Grey Cat, finished in 2003, shows a Baconesque Scholder leaning over a crutch and hooked to oxygen, stoically seated in the face of disease that would take his life in less than two years. It is characteristically full of defiance and haunting mystery, a magnificently metaphoric reference to much of the artist’s oeuvre and his own very complicated life. SCHOLDER’S LEGACY Scholder possesses a secure place in art history and will be remembered as one of the most innovative artists of the 20th century. He is truly a shaman of Modern art and his magic was conjured with the human figure. Though he refused to be labeled an Indian artist, Scholder undeniably changed the course of Indian art. Such is typical of the paradoxes that so deeply inflamed his passion to share ideas, dilemmas, and possibilities for new ways of looking, thinking, and imagining. His figures are iconic allegories of universal ideas that capture and extend dimensions of the human experience. He said about himself “I am part of all that I have met. I venerate the relics of blood. What is it that will last?” The answer is that his art will last; it will endure precisely because it comes from the spirit that pervades. It comes from all that he met or, as Rothko said, from “the whole of man’s experience.” It will most assuredly remain engaging, inspiring, challenging, beautiful, transformative and provocative. Most of all it will remain a paradox. Kenneth R. Marvel Santa Fe, 2017 7

Summer Afternoon Clouds, 1990, Acrylic on canvas, 68 x 80 in 8

Brave Indian, 1990, Acrylic on canvas, 80 x 68 in 9

Indian Land #4, 1980, Acrylic on canvas, 80 x 68 in 10

Self Portrait With Grey Cat, 2003, Acrylic on canvas, 80 x 68 in 11

Tourist Indian, 1973, Oil on canvas, 80 x 68 in


White Indian, 1997, Acrylic on canvas, 80 x 68 in


Self Portrait at 28, 1965, Oil on canvas, 80 x 68 in


Cat Mask, 1984, Acrylic on canvas, 80 x 68 in


Human in Nature #7, 1990, Acrylic on canvas, 80 x 68 in


Indian and Store Front, 1974, Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 in


Dream #11, 1981, Oil on canvas, 80 x 68 in


White Girl With Cherokee Pendant, 1970, Oil on canvas, 58 x 45 in


Man and Dog #3, 1994, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30 in 20

Alone #2, 2001, Oil on canvas, 50 x 30 in


Academy Portrait, 1996, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 48 x 30 in


Business Man Playing Cards, 2003 Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 in


Man and Snake, 1999, Oil on panel, 15 x 11 in


Untitled Shaman, 1986 Lithograph, 40 1/2 x 29 1/2 in 25


Andy Warhol, Portraits of Fritz Scholder, 1980 Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 in (each)


Diogenes, 1995 Bronze, 31 x 11 x 9 1/2 in


Painted Man, 1992, Bronze and oil paint, 28 x 9 3/4 x 11 in (each) 29

Indian Portrait in Roma, 1978, Etching and aquatint on copper plate, 62 x 44 in


Fancy Dancer, 1978, Etching and aquatint on copper plate, 62 x 44 in 31

Hollywood Cowboy, 1978, Etching and aquatint on copper plate, 62 x 44 in


Galloping Indian, After Leigh, 1979 Etching and aquatint on copper plate, 62 x 44 in 33

Sioux With Button #1, 1978, Monotype, 12 x 8 3/4 in


Cowboy Indian, 1974 Lithograph, 24 x 17 in 35

Portrait #1, 1978, Monotype, 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 in


Bending Over #2, 1990, Monotype, 24 x 18 in


Laughing Artist, (first state) 1974 Lithograph, 36 x 28 in


Laughing Artist, (second state) 1974 Lithograph, 36 x 28 in


Woman and Dog, 1994, Ink on paper, 10 1/2 x 9 in


Untitled American Indian, 1970, Acrylic on paper, 22 x 15 1/2 in 41

Dream Horse, 1986, Bronze, 19 x 23 x 7 in


Another Devil Horse, 1990, Bronze, 15 x 8 x 7 in 43

Matinee Cowboy and Horse, 1976, Lithograph, 30 x 22 in


Indian on Horseback With Quiver, 1976, Ink on paper, 7 1/4 x 5 in 45

Self Portrait, 1975, Acrylic on paper, 24 x 18 in


Man Bull #2, 1983, Monotype, 11 1/2 x 9 in 47

Border #7, 1992, Acrylic on paper, 40 x 31 in


Woman With Green Mask, 1991 Etching on paper, 12 x 10 in


Portrait of a Shaman, 1984 Bronze, 42 1/2 x 29 1/2 x 23 1/2 in 50

Fritz Scholder

(1937 - 2005)

EDUCATION 1960 BA, Sacramento State College, Sacramento, CA 1964 MFA, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

SELECTED MUSEUM COLLECTIONS Alaska State Museum, Juneau, AK Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, France Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington, DC Centre Culturel Américain, Paris, France Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, IL Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, TX Denver Art Museum, Denver CO El Paso Museum of Fine Arts, El Paso, TX Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA Grand Palais, Paris, France Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, CA Musée des Beaux Arts, Montreal, Canada Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, NM National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC and New York City, NY Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Scottsdale Fine Arts Center, Scottsdale, AZ Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, MN University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, CA Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, CA Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN

SELECTED SOLO PUBLIC EXHIBITIONS 2015 Super Indian, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO 2013 Fritz Scholder: The Third Chapter, Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, NM 2008-09 Indian/Not Indian, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC; Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, New York City, NY 2001 Last Portraits, Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, MN 1999 Museum of Northern Arizona, Flagstaff, AZ Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart, IN 1997 Vampires & Fallen Angels, The South Dakota Art Museum, Brookings, SD 1995-97 Icons and Apparitions, Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale, AZ 1995 The Private Work of Fritz Scholder, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ 1994 Dreaming with Open Eyes, Arizona State University Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ 1982 Monotype, El Paso Art Museum, El Paso, TX 1981 The Retrospective: 1960-1981, Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ 1980 Monotypes, El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, TX 1979 Indian Kitsch, Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ Paintings and Prints, 1966-1978, Boise Gallery of Art, Boise, ID. Touring, exhibition organized by the Boise Gallery of Art: Salt Lake Art Center, Salt Lake City, UT; Missoula Museum of the Arts, Missoula, MT; Cheney Cowles Memorial Museum, Spokane, WA 1977 Indian Images, Oakland Art Museum, Oakland, CA A Selection of Paintings, Prints and Sculpture, Saginaw Art Museum, Saginaw, MI Fritz Scholder Major Indian Paintings 1967-1977, Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe, NM 1973 Fritz Scholder – Indians, Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA Fritz Scholder Paintings and Lithographs, Yellowstone Art Center, Billings, MT 1971 Fritz Scholder, Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ 51



Railyard Arts District | 1613 Paseo de Peralta | Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 | tel 505.988.3250 | Š 2017 LewAllen Contemporary LLC Artwork Š Estate of Fritz Scholder

Fritz Scholder: Figures of Paradox  
Fritz Scholder: Figures of Paradox