Abstract geometric painting with blue, red, orange, green, and white lines. Abstract geometric painting with blue, red, orange, green, and white lines. Abstract geometric painting with blue, red, orange, green, and white lines.

Action/Abstraction Redefined: Modern Native Art, 1940s to 1970s

February 16, 2024 – May 26, 2024

Action/Abstraction Redefined is the first major traveling exhibition to highlight modern Native American art through the lens of 20th-century Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, and Hard-Edge Painting. Comprising 52 works by 36 artists—including George Morrison, Fritz Scholder, and T.C. Cannon—the exhibition showcases work by artists who redefined the concept of abstraction at midcentury and pushed the boundaries of Native art.

Drawn from the collection of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, a school where revolutionary approaches encouraged experimentation and risk-taking, Action/Abstraction Redefined explores how artists combined New York School art influences with Native art traditions and challenged stereotypical expectations of American Indian art.

After several decades of the U.S. government’s forced assimilationist policies, IAIA was created, instead, to foster radical teaching and bold, student-centered learning for Native students who came from as far away as Alaska and Florida. Experimentation was encouraged alongside traditional Native arts, and the two uniquely merged in the works on view.

  • Harvey Herman (Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, 1952 - ), "Geometric #4 (triptych)," circa 1971, oil on canvas, 33 3/4 x 98 1/4 x 1 1/2 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, S-78, S-79, S-80.
    Harvey Herman (Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, 1952 - ), "Geometric #4 (triptych)," circa 1971, oil on canvas, 33 3/4 x 98 1/4 x 1 1/2 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, S-78, S-79, S-80.

    Harvey Herman (Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, 1952 - ), "Geometric #4 (triptych)," circa 1971, oil on canvas, 33 3/4 x 98 1/4 x 1 1/2 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, S-78, S-79, S-80.

  • Donald (Don) F. Montileaux (Yellowbird) (Oglala Lakota, 1948 -), "Four Legs of Life," 1968, acrylic on canvas, 37.25 x 73.75 x 2.125 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, S-25.
    Donald (Don) F. Montileaux (Yellowbird) (Oglala Lakota, 1948 -), "Four Legs of Life," 1968, acrylic on canvas, 37.25 x 73.75 x 2.125 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, S-25.

    Donald (Don) F. Montileaux (Yellowbird) (Oglala Lakota, 1948 -), "Four Legs of Life," 1968, acrylic on canvas, 37.25 x 73.75 x 2.125 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, S-25.

  • Earl Eder (Tancan Hanska, Longchase) (Yanktonai Sioux, 1944 -), "Forms in Beadwork," circa 1963, oil on canvas, 38.25 x 48 x 1.75 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, S-60.
    Earl Eder (Tancan Hanska, Longchase) (Yanktonai Sioux, 1944 -), "Forms in Beadwork," circa 1963, oil on canvas, 38.25 x 48 x 1.75 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, S-60.

    Earl Eder (Tancan Hanska, Longchase) (Yanktonai Sioux, 1944 -), "Forms in Beadwork," circa 1963, oil on canvas, 38.25 x 48 x 1.75 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, S-60.

  • Fritz Scholder (Luiseño, 1937 - 2005), "New Mexico #21," 1965, oil on canvas, 72 x 55.25 x 2.375 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: BIA Transfer, MS-27.
    Fritz Scholder (Luiseño, 1937 - 2005), "New Mexico #21," 1965, oil on canvas, 72 x 55.25 x 2.375 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: BIA Transfer, MS-27.

    Fritz Scholder (Luiseño, 1937 - 2005), "New Mexico #21," 1965, oil on canvas, 72 x 55.25 x 2.375 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: BIA Transfer, MS-27.

  • T.C. (Tommy Wayne) Cannon (Kiowa, Caddo, 1946 - 1978), "Firelights," circa 1965, oil on canvas, 36.75 x 48.75 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, CD-2.
    T.C. (Tommy Wayne) Cannon (Kiowa, Caddo, 1946 - 1978), "Firelights," circa 1965, oil on canvas, 36.75 x 48.75 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, CD-2.

    T.C. (Tommy Wayne) Cannon (Kiowa, Caddo, 1946 - 1978), "Firelights," circa 1965, oil on canvas, 36.75 x 48.75 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, CD-2.

  • Christine McHorse (née Nofchissey) (Navajo, 1948 - 2021), "Who Knows," circa 1963 - 1968, monoprint on paper, 16.375 x 22 x 0.875 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, N-729.
    Christine McHorse (née Nofchissey) (Navajo, 1948 - 2021), "Who Knows," circa 1963 - 1968, monoprint on paper, 16.375 x 22 x 0.875 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, N-729.

    Christine McHorse (née Nofchissey) (Navajo, 1948 - 2021), "Who Knows," circa 1963 - 1968, monoprint on paper, 16.375 x 22 x 0.875 in., On loan from the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Collection: Honors Collection, N-729.

With Action/Abstraction Redefined, AMFA presents a broader, more inclusive conversation about American art from the 1940s-1970s. The work of artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and other soon-to-be Abstract Expressionists in the mid-1940s has dominated American art history. This exhibition flips that script and expands the conversation to showcase Indigenous artists authentically bringing their own visual culture and innovation to Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, and Hard-Edge Painting.

While artists such as George Morrison and Fritz Scholder have often been the subject of solo museum exhibitions, Action/Abstraction Redefined offers the chance to view these and dozens of other artists in conversation with each other. The lasting impact of these early works continues to reverberate today in the Contemporary Native Art movement and can be seen in AMFA’s own collection with works by such artists as Raven Halfmoon (Caddo), Dawn Walden (Ojibwe), and Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee), all on view in AMFA’s Harriet and Warren Stephens Galleries.

Events

  • Member Preview Night

    February 15, 2024 / 5:00–8:00 pm

    AMFA Members can explore the art on view and experience a special opening ceremony before the exhibition opens to the public.

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  • Family Art Festival

    February 17, 2024 / 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

    Guests of all ages are invited to enjoy a free day of fun studio activities, storytelling sessions, live music, and more celebrating the art of Indigenous artists and performers.

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  • Artist Talk

    March 6, 2024 / 6:00 p.m.

    Join Curator Tatiana Lomahaftewa-Singer and Indigenous artists Doug Hyde and Frank Buffalo Hyde for an intergenerational conversation that examines the influence and growth of Indigenous American art.

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  • Dance Performance

    April 27, 2024 / 1:30 p.m.

    Traditional choreography and modern movement merge to create a unique art form during this contemporary Native American dance performance.

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Audio Tours

Hear artists featured in this exhibition discuss their work in detail via the Action/Abstraction Redefined playlist in our Mobile Guide.

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Action/Abstraction Redefined is organized by IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, NM. Support for this exhibition is provided by Art Bridges.

Action/Abstraction Redefined: Modern Native Art, 1940s to 1970s is organized by Dr. Manuela Well-Off-Man, chief curator, IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Tatiana Lomahaftewa-Singer, curator of collections, IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, and Dr. Lara Evans, IAIA Associate Professor of Native Art History.