Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now

October 6, 2018, through January 7, 2019

For generations, Native American artists have been considered outside the “mainstream” contemporary art world. A new exhibition, organized by Crystal Bridges, will begin to remedy that division. Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now is the first exhibition to chart a history of contemporary Indigenous art from the United States and Canada. The exhibition presents some 75 works of art by the most important Native American artists spanning the 1950s to today—such as Kay WalkingStick, Carl Beam, Fritz Scholder, Edgar Heap of Birds, and Kent Monkman—and features works in a wide range of media, including painting, drawing, photography, video, sculpture, sound, installation, and performance art.

This unprecedented exhibition offers Indigenous perspectives on land and history and takes on the politics surrounding the way Native peoples have been represented, challenging historical assumptions and biases about Indigenous art. Ultimately Native North America unveils the power and influence of Native American artists, upends what has, until now, been the dominant story about contemporary art, and enriches our understanding of American art.

Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices, 1950s to Now is organized by Crystal Bridges, and curated by independent curator Candice Hopkins (Tlingit, citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation), Crystal Bridges Curator of American Art, Mindy Besaw, and Manuela Well-Off-Man, Chief Curator at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The exhibition will be on view at Crystal Bridges in the fall of 2018 before traveling to major museums in the United States and Europe. The exhibition will be accompanied by a multi-author catalog that will offer a comprehensive consideration of contemporary Native North American art and feature new essays by art historians, cultural critics, and artists as well as excerpts from key texts from the last 50 years of scholarship and criticism.

Sponsored by ConAgra Brands, Arkansas Humanities Council, Becky and Bob Alexander, Frank and Pat Bailey, and The Sotheby’s Prize.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was recognized as part of the inaugural Sotheby’s Prize with a commendation that applauds the breadth and depth of ambitious exhibition research for Art for a New Understanding. The Sotheby’s Prize jury believes this exhibition will be a turning point in our understanding of this field.

This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

James Lavadour (Walla Walla, b. 1951), Shake, 2014, Oil on panel, Each panel: 28 x 32 x 2 in. Overall: 63 x 110 x 20 in.