Artists Space

Unholding

November 19, 2017 – January 21, 2018

This exhibition surveys artists of Indigenous heritage. For many decades in New York City, they developed their practices in self-initiated contexts while endeavoring to extend the reach and visibility of their work to broader publics.

Exhibited works by Pena Bonita; Demian DinéYazhi ́ with Natalie Diaz and Sonia Guiñansaca; G. Peter Jemison; Adam and Zack Khalil with Jackson Polys, Jim Fletcher, Kite; Alan Michelson; Native Art Department International (Maria Hupfield, Jason Lujan) and Christopher Green; Laura Ortman with Jennifer Kreisberg; Jolene Rickard; Kay WalkingStick; Judith Barry and Ken Saylor; Kathleen Ash-Milby; Diane Fraher, Athena LaTocha, David Martine and Juane Quick–to–See Smith; Candice Hopkins; Shanna Ketchum-Heap of Birds, Zoya Kocur and Valerie Smith.

An image of a person with long brown hair pointing a pistol at the camera is superimposed on top of an image of a picturesque lake.
Adam and Zack Khalil, Still from INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./], 2016. [An image of a person with long brown hair pointing a pistol at the camera is superimposed on top of an image of a picturesque lake.]

This has become mine, this unholding. Whereas, with or without the setup, I can see the dish being served. Whereas let us bow our heads in prayer now, just enough to eat;

– Layli Long Soldier, WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017)

Artists of Indigenous heritage have, for many decades in New York City, developed their practices in self-initiated contexts while endeavoring to extend the reach and visibility of their work to broader publics. Even as progressive art discourse celebrated an emergent multicultural outlook in the late 1980s, narratives around Native American art, culture, and experience remained simplified. Inspired by curator and artist Lloyd Oxendine’s American Art Gallery, founded in SoHo in the early 1970s, institutions such as the American Indian Community House (AICH) and American Indian Artists Inc. (AMERINDA) opened urban spaces for Indigenous representation which thrived outside of conventional value systems. Cultural and operational experimentation abounded and the roles of artist, curator, historian and activist were regularly blurred: G. Peter Jemison, whose early paintings were exhibited by Oxendine, served as the first gallery director of the AICH, while Jolene Rickard, whose photographs complicate separations between Native and American iconographies, is an acclaimed curator and a leading scholar in Indigenous visual history.

Two exhibitions organized by Jean Fisher and Jimmie Durham in the 1980s notably brought this work into dialogue with institutional and academic contexts: Ni’Go Tlunh A Doh Ka (We Are Always Turning Around on Purpose) at SUNY Old Westbury’s Amelie A. Wallace Gallery in 1986, and We the People at Artists Space in 1987. These exhibitions presented a generation of artists to a wide audience and scrutinized the hegemonic white American gaze by addressing questions of inclusion, framing, containment, and viewership. Artworks such as Pena Bonita’s photomontage series of a car stalled on a reservation road pierced the buoyant postmodern image with a wry political realism. Kay WalkingStick initiated the powerful double visions of her diptychs to complicate how iconography and materiality commingle in landscape painting. Curator and writer Candice Hopkins has noted that, “foregrounding Native artists’ voices rescued their aesthetic legacy from the clutches of modernism, rife as it was with misinterpretation, unequal power relations, and exoticism, and firmly positioned them within the contemporary.” So too, these artists questioned some of the implicit settler colonial assumptions in the contemporary, such as in Alan Michelson's interrogations of linear temporality and the naturalization of economic growth, and carved critical spaces of aesthetic sovereignty.

Constructing ties between this history and the present, recently produced works such as poet Layli Long Soldier’s WHEREAS (Graywolf Press, 2017) and Adam and Zack Khalil’s INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it ies. falls./] (2016) offer profound reckonings with cultural mythology and treaty while deeply experimenting with artistic form. For younger artists such as these, a sense of dexterous porosity and shapeshifting often propels their work, and many are active outside the traditional mediums of visual art, working in film, sound, performance, and text. Self-organization may take the form of applied corporate entities (Native Art Department International), vehement collaboration (Laura Ortman), and close engagement with one’s own artistic networks (Demian DinéYazhi’ and others). In each case, the Indigenous voice is more than foregrounded, but defines the context and conditions of its presence.

December 18, 2017

LAND MASS
Readings
7pm

January 16, 2018

Native Art in 1980s New York City
Discussion
7pm

Three paper bags, decorated in collage and drawing, sit on pedestals of varying heights. An abstract lanscape painting hangs on a wall behind them. To the left, a purple painting of an buffalo hangs on another wall.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Three paper bags, decorated in collage and drawing, sit on pedestals of varying heights. An abstract lanscape painting hangs on a wall behind them. To the left, a purple painting of an buffalo hangs on another wall.]
Three paper bags photographed at an angle sit on pedestals. Closest to the camera, the bag has been painted with white and blue foliage, and collaged with a drawing of Africa. The two, farther bags portray drawn portraits of men.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Three paper bags photographed at an angle sit on pedestals. Closest to the camera, the bag has been painted with white and blue foliage, and collaged with a drawing of Africa. The two, farther bags portray drawn portraits of men.]
Four framed photogrpahs in a grid hang on an angled wall to the left. Three decorated paper bags sit on white pedestals. An abstract landscape painting hangs on the wall in the background.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Four framed photogrpahs in a grid hang on an angled wall to the left. Three decorated paper bags sit on white pedestals. An abstract landscape painting hangs on the wall in the background.]
A green, blue, and yellow abstract landscape painting hangs on a white wall. A purple buffalo painting is hanging on the wall to the left. To the right, a tall paper is pinned into a purple section of wall.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A green, blue, and yellow abstract landscape painting hangs on a white wall. A purple buffalo painting is hanging on the wall to the left. To the right, a tall paper is pinned into a purple section of wall.]
A miniature home crafted out of printed and handwritten material is displayed on a vitrine. At the front of the house above the doorway reads, "CHEROKEE PHEONIX & INDIAN ADVOCATE." Two other homes can be seen in the background.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A miniature home crafted out of printed and handwritten material is displayed on a vitrine. At the front of the house above the doorway reads, "CHEROKEE PHEONIX & INDIAN ADVOCATE." Two other homes can be seen in the background.]
A miniature log cabin constructed of handwritten documents is displayed in a vitrine. The roof on the left side reads, "By the President of the United States of America, A Proclimation."
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A miniature log cabin constructed of handwritten documents is displayed in a vitrine. The roof on the left side reads, "By the President of the United States of America, A Proclimation."]
Two paper bags with handles sit on a white shelf. The left bag is red and decorated with two illustrated portraits, one of which is a Native American man. The bag to the right has a larger portrait of a Native American man next to illustrative fish on a colorful background.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Two paper bags with handles sit on a white shelf. The left bag is red and decorated with two illustrated portraits, one of which is a Native American man. The bag to the right has a larger portrait of a Native American man next to illustrative fish on a colorful background.]
Miniature houses constructed of documents are displayed in the middle of the room on vitrines. A purple and yellow collage hangs on the back, left wall. The right wall displays colorful paper bags and a video monitor projecting an image of a robotic animal.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Miniature houses constructed of documents are displayed in the middle of the room on vitrines. A purple and yellow collage hangs on the back, left wall. The right wall displays colorful paper bags and a video monitor projecting an image of a robotic animal.]
Miniature houses constructed of documents are displayed in vitrines in the middle of the room. Various photographs utilizing the wall and floor are displayed to the left on a purple section of wall. Tan, illustrated sacks of variable sizes hang on a white wall to the right.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Miniature houses constructed of documents are displayed in vitrines in the middle of the room. Various photographs utilizing the wall and floor are displayed to the left on a purple section of wall. Tan, illustrated sacks of variable sizes hang on a white wall to the right.]
Miniature houses constructed of documents are displayed on vitrines in the foreground. Behind them, tan, illustrated sacks of various sizes hang on a while wall. A purple painting of a buffalo with photo collage hangs on a wall to the right.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Miniature houses constructed of documents are displayed on vitrines in the foreground. Behind them, tan, illustrated sacks of various sizes hang on a while wall. A purple painting of a buffalo with photo collage hangs on a wall to the right.]
A photocollage of the same image, a man opening a car hood, repeated 14 x 4 times includes has been altered with white, yellow, and black paint in individual photographs. These include scenes such as fire, melting, and the addition of new characters.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A photocollage of the same image, a man opening a car hood, repeated 14 x 4 times includes has been altered with white, yellow, and black paint in individual photographs. These include scenes such as fire, melting, and the addition of new characters.]
Eleven tan sacks of various sizes hang on a while wall. Each is illustrated with individual imagery and/or text. A long one, hanging at the top left, reads "CHASE" in block letters.  A painting is hung in the background on a wall.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Eleven tan sacks of various sizes hang on a while wall. Each is illustrated with individual imagery and/or text. A long one, hanging at the top left, reads "CHASE" in block letters. A painting is hung in the background on a wall.]
A detail shot of a larger photo collage work featuring 20 identical images in a grid that have been altered with black, yellow, or white paint to vary the scene presented of a man opening up the hood of a car.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A detail shot of a larger photo collage work featuring 20 identical images in a grid that have been altered with black, yellow, or white paint to vary the scene presented of a man opening up the hood of a car.]
A purple square on a white wall with various photographic media displayed.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A purple square on a white wall with various photographic media displayed.]
A decorated paper bag on a shelf. Blue ferns have been illustrated onto white, red, and pink backgrounds.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A decorated paper bag on a shelf. Blue ferns have been illustrated onto white, red, and pink backgrounds.]
An angled view of two adjacent walls, in between sit vitrines with minature houses constructed from documents. From left to right on the wall: colorful paper bags, a monitor with a video still, a purple section of wall with various photographic objects.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [An angled view of two adjacent walls, in between sit vitrines with minature houses constructed from documents. From left to right on the wall: colorful paper bags, a monitor with a video still, a purple section of wall with various photographic objects.]
A portrait of a purple buffalo photocollaged with of images including objects and people.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A portrait of a purple buffalo photocollaged with of images including objects and people.]
Two square paintings adjacent to eachother.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Two square paintings adjacent to eachother.]
Two square paintings adjacent to each other, the left one depicting a lush mountain view in hues of burgundy, green, and blue, and the right one depicting a vertical slit in the ground, slightly parted, revealing a light brown interior crust surrounded by a dark, rippled exterior.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Two square paintings adjacent to each other, the left one depicting a lush mountain view in hues of burgundy, green, and blue, and the right one depicting a vertical slit in the ground, slightly parted, revealing a light brown interior crust surrounded by a dark, rippled exterior.]
A brown paper bag, opened and placed at an angle, with colored pencil illustrations of a balding man wearing sunglasses and a blue collared shirt, face slightly covered by a translucent red figurative silhouette, and along the other side of the bag, a white daisy with a long green stem.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A brown paper bag, opened and placed at an angle, with colored pencil illustrations of a balding man wearing sunglasses and a blue collared shirt, face slightly covered by a translucent red figurative silhouette, and along the other side of the bag, a white daisy with a long green stem.]
A brown paper bag, placed on a shelf at an angle, an illustration, in colored pencil, of a man wearing a ten-gallon hat, in which his strands of black hair stick out from the bottom. A graphic that reads, "Pioneer," across his hat. In the background and the side of the bag are small detailed multicolored line patterns. A single cannabis leaf, facing sideways amongst the line pattern.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A brown paper bag, placed on a shelf at an angle, an illustration, in colored pencil, of a man wearing a ten-gallon hat, in which his strands of black hair stick out from the bottom. A graphic that reads, "Pioneer," across his hat. In the background and the side of the bag are small detailed multicolored line patterns. A single cannabis leaf, facing sideways amongst the line pattern.]
A handled paper bag, placed at an angle, with detailed illustrations along the sides. The front image depicts a goat sitting on grass with its back turned to the viewer, facing a dancing Statue of Liberty against a blue background. In the right corner is a small drawing of the twin towers against a yellow background, and in the right corner is a small drawing of three small cylinders with smoke emanating from one. The side panel has paintlerly blue  stokes in the middle, and a small green triangular tent at the bottom.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A handled paper bag, placed at an angle, with detailed illustrations along the sides. The front image depicts a goat sitting on grass with its back turned to the viewer, facing a dancing Statue of Liberty against a blue background. In the right corner is a small drawing of the twin towers against a yellow background, and in the right corner is a small drawing of three small cylinders with smoke emanating from one. The side panel has paintlerly blue stokes in the middle, and a small green triangular tent at the bottom.]
A large black bowl, painted with colorful faces, is filled to the brim with vibrant beaded jewelry. The bowl is placed on a tall black rectangular platform, covered with a beige woven blanket with long tassels and a white pattern along its border. Beaded jewelry from the bowl dangles down to the floor, intertwined and curled amongst themselves.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A large black bowl, painted with colorful faces, is filled to the brim with vibrant beaded jewelry. The bowl is placed on a tall black rectangular platform, covered with a beige woven blanket with long tassels and a white pattern along its border. Beaded jewelry from the bowl dangles down to the floor, intertwined and curled amongst themselves.]
Four collages, framed in a grid on a wall. Each collage features the same backdrop of a man stopped in the middle of the road opening the hood a car, the drivers seat door opened. Each collage features a different colored filter, arranged with images of various Indigenous people on reservations, European historical paintings, animals, gags, signs, objects, and detritus.
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [Four collages, framed in a grid on a wall. Each collage features the same backdrop of a man stopped in the middle of the road opening the hood a car, the drivers seat door opened. Each collage features a different colored filter, arranged with images of various Indigenous people on reservations, European historical paintings, animals, gags, signs, objects, and detritus.]
A large red pole with matching brackets stretches from floor to ceiling, holding up an spread of Artists Space
Unholding. Installation view, Artists Space, November 19, 2017 - January 21, 2018. Photo: Daniel Pérez. [A large red pole with matching brackets stretches from floor to ceiling, holding up an spread of Artists Space's 1987 *We The People* exhibition catalog. To the left of the pole, a brown paper bag with an illustration of an Indigenous man wearing a ten-gallon hat sits on top of a white desk. To the left of the pole, a bookshelf with floating shelves is partially visible, holding many colorful books.]

Unholding is accompanied by a print publication that includes commissioned texts by Candice Hopkins and Christopher Green, alongside a reprint of an essay by Jean Fisher. Judith Barry and Ken Saylor have contributed a graphic that revisits their collaboration with Jean Fisher on the design for the exhibition We the People.

Unholding Exhibition Booklet

Exhibition Supporters:
The Friends of Artists Space, The Artists Space Program Fund, Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature