Artists Space

We the People

November 12 – December 23, 1987

We the People is an exhibition of work by contemporary Native American artists which includes paintings, sculpture, ceramics, and installation by Pena Bonita, Jimmie Durham, Harry Fonseca, Marsha Gomez, Ton Huff, G. Peter Jemison, Jean LaMarr, Alan Michelson, Joe Nevaquaya, Jolene Rickard, Susana Santos, Kay WalkingStick, and Richard Ray (Whitman). The exhibition will be accompanied by a recording of “Flute Songs” by John Rainer, Jr. We the People also includes a video program presenting the work of Arlene Bowman, Victor Masayesva, Chris Spotted Eagle, Asiba Tupahache, the Ute Indian Tribe Audio-Visual, and Gerald Vizenor.

A black and white portrait photograph of seven individuals looking at the camera with text partially visible behind them.
Richard Weise and Harald Vizenor. Still from Harold of Orange, 1983. 16mm film (sound, color). 33 min 21 sec. [A black and white portrait photograph of seven individuals looking at the camera with text partially visible behind them.]

We the People was organized by Native American artist Jimmie Durham and art critic Jean Fisher. The Video Program was organized by Emelia Seubert, Assistant Curator, Film and Video Center, Museum of the American Indian, and Artists Space Film/Video Curator Dan Walworth.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with essays by Jimmie Durham, Jean Fisher, Emelia Seubert and Native American writer Paul Smith.

Of the show Fisher writes: “The title, We the People, was chosen as a gentle but ironic reminder that this phrase, and the sociopolitical organization of the Northeaster peoples, were appropriated by the United States Constitution as the foundation of American democracy. The exhibition involves the problems of presenting Native American art in a social climate that has little competence to see beyond its field of vision. The aim of the is exhibition is not to provide white audiences with revelations about who the people ‘really’ are, but to “address how white culture perceives, and is perceived by, ‘Indians’. And as we look at them looking at us looking at them we night be just a little uncomfortable that our gaze, so long concealed behind a dissembling rhetoric or a monocular lens, is capable of being turned back on us.”

Jimmie Durham is an artists who was a founder and former Executive Director of the Indian Treaty Council, establishing a special committee on indigenous affairs at the United Nations, He has served on the Executive Committee of the American Indian Movement as well as Editor of Art and Artists newspaper and as Executive Director of the Foundation for the Community of Artists. In addition to his sculpture, his work has included performance and poetry. A book of his poems, Columbus Day, was published in 1983 by West End Press, Minnesota.

Jean Fisher is an art critic and free lance curator who writes for Artforum. Fisher has taught at the Museum Studies Program, Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as at SUNY at Old Westbury. She has also organized a traveling group exhibition of Native American artists and has written essays on the work of Jack Goldstein, James Coleman, Anselm Kiefer and Frank Stella among others.

Paul Smith is a free lance writer and editor who has worked for City Limits magazine, Art and Artists, as well as Treaty Council News. He was Press Coordinator for the Wounded Knee Legal Defense Committee, Sioux Falls, in 1974-75.

Emelia Scubert is Assistant Curator of the Film and Video Center at the Museum of the American Indian, New York.

Dolls with photos adjacaent to them hangon the wall on protruding nails and black text is also visible around them. An object can be seen on the floor and a text-based painting is on a wall adjacent to the dolls in this white-walled gallery setting.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [Dolls with photos adjacaent to them hangon the wall on protruding nails and black text is also visible around them. An object can be seen on the floor and a text-based painting is on a wall adjacent to the dolls in this white-walled gallery setting.]
Dolls and other sculptural items appea on the wall and the floor along with text in a gallery setting.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [Dolls and other sculptural items appea on the wall and the floor along with text in a gallery setting.]
A large decorative panel painting with sculptural elements hangs on the back wall adjacent to photographic images on the wall. In between two columns are two glass covered cases.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [A large decorative panel painting with sculptural elements hangs on the back wall adjacent to photographic images on the wall. In between two columns are two glass covered cases.]
Small sculptures on pedestals are lined up diagonally in front of a map and various images.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [Small sculptures on pedestals are lined up diagonally in front of a map and various images.]
Small sculptures on pedestals are lined up diagonally in front of a map and various images.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [Small sculptures on pedestals are lined up diagonally in front of a map and various images.]
A cloth image is emerging from the darkness.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [A cloth image is emerging from the darkness.]
A painting hanging next to a bag behind a cross with light shining on it. A lighted ball is seen in one corner and lighted bottles in a box are seen in another corner.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [A painting hanging next to a bag behind a cross with light shining on it. A lighted ball is seen in one corner and lighted bottles in a box are seen in another corner.]
Four upright bags with images on them sit on two different leveled shelves on a white gallery wall.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [Four upright bags with images on them sit on two different leveled shelves on a white gallery wall.]
Painting of figures with Native American headdresses on a white gallery wall with a sculpture appearing in front of it.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [Painting of figures with Native American headdresses on a white gallery wall with a sculpture appearing in front of it.]
Paintins appear on white gallery walls with two sculptures on pedestals on the gallery floor.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [Paintins appear on white gallery walls with two sculptures on pedestals on the gallery floor.]
A painting can be seen on the right adjacent to walls with a number of posters on them and a window. A sculpture on a pedestal can be seen in the background. A curving ceiling is visible above.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [A painting can be seen on the right adjacent to walls with a number of posters on them and a window. A sculpture on a pedestal can be seen in the background. A curving ceiling is visible above.]
A number of sculptures on pedestals can be seen in the foreground with paintings and sculptures behind them in a gallery setting.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [A number of sculptures on pedestals can be seen in the foreground with paintings and sculptures behind them in a gallery setting.]
A number of sculptures appear on pedestals with paintings on walls behind them with columns bisecting the image in a gallery setting.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [A number of sculptures appear on pedestals with paintings on walls behind them with columns bisecting the image in a gallery setting.]
A painting appears on the wall of figures dancing and two sculptures can be seen on pedestals in the foreground in a gallery setting.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [A painting appears on the wall of figures dancing and two sculptures can be seen on pedestals in the foreground in a gallery setting.]
Paintings and collages appear on a white gallery wall and a scultpure on a pedestal sits in the foreground.
We the People. Installation View, Artists Space, November 12, 1987 - December 23, 1987. [Paintings and collages appear on a white gallery wall and a scultpure on a pedestal sits in the foreground.]

Artists Space activities have been made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal Agency; New York State Council on the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; Arts Matters, Inc., Cowles Family Charitable Trust Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, Inc., Jerome Foundation, W. Alton Jones Foundation, Charlottesville, Va, the Kaplan Fund, Leonhardt Foundation, Betty Parsons Foundation, The Reed Foundation, Inc., Mark Rothko Foundation, the American Express Company, Consolidated Edison, Equitable Real Estate Group, Inc., General Atlantic Corporation, R.H. Macy Company, Mobil Foundation, Inc., Morgan Guaranty Trust of New York ad Philip Morris Companies, Inc., as well as numerous Friends.